The faith leaders drawn from member churches of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) bemoaned the gazette Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO) Bill which they said will shrink civic space at huge socio-economic costs to the ordinary citizens of the country. This was said by faith leaders (clergy and lay) who attended the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) convened Ecumenical Dialogue (virtual) on the Private Voluntary Organisations Bill on the 10th of December 2021. The dialogue sought to raise awareness and sensitize faith leaders of the legislative development and the implications if this Bill becomes law. It also sought to hear the views of faith leaders on the cost of losing civic society organisations (if any) if the Bill passes into law. This is what they had to say about the cost of losing CSOs in Zimbabwe.
I believe there will be no accountability on the part of the Government, Zimbabwe will become more of an authoritarian state…no democracy.
Poverty and inequalities will increase as most people in the country were benefiting in the areas of health and education from the CSOs.
Unemployment will keep rising. Some of the CSOs were creating employment for the citizens.
The voice of the voiceless will no longer be heard. CSOs provided platforms in which the voiceless were now being heard in most influential areas of human life in the country.
We might lose international confidence and we will remain in isolation as a country as most CSOs advocate for democratic minds.
In the absence of CSOs, human rights violations will abound as such violations will unreported.
In the absence of NGOs no one will hold the government accountable.
It will lead to puppet NGOs being registered, hence development assistance will be given on partisan lines.
This will reduce awareness on other issues such as GBV issues since a lot of work around these areas is being done by these CSOs.
Some politicians benefitted from the work of CSOs during the liberation struggle. The same form of support will not be available for the current crop and emerging young politicians.
Banning CSOs is the same as burying people alive.
This Bill has polarized our people, with some vehemently supporting it because its propagated by the part or Government of their liking, others dismissing it because they have ‘heard’ that it is bad. We are a divided society politically and thus our positions do show in situations like these. What’s clear however, is that, like the Constitutional Amendment Number 2, this is a political Bill.
Abuse of human rights will rise as the abusers will be unchecked.
We are a polarized society and without CSOs this will be worse than what we are experiencing right now.
The current economic challenges we are experiencing in our country surely need the support of NGOs and we should not label them as enemies of the state.
Without CSOs, the society will be much political and the bill will strangle the democratic space of citizens.
By censoring PVOs, the Government of Zimbabwe will further drift away from observing the rights and freedoms of people and organisations.
There will be death of Government accountability because the CSOs were acting as the watchdog on behalf of citizens
If CSOs withdraw, the humanitarian will deepen within the reeling economy, the Government is not prepared to deal with the humanitarian needs in the country.
The PVO Bill is giving power to control and determine PVOs that will serve political interests of one Party.
Human rights will be violated because no one will dare challenge the Government in the same way CSOs are doing through educating citizens on their rights.
The cost of losing CSOs is a crisis of accountability, there will be no checks and balances and this works in favor of the government but at the expense of the citizens.
Losing CSOs means that people will be pinned down without anyone raising a voice for the voiceless. It means that it becomes a “hear no evil and see no evil” society. This will drive the country into a new era of colonization.
The Bill seeks to legalize attacks on those who do not agree with the government or those who may be seen as opponents of the government. It limits the ability of citizens to access health, humanitarian, legal support and many other various support offered by PVOs.
The Church has committed to engage with key arms of the state to ensure that this Bill is deeply interrogated in light of the costs of losing PVOs in the country. The faith leaders also committed to continue raising awareness on the PVO Bill with its congregants so that they can meaningfully participate in the public hearings that are going to be rolled out across the country.
Source: Zimbabwe Council of Churches