Defiant Mnangagwa vows to ‘speedily’ sign PVO Bill

HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to sign the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill into law, ignoring wide calls to dump a law viewed as draconian by Zimbabwean NGOs.

The controversial law has passed various stages of formulation and now await the state leader’s assent.

Zimbabwean NGOs view the enactment of the PVO Bill as an escalation of government’s cat and mouse relationship in which the state accuses them of abetting an external attempt to unseat the incumbent Zanu PF administration.

Recently, United Nations experts urged Mnangagwa not to sign the Bill into law, warning the legislation in its current form “severely restricts civil space and the right to freedom of association in the country.”

But writing in his latest weekly column in the Sunday Mail, Mnangagwa said, “I will sign it into law once it reaches my desk.

“Thereafter, Zimbabwe will enter a new era of genuine philanthropic and advocacy work, unsullied by ulterior political or financial motives.

“This has been our goal as Government in drafting such a law.

“To protect our society, specifically the needy and the vulnerable against the greed, wiles and subterfuges of the crooked, found both here at home and abroad.”

Mnangagwa said the law was meant to defend the country from foreign infiltration.

“We also sought to protect and defend our sovereignty from foreign interests, which seek to take advantage of genuine need in our society to infiltrate and destabilise us.

“Or which seek to turn a small section of mercenaries in our midst into the proverbial Trojan Horse for attacking our sovereignty, our values and our politics.

“The goal was never helping the poor; the target was always challenging our sovereignty and hard-won independence under the guise of helping our less privileged.”

The Zimbabwean strongman said what prompted his government to draft and sponsor this Bill was “the deteriorating conduct of several organisations, which Government had registered in good faith and allowed to operate in our country as PVOs”.

“In spite of the clarity of the law then, and of terms and conditions for registration, some NGOs wilfully departed from their original, founding mandates.”

Mnangagwa said under the new law, “bona fide non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have nothing to fear”.

He accused Zimbabwean NGOs of becoming “a law unto themselves, all in the name of defending and serving the poor”.

“Others abused resources donated to assist the poor to self-enrich themselves,” he said.

“Accountability had broken down and fortunes were being made in the name of our poor. That was callous.”

Mnangagwa said, “a more serious situation had also developed. Some of the NGOs were being used to launder or to clean dirty money, which would find way into our systems, thus impinging on national security and breaching international laws.”

He added, “Let me repeat: once the Bill is cleaned and sent to my Office, I will sign it into law. Speedily, too!”

NGOs, on their part, say the new law is deliberately targeted at impeding their works as eyes and ears of citizens under a government that has turned corrupt and oppressive.

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