Toe the line, Chiwenga tells NGOs

Constantino Chiwenga

ACTING President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday urged non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to comply with the country’s legal requirements.

His call comes as a law that seeks to govern civic society organisations, the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill (PVOs) Bill, is currently being amended, and has raised a lot of dust with many saying it is oppressive because it contains clauses that are likely to ban their operations, and give government powers to register or deregister them.

The PVOs Amendment Bill also gives the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister power to demand disclosure of funding of NGOs ahead of the 2023 elections.

Addressing the Golden Jubilee celebrations for Caritas Zimbabwe in Harare yesterday, Chiwenga applauded the bond that has existed between government and the Catholic Church’s humanitarian wing, Caritas.

"The bond has further been cemented by the registration of Caritas Zimbabwe as a Public Voluntary Organisation in line with first and foremost, the Private Voluntary Organisations Act (Chapter 17:05)," Chiwenga said.

Caritas Zimbabwe was legally registered in 2014 as a PVO in terms of subsections 5 and 9 of the PVO Act. 

"Public voluntary organisation registration of Caritas has given it the mandate to work in areas of emergency response; water, sanitation and hygiene; food security and sustainable livelihoods and sustainable community development. Registration as PVO means that Caritas now has an obligation to comply with government regulations for PVOs,” he said.

Chiwenga, who is also a Catholic, said the church played a pivotal role in providing assistance to vulnerable groups during the liberation struggle.

“It is a fact that over 50 000 of our people died during the war and it was difficult at that time for those vulnerable groups to get someone to help them.  The church was there and assisted greatly."

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said the proposed PVOs Amendment Bill was being crafted to clamp down on civic society organisations and people's liberty.

In a video posted on its website, the forum’s programmes co-ordinator Wilbert Mandinde said claims by government that NGOs work with the opposition on a regime change agenda were false and unsubstantiated.

“Government is always talking about this issue and there is no evidence. Our law on political financing is very clear that anyone who could have committed that crime should get arrested. Government is just hiding behind a finger,” Mandinde said.

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