Govt tightens screws on NGOs operations, approves amendment to PVO Act

The government is tightening screws on the operations of non-governmental organisations in the country, with the Cabinet yesterday having approved the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill.

The Zanu-PF led government accuses NGOs, most of whose activities are guided by the PVO Act, of deviating from their mandate and at times advancing the opposition agenda.

Such accusations always intensify towards elections and the period preceding the 2023 elections is not an exception.

Briefing the media yesterday, after a Cabinet meeting, Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa said the amendments to the Act seek to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism by any individual or institution in Zimbabwe operating under the Private Voluntary Organisations banner.

“The amendments also seek to streamline the administrative procedures for Private Voluntary Organisations in order to ensure their efficient registration, regulation and the combating of the financing of terrorism,” said Mutsvangwa.

“The Registrar of PVOs is also being accorded powers to penalize non-compliant organizations. The PVO Amendment Bill was necessitated by growing regional and global concerns about money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. It is now known that terrorist activities can be committed using seemingly authentic transactions, either as humanitarian aid or as development assistance.”

She said considering the current PVO Act was silent in that regard, the Bill seeks to close the loophole and ensure that all PVO activities are transparent and are conducted in the national interest.

“Whereas registration has all along been free, the Registrar is now empowered to collect registration fees from all PVOs,” said Mutsvangwa.

“The Bill prohibits PVOs from political involvement and requires them to discharge their mandate for the benefit of society’s most vulnerable. PVOs are therefore prohibited from undertaking political lobbying on behalf of any individual, organisation or political party, and the Bill stipulates penalties for those PVOs that violate the Act.”

Mutsvangwa further said: “The Registrar can also impose civil penalty orders on PVOs which break the law, with high-risk PVOs being placed under monitoring. The Executive Committee of a PVO can be suspended for either maladministration or failure to discharge the declared mandate.”

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