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Proposed law could have far-reaching ramifications on citizens

The Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill, once enacted into law, will have far-reaching implications on the citizenry which benefits from services provided by non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

These remarks were made by Human Rights lawyer, Nosmilo Chanaiwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) the Breakfast Club programme where she unpacked the implications of the Bill.

The government gazetted the PVO Amendment Bill, to bring the existing PVO Act into line with Recommendation Eight, made by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to prevent money laundering and terrorist financiers from abusing PVOs for illicit activities.

However, NGOs say the PVO Amendment Bill poses a ‘significant’ risk to civic space in Zimbabwe as it gives too much power to the executive to control and interfere with their work while increasing surveillance and monitoring.

“The way in which the Bill is crafted is that its provisions are far-reaching. Many people will be affected by it, education services, psychosocial services, law services, medical services as well as access to information through news dissemination only but to mention a few,” Chanaiwa said. 

“There is, therefore, need to disseminate simplified information to the affected stakeholders to ensure that people understand what is at stake. When Parliament goes out for public consultations people should be able to articulate on how this would affect them.”

Chanaiwa noted that in as much as Zimbabwe is part of the International community and is bound to comply with international laws, there should be a less harsh way of dealing with the situation. 

“Zimbabwe is a member state of the International community and should comply with international laws, however, there should be a way complying without necessarily stifling the affected sectors. For instance, Zimbabwe complies with the Financial Action Taskforce which ensures that countries are not exposed to money laundering or funding of terrorists,” she said.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to start with a Bill, it could start, for example, with assessments. Zim already has laws on money laundering and financing terrorism. Why not try and apply those laws first in order to assess if the sector is involved in such ills.”

She highlighted that it is important for the government to do an assessment of the NGO sector in order to justify the implementation of the PVO Bill as an act. We cannot say the NGO sector is vulnerable to money laundering until a comprehensive assessment has been done.

She recommended that another way to deal with the Bill is for the NGO sector to come up with mechanisms that can regulate and ensure that the sector complies with international standards. 

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