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  • NGOs reject ministerial plan to amend NGO/Trusts legislative framework
    National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations in Zimbabwe (NANGO)
    May 28, 2009

    Civil Society Organisations have outrightly rejected the draft Joint Memorandum by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Labour and Social Services to amend the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) and the Deeds Registries Act. The intended Amendment will amongst other things pave the way for efforts to enforce the compulsory registration of organisations currently operating as Trusts under the draconian PVO Act - a move that could hinder the continued operations of many Trusts currently doing human rights, democracy and governance work. Many organisations have over the years been refused or hindered from obtaining registration as PVOs.

    It is the NGO sector's belief that Zimbabwe is in urgent need of a more hollistic regulatory framework that creates a conducive operating environment for NGOs and one that complies with International democratic standards and norms. Therefore the PVO Act needs a wholesale reform following recommendations provided by NGOs in 2004.

    At a Consultative meeting convened by the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO), NGO Leaders considered the broader impacts of the intended amendments. It was noted, as is outlined in the Memorandum that the desired outcome of the ministerial initiative is that any NGO which is involved in the provision of welfare and relief from distress, must register itself as a PVO. Registration as a Trust by such a NGO must be preceded by registration as a PVO.

    In the statement of the problem, the ministers outline that some Trusts had attempted to register as PVOs with the wish "so that they can operate freely with the cooperation of Government departments within the country" - thereby indirectly implying that Government was not willing or able to cooperate with Trusts. The meeting thus stressed that Trusts as well as PVOs and common law universities were operating lawfully. Government therefore had no reason to not wanting to cooperate with NGOs in general as development partners.

    The ministerial initiative was therefore seen by CSOs present at the meeting as a continuation of prior attempts by the government to curtail the operating environment for civil society. Civil Society Leaders variously expressed dismay at the negative connotations of the Amendments:

    The proposed amendments were also screened in light of the state's earlier attempts to silence organisations it deemed as being too political: e.g NGOs working on human rights, governance and civic education. At a time when NGOs were fulfilling their watchdog role in the constitutional reform and national healing process, the timing of the ministerial initiative fostered the impression that the Government of National Unity (GNU) intends to curtail and not enlarge civil society's engagement in these crucial processes. Seemingly the GNU wanted to introduce the draconic NGO Bill of 2005 through the backdoor - the aim of the NGO Bill, which never became law, whose aim had been to curtail or stop NGO activities on issues of governance.

    The meeting also highlighted that the administration of the PVO Act was in shambles: the application process taking years, NGOs being rejected to register on questionable grounds and the PVO Board - responsible for amongst other to consider and determine applications for registration - not having set in years, and the Department of Social Welfare grossly under-equipped to effectively assist NGOs.

    NANGO reiterates the position adopted by the African Commission on Human and People's Rights that the "Legislation that inhibits public participation by NGOs in public education, human rights counselling must be reviewed. The Private Voluntary Organisations Act should be repealed." NANGO therefore clearly rejects the ministerial piece-meal attempt to amend the PVO and the Deed Registries Act.

    Visit the NANGO fact sheet

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