United States Says PVOs Bill A Threat To NGOs That Provide Essential Services
The United States Government says Zimbabwe’s Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Amendment Bill will affect the ability of faith-based organisations to provide essential services if signed into law in its current form.
The PVOs Bill sailed through the Senate on 1 February 2023 and now awaits President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s assent.
The Bill seeks to regulate the operations of civic groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
In a report titled: Zimbabwe 2022 international religious freedom report, the US government said:
If passed, members of civil society stated, the amendments would require all trusts to register as PVOs, including faith-based organisations with no transitional provisions.
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In meetings with the government, embassy officials raised concerns about the likely impacts of the draft PVOs Amendment Bill on faith-based and other NGOs and their ability to provide essential services, if enacted in its current form.
Among other provisions, the PVO Bill stipulates that NGOs and civic society organisations (CSOs) should disclose their sources of funding.
The organisations are required to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government defining their activities and zones of geographic coverage.
International NGOs that “digress into programmes that are not specified in the MoU as agreed upon by line ministries and registered by the registrar” will be de-registered.
The Bill gives the government the authority to “deregister any private voluntary organisation that fails to comply with its conditions of registration.” The US report added:
Religious and civil society groups reported increased government monitoring of public events, prayer rallies, church congregations, and activities of religiously affiliated NGOs perceived to be critical of the government.
NGOs and religious leaders continued to report that security services targeted some religious officials who engaged in political discourse perceived as negative towards the government.
According to faith leaders, intelligence officials asked churches to submit their transcripts or recordings of specific sermons thought to be critical of the government.
In February this year, Mnangagwa said that he will “speedily” sign into law the Private Voluntary Organisation Bill (PVO) once it reaches his desk.
He said no amount of pressure from foreign governments will stop the signing of the Bill into law.
Critics argue that some provisions of the Bill may serve as the basis for restricting the operation of many NGOs.
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