The passing of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Bill last week could see Zimbabwe losing about US$1 billion annually, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has said.
In an interview, NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika said development aid was 10 times the Foreign Direct Investment.
“This decision by some individuals who want to protect their political power is disastrous to our economy. The Zimbabwean economy is underperforming and looking at the policy statement issued by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube this year gives a breakdown of where foreign currency is coming from,” Kika said.
The controversial Bill will likely see some civil society organizations (CSOs) stopping their operations in Zimbabwe, while others may be forced to close shop, critics say.
When the Bill was introduced in November last year, it sparked fury from the public, civic society, and the opposition who said it would shrink democratic space by giving broad powers to the government to control the operations of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Critics say if signed into law, the Bill would provide the government with unfettered discretionary power to interfere in the operations of NGOs.
With its provisions, the government could designate any PVO as “high risk” or “vulnerable” to terrorism abuse, allowing the minister to revoke its registration and remove or replace its leadership.
PVOs may also be required to get approval from the minister for any “material change”, including changes to its management and internal constitution.
The government has argued that the law is necessary to comply with global counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering regulations, but critics say the country already has laws to deal with such concerns.
It has also accused CSOs of pursuing a regime change agenda.
CSOs and opposition political parties have urged the government to withdraw the Bill, which aims to monitor and regulate NGO activities.
Critics feel that the PVOs Amendment Bill may have been inspired by the government’s historical perception of NGOs as pro-opposition and anti-establishment, particularly those in the human rights and democracy cluster.