The Alliance of Community Based Organisations (ACBOs) working in most of the districts found in the eight (8) rural provinces in Zimbabwe has circulated among its membership the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill as published by the Government of Zimbabwe. ACBOs has considered direct feedback from its broader membership to prepare this Position Paper on the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill. As a consortium of twenty – seven (27) community-based organisation and with one of its core focus of harnessing the collective power of CBOs in the participation of grassroots communities in shaping and informing their interests and those of their communities, analysed the framework, provisions and potential impact of the proposed new legislation on communities.
As an Alliance of Community Based Organisations (ACBOs) we are of the view that at no time to issue a statement is considered more necessary than when there is a process of enacting legislation that has the potential to affect the livelihoods, civic duty and rights of various communities. The Bill has been introduced at a time when the country has just entered into an election mode as political parties gear themselves for the 2023 plebiscite. As ACBOs we question whether formulating this piece of legislation in such circumstances is proportionate to the developmental agenda of the government. We are of the view that rushed legislation is often compromised legislation.
The Alliance of Community Based Organisations (ACBOs) urges pause for government and legislators to further consider the potential impact of the proposed legislation, as it needs to be fit for the purpose of protecting our democracy, safeguarding members of the community, and be unable to be exploited by governments of unknown persuasions in the future. This statement sets out the Alliance for Community Based Organisations’ specific concerns in relation to the Bill, which are summarized as follows;
- The Bill impact negatively on Women, Youth and Key populations Women and youth play a critical role in organising and shaping development agendas at both local and national levels. Most organisations are focusing on women, youth people with disabilities and other marginalised groups because historically they are marginalized. The gains made so far in making them to be at the centre of our national development agenda will be eroded and any future organising will be negatively affected. The passage of this Bill will ultimately create distinct gendered vulnerabilities as well as expose marginalized social groups to increasing social exclusion.
- The Bill infringes fundamental rights stipulated in section 58 and 67 of the constitution The Zimbabwean Constitution (2013) provides that every person has the freedom of association and this Bill in its entirety violates this particular provision. Historically crises have been exploited to introduce dangerous policies and Zimbabwe is undergoing such sad moments. We have socio – economic and political crisis in our midst. Violating section 58 and 67 of the Constitution would not resolve that crisis we are currently embroiled in. The Bill is intended to systematically target voices of citizens that seek accountability from their government resulting in the rapid shrinking of space for civil society organizations, including human rights groups, activists, and academics.
- The Bill will reverse the gains made in CBOs Collaboration with Government NGOs in particular CBOs are positively contributing to livelihoods of communities, the climate change agenda, delivery of socio-cultural rights by traditional leaders, policy formulation and public services delivery working closely with local and national government. The Bill will negatively affect not only CBOs work but directly affect local government’s capacity to deliver on its mandate and the lives of ordinary citizens
The Bill gives too much power to the Minister Too much power in the hands of one person is a clear testimony to the view that some section of our society can easily be suppressed or their work curtailed. It is dangerous for a modern society to give so much power in an individual. The separation of powers in a democracy is to prevent abuse of power and to safeguard freedom for all. The Alliance for Community Based Organisations (ACBOs) makes a number of recommendations in regard to the Bill.
A summary of these recommendations being:
- The government must create an enabling environment for our society to function as a democracy for the betterment of local communities through the enactment of favourable and modern legislation
- The Constitution provides for the citizens to influence the political agenda and/or the political outcomes through civic engagement, and the government must uphold such provision. Such expressions of political interest and channels for political participation must be protected and cherished.
- Private Voluntary Organisations in Zimbabwe have proven to be indispensable and they perform a number of functions for the welfare of its members, the development of the country and integration and solidarity of the society and nation. They were critical during the war of liberation and are still very important in an independent Zimbabwe.
Source: Alliance of Community Based Organisations