Midlands reject amendment of PVO Bill

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Simbarashe Fenton M

The ‘controversial’ Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill recently came under scrutiny in Zhombe with the Parliamentary portfolio on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare cautioned to consider scrapping the Bill because its stipulations are anti-humanitarian.

Attendees at the public hearing voiced out that the bill takes away rights and freedom, criminalises the work of Non-Governmental Organisations whose work for many decades has been helping citizens out of poverty.

“My concern is that the bill poses a situation where it is too complicated and excessively bureaucratic, that means the channels through which someone has to go through so that they register through the PVO Act are too excessive such that the humanitarian issue becomes bigger and bigger in our country. We are facing the Covid 19 recovery issue, we are even facing an impending drought because of the weather patterns. So how does this bill help out?

“So whilst the humanitarian issue becomes more catastrophic the organisations who are supposed to chip will not have access because they need to register under the PVO Act. I feel as though if it is registered there is no need for all these cumbersome processes which are being created by this bill, the existing processes should remain in place to enable them to work, if not it should be scrapped as it is anti-humanitarian,” said Hazel Chishamiso Denhere representing FIM Zimbabwe and Women Coalition of Zimbabwe

While complimenting the government’s efforts Non-Government Organisations caters for a reported 70% of Zimbabwe’s Health Care system. Some pay school fees for the disadvantaged and sponsor participatory developmental projects among others. This, however, has been met with concerns from the government which alleges political involvement hence the need to amend the Private Voluntary Organisation Act.

“This bill, in summary, I think we all understand that on public funds there is the Public Management Act which provides for all funds and is audited by the Auditor general, same applies here the government is trying to amend that there are laws in the country which allows the work of NGO’s in this country.

Their major objective is to comply and compliment the government, especially in times of trouble. For instance Cyclone Idai, the bill does not get rid of the organisations but the government want to put forward parameters on which they should follow doing their work which they have not been following. The government wants to know how the money which comes in is going to be used not to totally control them leaving you astray. If it happens that the money has been misused for terrorist activities, they should not interfere in politics…” explained Honourable G. Chada, Acting Chairperson of Parliamentary portfolio on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

PVOs play an important complementary role in Zimbabwe where the government has been ‘failing’ to provide social services. They remain pivots in supporting people living with disabilities, the girl child, defending human rights and also checks and balances to government activities.

Participants at the hearing could not hide their displeasure with the bill. They bemoaned the manner in which the legislatures preached the Bill unto them rather than demystifying and explaining the possible take-home shortfalls of the amendment in comparison to the existing Act.

“This programme is for the whole of Midlands not necessarily Zhombe hence it is for everyone. The other thing is when you have been explaining I did not understand you well, it seems you have been preaching the gospel so that we accept this bill. My thinking was you would just explain so that we know what it is all about so that we make well-informed decisions on it.

“There is a lot you left out when you were explaining that I read through on the bill, I am an executive director of an organisation I represent. Then it so happens that maybe it is alleged that the money which came has a terrorist involvement, it seems the Minister is empowered and becomes too powerful to make drastic changes to even replace my position. So when you said the bill is for the better as it does not infringe rights, I think it is a very bad bill as it is meant to stifle us, confuse us,” said Colenius Silipiwe.

Speaking on the sidelines of the proceedings, Jairos Jiri Narran Centre Communications and Advocacy officer Chipo Zano emphasised that there is a need for the bill to be set aside as NGOs have been doing a great job in Zimbabwe by complimenting government departments in rendering important services to the public, especially to people with disabilities.

“For us who work with people with disabilities, we do not want this bill because we have a problem with assistive devices which we do not just get as over the years we are told to pen down what we require and what we get beyond the minimal. Things like hearing aids, embossers, and brail machines are expensive and the government cannot offer such help hence NGO’s have been chipping in hence those with disabilities get help.

“NGOs have been helping out in a lot of programmes we do, access to justice, psychiatric assessments, DNA tests and even accompanying them to courts and usually those in rural areas will not afford transport and food allowances which the government cannot help and  NGOs have been chipping in helping out with all these important needs.

“In their plea, PVO’s are of the view that there is need for government and concerned stakeholders to allow for the formulation of regulatory bodies as done by other sectors such as the Media and Law Society to allow self-governance of activities as civil society organisations thus pushing aside the direct involvement the government is vying for. In my opinion, the bill is extremely repressive in nature and it does not offer the public a lifeline to continue getting help from NGOs.

“This, therefore affect the general work of PVO’s because once there is direct control and supervision by the government, the PVOs ceases to be Non-Governmental but rather a wing of the government. In this regard our plea is for the government to respect the three arms of government hence each arm must execute its function,” said Zano.

“Give the judiciary its rightful power to judge or alternatively allow PVOs to form a board responsible for registering and deregistering members as well as to monitor the PVOs activities with regard to adherence to the Laws of the land,” said Spencer Gochai, International Young People Developers Trust Project Manager.

 


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