ON World Non-Government Organisation (NGO) Day, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) calls upon Zimbabwean authorities to immediately cease enacting repressive legislation such as the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, which has the effect of restricting the operations of NGOs.
As we commemorate World NGO Day on 27 February, other governments and people are honouring NGOs. In Zimbabwe, although NGOs are at the forefront of fighting for respect, promotion and protection of human rights, authorities are railroading the enactment of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill, which has been roundly condemned as it has the effect of restricting the democratic and civil society space in the country.
A day after World NGO Day, Parliament will on Monday 28 February 2022 commence holding public hearings to solicit input from the public about the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, which was gazetted in November 2021 under the guise of complying with international standards from the Financial Action Task Force on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism.
ZLHR is strongly concerned that the PVO Amendment Bill will result in the undue targeting of not-for-profit organisations that are also known as private voluntary organisations, NGOs or civil society organisations and actors.
An analysis of the PVO Amendment Bill shows that the proposed piece of legislation will result in government over-regulation of the non-profit making and voluntary entities which eventually will result in the curtailment of fundamental freedoms and human rights.
The PVO Amendment Bill in its current form will restrict and shut down the operations of several humanitarian, charitable organisations, including, faith-based and development organisations and will create legal uncertainty by delegitimising NGOs, that are currently operating lawfully as trusts and associations through needlessly asking them to register with the Registrar of PVOs, and requiring re-registration of NGOs that make organisational changes.
It is high time that government appreciates and recognise the essential role that NGOs play in supporting and giving a voice to vulnerable communities including their essential contribution to building peaceful, just and inclusive societies.
ZLHR calls upon government to;
- Immediately withdraw the PVO Amendment Bill from the scheduled parliamentary processes’
- Enable a broader consultative process to seek input on appropriate self-regulatory frameworks for NGOs;
- Instantly cease all actions that serve to restrict the operational space and work of non-governmental organisations;
- Promote a safe and enabling environment, both online and offline, in which civil society can operate free from interference and insecurity;
- Recognise NGOs as valuable and efficient implementers of humanitarian aid and development work owing to their closeness and commitment to communities;
- Take heed of the joint communication sent to President Mnangagwa on 17 December 2021 by four United Nations Special Rapporteurs which clearly stated that the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill violates fundamental rights to freedom of association and expression and does not comply with international law standards on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism set by the Financial Action Task Force.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
No. 103 Sam Nujoma Street, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263 8677005347, +263 242 764085/705370/708118
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