The Proposed PVO Amendment Bill in Zimbabwe: A Threat to Civic Space

The gazetting of the PVO Amendment Bill has generated a lot of debate especially in the Zimbabwean civic space. What follows is an extensive analysis of the Bill highlighting how the proposed legislation is a threat to civic space. Read on to get informed.

The Government of Zimbabwe has now gazetted the Private Voluntary Organisations (Amendment) Bill, 2021. The Bill which was approved by the Zimbabwe Cabinet in August/September 2021 is cited as the Private Voluntary Organisations (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

The GoZ has given two reasons why it felt compelled to propose such a Bill for promulgation into law by Parliament, namely requirements to comply with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations and the need to prohibit NGOs from involvement in politics The Bill amends the Private Voluntary Organisations Act [Chapter 17:05]. The amendments were made ostensibly to comply with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations made to Zimbabwe in order to develop policies to combat money laundering seeing that Zimbabwe is a member.

More specifically, the PVO Amendment Bill seeks to comply with FATF recommendations under technical compliance raised under Zimbabwe’s Mutual Evaluation Report which saw Zimbabwe placed under a monitoring programme in October 2018 by the FATF in order to ensure that the country aligns its laws on private voluntary organisations to recommendation 8 which provides that private voluntary organisations can be abused by money launderers and terrorist financiers and that as such, there is need to have clear laws that set out a framework to prevent any potential abuse in key sectors. The memorandum also states that the provisions in the PVO Amendment Bill have been added as a way to ensure that private voluntary organisations do not undertake political lobbying.

The Bill also prohibits PVOs from political involvement or from undertaking any political lobbying whatsoever on behalf of any individual, organisation or political party and it will impose penalties for those PVOs that violate the Act in the form of a fine of level twelve or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, or both such fine and such imprisonment

The Bill Amends the definition of “private voluntary organisation” with a much wider definition which encompasses some categories of organizations that the current PVO Act is not applicable to such as trusts and universitas. This means that these organizations will now be subject to re-registration and to broad control and regulation by the board and the Minister. Under the amendment Bill, registration of an organization will no longer be free and there are harsh penalties for noncompliance with the new Bill reading that a designated institution that fails to register as a private voluntary organization shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level fourteen and each of the members of the governing body of that organization or institution shall be liable to the same offence and penalty and additionally or alternatively to the fine, shall be liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years.

Under the PVO Amendment Bill, private voluntary organizations will be subject to a risk assessment at intervals of not less than once in five years. The Minister shall require, on the basis of such a risk assessment, or in the case of an institution requiring to be registered as a private voluntary organization, the organization or the institution to undertake specified measures to mitigate the identified risk or vulnerability within a specified time. The Minister may prescribe such special measures and requirements as being applicable to the designated private voluntary organizations for the purpose of eliminating or minimising the risk of abuse.

Read the full analysis here (430KB PDF)

Source: Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network




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