CIVIL Society Organisations (CSOs) in Zimbabwe are pleading with Parliament to withdraw the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Amendment Bill and start public consultations afresh.

The government proposed the Bill in November last year in a bid to regulate the operations of CSOs so as to ensure that they are not used to facilitate money laundering and to finance terrorism as they
conduct their work across the country.

Since December last year, CSOs have presented several oral and written submissions, highlighting their concerns to Parliament as they argue that the Bill limits their operations.

In a letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda yesterday, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika called on the august House to discard some of  the Bill’s provisions and engage the citizens in drafting new provisions.

“Your office is mandated to ensure that due process is followed in the process of law-making. In this case, your office has an important bearing in ensuring that the processes leading to the passage of laws
abide by the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

We fear that allowing the current process of amending the PVO Act and the substance of that Bill without consultation will depart from that mandate,” Kika said.

Under the circumstances, the CSOs implored Mudenda to insist on due procedure and adherence of the proposed law to the Constitution.

This comes as the Parliamentary Legal Committee recently produced a non-adverse report on constitutionality of the Bill.

 “We propose that the Bill be withdrawn, and that a comprehensive process of fresh consultations be held with the public and CSOs. We trust you will consider our submissions and look at them favourably,
in the name of our supreme Constitution, and in the name of strengthening our democracy in Zimbabwe,” Kika said.

He added that CSOs under the Forum’s umbrella had consulted with the leader of government business in Parliament Ziyambi Ziyambi on April 11, but their concerns have not been heeded to.

“Following this meeting CSOs had the impression that the government had taken these submissions seriously and would revert with less draconian provisions.

On 12 April 2022, the Justice minister reported to the National Assembly confirming that he had consulted with CSOs and there were agreements that had been reached on some of the provisions and that he had made undertakings to incorporate CSOS’ suggestions.

“To CSOs’ surprise, the Amendments that were introduced to the Bill in July 2022, introduced new clauses altogether that do not speak to the issues discussed with the minister.

“CSOs have noted that the Bill has undergone extensive additional amendments that have reshaped the substance of the Bill that was discussed in public hearings and consultations.

“These amendments were presented in the National Assembly by the minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare on 26 July 2022, having initially appeared in the Parliament Order Paper of 7 June

“We are particularly concerned that the amendments have been introduced without public consultations. Since the gazetting of the Bill, CSOs have presented numerous oral and written submissions to
government authorities, highlighting concerns about the constitutionality of the provisions of the Bill and their adverse effect on freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to privacy, political rights, labour rights, the right to a fair hearing and the right to administrative justice,” he said.

The CSOs represented in the letter include Amnesty International — Zimbabwe Civic Education Network Trust, Counselling Services Unit and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, among others. – Daily News