May 29, 2024

Mnangagwa tightens screws on NGOs

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on as he gives a media conference at the State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Clive Makumbe

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday approved changes to the laws governing private voluntary organisations (PVOs) to give his government powers to suspend, penalise or sanction boards if it feels they are not operating within the confines of the law.

Mnangagwa’s administration has been under fire from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) critical of the country’s poor human rights record, with authorities constantly threatening to shut them down.

Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa told journalists during a post-Cabinet briefing that Cabinet had approved the POVA Amendment Bill which would monitor activities of the voluntary organisations.

“Whereas registration has all along been free, the registrar is now empowered to collect registration fees from all PVOs, the Bill prohibits PVOs from political involvement and requires them to discharge their mandate for the benefit of the most vulnerable societies,” she said.

“PVOs are, therefore, prohibited from undertaking political lobbying on behalf of any individual, organisations or political party and the Bill stipulates penalties for those PVOs that violate the Act.”

The Zanu PF government has often accused Western countries, particularly the United States, of sponsoring NGOs to pursue a regime change agenda.

Mutsvangwa said the amendments gave the registrar power to deal with errant PVOs, including placing them under monitoring.

“The registrar can also impose penalties for those PVOs which break the law, with high risk PVOs being placed under monitoring. The executive committee of the PVOs can be suspended for either maladministration or failure to discharge the declared mandate.”

Although Zanu PF has long been advocating for laws to cull the influence of NGOs, government said it had come up with the proposed law changes to curb money-laundering and financing of terrorism.

“Amendments seek to combat money-laundering and financing of terrorism by any individual or institution in Zimbabwe operating under the PVO banner. The amendments also seek to streamline the administrative procedures of PVOs in order to ensure their efficient registration, regulation and the combating of the financing of terrorism,” Mutsvangwa said.

“The registrar of PVOs is being accorded powers to penalise non-compliant organisations. It was necessitated by the growing regional and global concerns about money-laundering and the financing of terrorism activities. It’s now known that terrorism activities can be committed using seemingly authentic transactions either as humanitarian aid or development assistance.”