The government and some diplomats recently were involved in a war of words over the Private Voluntary Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Amendment Bill which the latter claims are an infringement of rights.
This follows the controversial gazetting of the PVOs Amendment Bill in 2021 by the government which claimed that it would align the existing PVO Act with the Financial Action Task Force recommendations against money-laundering and financing of terrorism.
However, the bill was received with much condemnation as most non-governmental organisations allege that the government is in the process of limiting their freedom especially, ahead of the 2023 elections.
Information Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Nick Mangwana revealed that some diplomats were irked by the bill and expressed their displeasure during a meeting with government officials.
“A few days ago some diplomats met government officials over the PVOs Amendment Bill. They expressed a lot of bitterness and odium towards the Bill. Very interesting. How does this Bill undermine their interests? Don’t we have the right to advance our own interests like everyone else?” Mangwana questioned.
However, the head of the visiting European Union Election Observer Mission, Elmar Brok told journalists on Friday that the PVO Bill has the potential to restrict legitimate activities of civil societies thereby crippling fundamental freedoms of expression.
“We’re concerned that if the Private Voluntary Organizations PVO Amendment Bill is adopted, it will severely impact the freedom of association and restrict legitimate activities of civil society organizations.
“Therefore, we urge authorities and the legislature to reconsider, keeping in mind Zimbabwe’s international commitment. We heard also concerns from part of the opposition and civil society that amendments to the Criminal Law might be introduced which would endanger the freedom of expression,” Broke said.
The government has for long accused NGOs of fronting regime change agenda through funding from Western powers.
In a response to Mangwana, Binga Member of Parliament, Prince Dubeko Dube said the PVO bill does not represent the interests of the state but those of the ruling party, ZanuPF.
“ZANU PF interests are not national interests. We can’t legislate to protect the interests of a failed regime,” he said.