PVO Bill to be retabled before Parly

Clerk of Parliament, Mr Kennedy Chokuda

THE Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, which went through Parliament early this year, will now be reconsidered after President Mnangagwa declined his assent, expressing reservations on some of the clauses of the Bill that he felt violated the Constitution.

Parliament must now consider these reservations expressed by the President before it is resubmitted for his assent.

The Constitution allows two routes.

In the first, Parliament has to amend the Bill to take fully into account all the Presidential reservations, so that the President will then accept it. In the second, Parliament can override the Presidential reservations but then needs to repass the Bill with a two thirds majority in the National Assembly.

In an interview yesterday, Clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chokuda confirmed the referral of the Amendment Bill, but declined to give reasons cited by the President.

“The President, in exercising his powers, referred it back to Parliament. The Bill however, was referred back when Parliament was not in session so we could not immediately sit to consider the reservations,” said Mr Chokuda. “What it means is that we will have to report to Parliament, notifying of the referral and Parliament will have to sit to consider the reservations.”

A source said there were only a few issues that the President wanted addressed.

“The President did not condemn the entire Bill. There are some provisions of the Bill which he felt needed a re-look by Parliament. There were just two or three issues that the President had reservations upon. One of the issues, from my recollection, was in respect of those organisations already registered.

“It was felt that there might be need for a transition period within which they should comply and not immediately when the law takes effect,” said the source.

This is the second Bill President Mnangagwa has referred back to Parliament after he raised some reservations.

In 2018, President Mnangagwa referred back the Mines and Mining Amendment Bill after he felt that some of the clauses might violate the Constitution particularly on property rights.

The President is empowered by Section 131 of the Constitution to refer back a Bill if he has some reservations on it.

“The Speaker of the National Assembly then “without delay” has to convene a sitting of the National Assembly, “which must reconsider the Bill and fully accommodate the President’s reservations; or pass the Bill, with or without amendments, by a two-thirds majority of the total membership of the National Assembly”.

The Speaker must then present it to the President without delay for assent and signature and must give public notice of the date on which the Bill was sent to the President.

The Constitution goes on to provide what the President is obliged to do if he is still unhappy with the Bill.

If the modified Bill fully accommodates the President’s reservations, the President must assent to the Bill and sign it within 21 days and then cause it to be published in the Gazette without delay.

But if the National Assembly did not go far enough, or if the National Assembly overrode the President, the President can either assent to the Bill despite reservations or submit it to the Constitutional Court for advice on its constitutionality.

Among other things, the PVO Amendment Bill seeks to upgrade the financial accountability of NGOs, monitor sources of funding in Zimbabwe and how funds are used.

This is largely to stop people using a PVO to launder funds, or fund terrorism, but also to ensure that a PVO was operating in the areas where it was registered, such as health or education, wildlife and conservation, the theatre, supporting the vulnerable and disadvantaged, or the thousands of other purposes that groups want to cover when setting up a PVO.

One area of concern in Zimbabwe is the risk that a PVO might be used as a cover to break the law banning foreign funding of political parties and candidates, which implies laundering the money.

Citizens can support, and give money to whom they like in politics, but it needs to be their own, not passing on from some foreigner.

The Bill also seeks to upgrade the existing financial controls to ensure that those who donate to a PVO are not being taken for a ride by a group of con artists.

In his speech when the Bill was first brought before Parliament, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said Government appreciated the assistance brought by many PVOs especially in the areas of health, education and other social services but there were some that were dabbling through the back door in party politics instead of the supporters of parties doing so openly.

The Bill provides for an annual all-stakeholder meeting for non-governmental organisations and the Government to discuss issues of mutual interest, maintaining the discussion culture that helped generate the present form of the Bill.


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