The US Embassy in Harare has called on the government of Zimbabwe to immediately withdraw the proposed Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO) Amendment Bill that seeks to bar Non-Governmental Organizations from political lobbying.
The Bill also seeks to add to section 10 of the principal Act by bringing in a clause to bar PVOs from supporting or opposing any political party or candidate in a presidential, parliamentary or local government election.
In a statement recorded by this publication, the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Thomas R. Hastings said it is wrong to pass legislation that affects the rights of civic society organizations.
“The USA Government has today asked the Government of Zimbabwe to immediately withdraw the PVO Amendment Bill that it has proposed for promulgation by Parliament in order to regulate the non-governmental sector working environment.
“Any proposed new legislation governing the registration and operations of NGOs must exempt organizations that are already registered under existing valid legal regimes from re-registering. It is wrong to pass NGO legislation or any other legislation for that matter and apply it retrospectively to affect the rights of civil society groups and NGOs that already legally and validly exist in terms of the current laws of the land that look quite adequate in their current for. This is totally wrong!” he fumes.
He also said the Government of Zimbabwe should carry out wide consultations with international institutions and organizations before passing the bill or risk losing developmental AID from the US and its Western allies.
Mr Thomas R. Hastings also said the Government of Zimbabwe should also consult stakeholders before passing this controversial bill which might spark civil unrest.
“Before passing any such legislation and considering its potential impact on the ordinary people as end beneficiaries of the work of NGOs, the GoZ should first initiate an extensive consultation process with civil society as outlined in Chapter 14 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe if it wishes to change the legal framework through which NGOs come into existence and operate in Zimbabwe.”
The Us Ambassador also said the bill amend the definition of PVO and they will be subject to re-registration a move which he says will undermine the democratic principles of the country.
“The Bill amends the definition of “private voluntary organization” with a much wider definition which encompasses some categories of organizations that the current PVO Act is not applicable to such as trusts and Universitas.
“This means that these organizations will now be subject to re-registration and to broad control and regulation by the board and the Minister. The Bill allows the Minister to appoint one or more persons as trustees to run the affairs of an NGO for a period not exceeding sixty days if he feels that there is a need for that,” he said.
“If the government of Zimbabwe is serious about re-engagement, it should immediately withdraw the PVO Amendment Bill,” he concluded.
At the moment public interfaces are being done to gather what people think about the proposed PVO Bill.