By Nkosana Dlamini
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s bid to suffocate the main opposition MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa has been laid bare in a new law that seeks to cut ties between NGOs and political parties while also preventing the voluntary groups from transmitting funds aimed to “fund terrorism”.
The controversial Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill was rubberstamped by cabinet Tuesday following its presentation by justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi.
The proposed law is ostensibly aimed at “combating money laundering and financing of terrorism by any individual or institution in Zimbabwe operating under the Private Voluntary Organisations banner”.
According to information minister Monica Mutsvangwa at a post-cabinet media briefing Tuesday, “the amendments also seek to streamline the administrative procedures for Private Voluntary Organisations in order to ensure their efficient registration, regulation and the combating of the financing of terrorism.”
Under the proposed statute, the Registrar of PVOs is also being accorded powers to penalise non-compliant organisations.
Added Mutsvangwa, “The PVO Amendment Bill was necessitated by growing regional and global concerns about money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. It is now known that terrorist activities can be committed using seemingly authentic transactions, either as humanitarian aid or as development assistance.
“Since the current PVO Act was silent in this regard, the Bill seeks to close the loophole and ensure that all PVO activities are transparent and are conducted in the national interest.
“As a member of the International Financial Action Task Force, Zimbabwe is obligated to ensure compliance by all PVOs operating in the country, without exception.”
However, the law could come as a lethal weapon against MDC Alliance which was formed out of different NGOs and continues to enjoy camaraderie from the groups.
The country’s laws prohibit the financing of local political parties by foreigners.
There are strong suspicions by authorities some cooperating NGOs act as conduits for the funds aimed to finance the main opposition’s operations.
Government has further channelled funding disbursed through the Political Parties Finance Act to the rival MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora, leaving Zanu PF’s main opponent in the lurch.
Added Mutsvangwa, “PVOs are therefore prohibited from undertaking political lobbying on behalf of any individual, organisation or political party, and the Bill stipulates penalties for those PVOs that violate the Act.
“The Registrar can also impose civil penalty orders on PVOs which break the law, with high risk PVOs being placed under monitoring.
“The Executive Committee of a PVO can be suspended for either maladministration or failure to discharge the declared mandate.”