The PVO Amendment Bill and Road to Authoritarianism

The philosophical foundation of the Civil Society is largely expressed in the works of the 50 Major Political Thinkers by Ian Adams and R W Dyson particularly the works of Hegel. In Hegel terms, the upsurge of individualism, articulated in numerous aspects of Roman civilisation (the rule of law), and the rise of Christianity, conveying the individual conscience, were the opposite of the close moral unity of the Greek polis. This growth of individualism eventually culminated in the development of civil society and the social and economic individualism represented by Locke, Adam Smith and Kant. The rise of commercial societies, such as Britain and Holland in the seventeenth century, saw the state conceived in terms of individuals bound together by contract: that is, in terms of civil society.

In ZIMCODD terms, civil society is that democratic space that creates a conducive environment for the success of all democratic processes and tenets. It is an environment embedded with robust citizen engagement, checks and balances with respect to governments` dealings1, viable public hearings and consultative forums which are all critical in social contract. The Zimbabwean civil society functions as a hub and gateway of democratic engagements, transparency, and accountability in a quasi-totalitarianism environment. It is critical in amplifying the voice of the masses in their quest for social and economic justice. To this end, the success of the civil society in Zimbabwe is imperative in the attainability of a viable democratic nation.

Nevertheless, the success of the civil society in Zimbabwe is a threat to the incumbent government as it enables the public to measure governance policies2 and successes vis-à-vis the promises and constitutional mandate of creating a just and effective community anchored on rule of law and viable public service delivery. Thus, civil society enables Zimbabwean communities to measure and determine if the government is fulfilling its constitutional obligation which automatically becomes a threat if it is not.

As the nation heads for the 2023 elections, fears by the government of the growing influence of the civil society have been reflected through a repressive Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Amendment Bill. The PVO amendment bill is an attempt to shrink the civic space and eliminate any form of social audits and accountability by the citizens. It is a violation of the concept of social contract by which the modern-day state is premised on as it is embedded with clauses that seeks to further a despotic agenda by interfering with the operations of PVOs. Thus, the PVO amendment bill is the highway to autocracy and monocracy as it impedes on robust political participation. The ongoing public hearings and consultative forums are nothing, but a gloss-over process calibrated to create a pseudo democratic process. This is in contrast with the reform agenda gospel that the government is preaching. ZIMCODD therefore, calls on the government to abolish the PVO amendment bill if it is to fulfil priority 8 of the NDS1 which focuses on Image Building, Engagement and Re-engagement.


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