Zimbabwe is implementing the National Development Strategy (NDS) 1 and the National Vision “Towards an upper middle economy by 2030”. To achieve this, a multi stakeholder approach involving urban and rural folk as human capital is vitally important. To achieve this Government must embark on economic empowerment initiatives in both urban and rural areas. A key facet to this is to directly empower previously marginalized population groups in the mainstream economy and to correct imbalances in resource ownerships. As Zimbabwe inherited a dual economy at Independence, this structurally constructed discriminatory approach kept poverty in place on basis of race, tribe and class. Only selected elite group were permitted access to economic growth and development. The 2030 Vision must address this is it can succeed and according to the World Bank Government provides less than US$100 million per year for social support programmes that includes health, education, water and sanitation. This contribution must dramatically increase for a middle income economy to be realised.
To succeed the NDS Strategy must have highly activated implementation strategies starting with rural levels. In Zimbabwe the rural population is estimated at about 70% practicing subsistence farming (Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, 2015). They live in resource rich areas in very simple conditions that can be described as abject poverty conditions. The opportunities to exploit natural resources, vast minerals, wildlife and forestry fall to outsiders who extract this wealth often with employees from outside the local area. Zimbabwe’s Economic Empowerment Policy therefore, ought to include all Zimbabweans at their local level, into the mainstream economy. The NDS 1 should focus also on provision of appropriate infrastructure such as schools, roads, clinics, dams, rural green power systems, irrigation schemes and equity holding in businesses exploiting natural resources throughout the country. Often the development of Dams, work of extractive industry, commercial agriculture and energy sector does not respect, protect and fulfil the rights of host communities to be part of their own development.
According to a recent report related to the passing of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill, “World Bank estimates, NGOs contributed about US$800 million towards social protection while the government only contributed US$90 million. For instance, according to the 2022 national budget statement, during the period January to September 2021, the country received development assistance amounting to US$647.8 million, of which US$401.9 million was from bilateral partners and US$245.9 million from multilateral partners. NGOs have contributed significantly towards addressing the financing needs/gaps. Donor financing far outstrips government financing in all health, education, food security, and social protection. Health financing is dominated by donors, who contribute 35%”. The report submits that, “Restricting NGO activities will have severe consequences on the country’s already fragile economy.”
Therefore Government plans to severely regulate will have negative and far reaching effects through the PVO Amendment Bill. Worse still Government conducted no consultation process before crafting the Bill. One of the purposes of the Bill is to streamline administrative procedures and allow for the efficient regulation and administration of PVOs. There is an attempt to expand the scope of the Act to cover persons, legal arrangements, bodies, associations or institutions which the Minister declares in regulations to be vulnerable to misuse by terrorist organisations, or at high risk of being misused by terrorist organisations. The persons, legal arrangements, bodies etc covered by a Ministerial declaration will have to register as PVOs under the Act and will be subject not only to the requirements and obligation laid down in the Act but also to any additional requirements the Minister may specify in regulations.
The authors of this submission associate themselves with other submission by the NGO Sector, however the content and focus is to explore and lobby for a middle ground between PVOs / NPO and Trusts. To make the case and open debate on the legislative framework and regional and international treaties. Specifically the paper lays out some perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility, Community Share Ownership Trusts (CSOTs) based on the principles of Indigenisation. These could be revised and broadened to adopt a Social Enterprise (SE)structure where more income streams can open up beyond the donor community to private sector. Legal professionals would have to guide as to if this SEs can be incorporated into the PVO Bill as Trust and exempted. Alternatively the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment legislation could be amended to “house” Social Enterprises.
Although the PVO Bill may not be very clear on the basis of continuation of other Trusts not listed as being exempt there is a need to assume that all other Trusts may be subjected to the registration process if they continue to receive foreign funding and or involve themselves in what is deemed to be “political” or partisan activities. We note the following:
1. The majority of Civic Society Organisations are registered as Trusts many are already pursuing independence from foreign donor agencies as a sustainability mechanism. Many who are also Community Based Organisations are grounded within their communities and it is this grounding that positions them to be effective agents for development. Some are pursuing setting up of Social Enterprises to generate income to their mission. This sustainability approach means they cannot register as non-profits. Some Trusts are currently generating income and ZIMRA classify them as “profit making” and tax them heavily thereby compromising their capacity to fund their “mission”. Clause 2 of the Bill permits the Registrar (i.e. the Director of Social Welfare) to prohibit trusts that are registered with the High Court, but are not registered PVOs, from collecting contributions from the public or from outside Zimbabwe for any of the purposes specified in the definition of “private voluntary organisation” (i.e. charitable purposes, social welfare assistance, legal aid and animal welfare). The Registrar will send a notice to the trustees of such a trust compelling them either to sign a sworn declaration that they will not collect contributions for those purposes, or else to register their trust as a PVO. Trustees will be able to avoid doing so only if they can persuade the Registrar that the notice was made in error.
2. The PVO Bill in its current format does not clarify the legality of Community Share Ownership Trusts (CSOT). This it seems could have been an omission or legislators perceived CSOTs as being registered under the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act [Chapter 14:33.The stated purpose of the Act is to provide for support measures for the further indigenisation of the economy; to provide for support measures for the economic empowerment of indigenous Zimbabweans; to provide for the establishment of the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board and its functions and management; to provide for the establishment of the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Fund; to provide for the National Indigenisation and Empowerment Charter; and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing.
3. There are concerns about the principles that should be present in the PVO legislations such as the transition mechanisms, registration process, right to appeal, access to justice. Womens organisations also raise a flag on the wording of the Bill as regards the need for gender equity at Board level. Some womens organisations require a woman only board as these organisations become vehicles for women empowerment.
Access the full submission here (1MB PDF)
- Lupane Womens Development Trust (LWDT)
- Phathisani Community Based Organisation
- Trinity Project (TP)
- Maranatha Orphans Care Trust (MOCT)
- Dinah Falala and Phoebe Sandi Foundation (DP Foundation)
- Sakhisizwe E & S Development
- Sibanye Animal Welfare and Conservancy Trust
- Renewable Energy for Sustainable Development (RESD) Trust
- Lupane Youth for Development Trust (LYDT)
- Tikobane Trust
- Inkhanyezi Development Trust (IDT)
- Nurture Imvelo Trust
- Limpopo Basin Development Trust (LIBADE)