On 31 August 2021, Cabinet approved the formulation of the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, 2021 that would amend several provisions of the Private Voluntary Organisations Act (Chapter 17:05). The Bill was published in the Government Gazette on 5 November 2021 [GN 3107 of 2021]. The memorandum of the Bill states that the aims of the amendments are:
- Complying with the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) recommendations made to Zimbabwe including recommendations under technical compliance raised under Zimbabwe’s Mutual Evaluation Report;
- Streamlining administrative procedures for private voluntary organisations to allow for efficient regulation and registration; and
- Prohibiting Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) from political lobbying.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is a non-treaty inter-governmental body tasked with the promotion of measures to help combat money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/TF). It has developed 40 Recommendations or FATF Standards to measure technical compliance, and 11 Immediate Outcomes, to assess the effectiveness of government measures to combat ML/TF.
The FATF has identified activities of Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) (in the context of Zimbabwe these may be not for profit charitable organisations including non-government organisations, private voluntary organisations, trusts, universitas, faith based organisations, community based organisations) as potentially posing a risk of abuse for money laundering and funding of terrorist organisations. Recommendation 8 and Immediate Outcome 10 are the standards for NPO regulation.
In terms of Recommendation 8, governments are required to:
” . . . review the adequacy of laws and regulations that relate to non-profit organisations which the country has identified as being vulnerable to terrorist financing abuse. Countries should apply focused and proportionate measures, in line with the risk-based approach, to such non-profit organisations to protect them from terrorist financing abuse.”
In terms of Immediate Outcome 10.2, governments are required to show that they have
“. . . implemented a targeted approach, conducted outreach, and exercised oversight in dealing with PVOs that are at risk from the threat of terrorist abuse.”
Zimbabwe is a member of the East and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG). ESAAMLG is a regional body that carries out mutual evaluations to assess the effectiveness and technical compliance of the member states with the FATF Recommendations or Standards. In its 2016 Mutual Evaluation Report, Zimbabwe was rated as non-compliant with Recommendation 8. Authorities were encouraged to review laws and frameworks, identify NPOs that pose high terrorist financing risks, and apply commensurate measures. In 2019, Zimbabwe was re-rated as partly compliant with Recommendation 8. It was found that although laws and sanctions were in place, Zimbabwe’s risk assessment of the NPO sector was not comprehensive enough to identify a subset of organizations falling within the FATF definition of NPOs that are at risk for terrorist financing and money laundering. This rating remains the same in the ESAAMLG 2021 review.
ZLHR is concerned that the government is introducing amendments without:
- Using a risk-based approach to identify, assess and understand the money laundering and terrorist financing risks, in consultation with NPOs,
- Implementing a targeted approach in relation to NPOs that are at particular risk of terrorist financing and money laundering, as opposed to restricting the whole sector,
- Having regard to Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations, particularly in relation to freedom of association,
- Conducting comprehensive outreach and educational programs to raise and deepen awareness among NPOs.
ZLHR is concerned and disturbed that the pretext of complying with the FATF Recommendations is being used to rush through the proposed amendments to the PVO Act, which instead result in the undue targeting of PVOs, and other civil society organisations and non-government organisations not previously required to register under the PVO Act. The proposed PVO Bill amendments will result in government over-regulation, and ultimately the curtailment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Bill contains several provisions that fall far short of the requirements of FATF Recommendation 8 and international law human rights standards, as summarised below.
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Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)