UN Condemns Bill Seeking to Regulate NGO Operations in Zimbabwe


Four United Nations ( UN) special rapporteurs have condemned the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Amendment Bill as infringing on the civil and political rights of Zimbabweans and lamented shrinking democratic space in the country.

In September, Cabinet okayed amendments to the PVO Act, which seeks to regulate the operations of civic groups and independent trusts.

According to the Government, the amendments were necessary to combat financial terrorism and money-laundering. They say the law is also targeted at stopping PVOs from allegedly pursuing a regime change agenda and receiving foreign funding.

The government said the amendments were in line with the recommendations of the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) — an inter-governmental organisation set up in 1989 to act as a global watchdog on money-laundering and terrorist financing.

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The special rapporteurs on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, expression and fundamental freedoms Nyaletsossi Voule, Irene Khan, Mary Lawlor and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin said the amendments were ambiguous and meant to stifle civic and political rights.

In a letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa dated December 17, the rapporteurs asked him to explain how the amendments were compatible with regional and international conventions on civil and political rights and FATF recommendations.

“Please provide information on how the assessment of the threats and vulnerabilities of the NPO (non-profit organisation) sector was carried out and address if such assessment was carried out in line with FATF guidance, including with the proper involvement of the NPO sector,” the letter read in part.

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“If adopted into law in its current version, this Bill will have grave consequences for the exercise of civil and political rights, including the right to freedom of association, of PVOs in Zimbabwe.

“We are particularly concerned that these provisions may serve as bases for restricting the operation of many NGOs, including human rights groups, currently operating as universitas organisations or trusts under the Deeds Registries Act.”

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