Bulawayo residents rejected as a violation of human rights, the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill, during a parliamentary public hearing in the city Wednesday morning.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare is currently holding country-wide public consultations on the controversial PVO Bill.
The bill, which has been criticised by civic society organisations (CSOs) seeks to further tighten the regulation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) by the government.
The public hearing held a local hotel was chaired by the Member of Parliament for Gokwe Sesame Constituency, Gorden Chanda.
While the room was fully packed, CITE discovered that the ruling ZANU-PF party had bused-in its youths who called for the PVO Bill to be passed with Chanda strategically picking them to speak, something which was criticised by residents who were not given an opportunity to speak.
“The bill seeks to destroy the good things that the Non-Governmental Organisations were doing for us. We got to know about the constitution through organisations such as Zim-Rights. They are the ones who tell us about our rights otherwise the arms of government are doing nothing,” said a resident who only identified himself Mpofu.
Mpofu said the arms of the government were doing nothing about educating people about their rights.
Another resident blame legislators for their failure to educate citizens on the bill way before consultations.
“The purpose of this Act is to register the PVOs, control collection of contributions not to control the PVOs not what they are trying to do now, in terms of section 2 (1i), once a PVO is controlled by the state or a local authority it ceases to be a PVO.”
“I blame you parliamentarians, you don’t have to wait to be dispatched by Parliament to come and explain the Act; the constitution, it’s your duty to come down to your constituencies and explain ahead of time, almost 80 percent of people know nothing about this Act, let alone the amendment, parliamentarians you are sleeping on duty,” he said.
The resident added: “Should Parliament proceed with enacting this Amendment, it must be made clear that there was no substantive consultation that took place because as you can see people know nothing, so whatever you get from these audiences is hollow.”
In addition, Marita Moyo, a representative from People with disabilities said the bill would make it difficult for them to get assistance from NGOs.
“We are always complaining now and again to the Ministry of Social Welfare because the PVOs are no longer able to help us, please loosen the registration requirement,” said Moyo.
Ben Moyo from the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association said the PVO Bill is not necessary as there is adequate legislation to deal with operations of NGOs.
“Initially we were told it was meant to curb money laundering, we believe there is enough legislation to cope with that, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has an arm to deal with that, the Financial Intelligent Unit can actively deal with that, the Zimbabwe anti-corruption is empowered to deal with that so we don’t need further legislation to control money laundering as is allegedly prior to the enactment of the act,” said Moyo.
A human rights activist, Themba Chiveya, said NGOs and CSOs provide a very important space for citizens to engage and discuss different issues that affect their daily livelihoods, adding the bill seeks to close that important space.
Nomuhle Nyoni, a representative from Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), said the bill seeks to interfere with the independence of NGOs.