By Nkosana Dlamini
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) executive director Loughty Dube says the current lobby against the enactment of the unpopular PVO Amendment Bill should be escalated to donor agencies which risk having their funds hijacked by the Zanu PF administration to pursue self-serving interests under the guise of bringing sanity to poorly managed Non-Governmental Organisations.
He was speaking at a MISA-Zimbabwe organised engagement meeting on law reform process in Harare recently.
The meeting was also attended by editors from the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (ZINEF).
During the event MISA Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe) Legal and ICT Policy Officer Nompilo Simanje and MISA Regional Campaigns Coordinator Nqaba Matshazi took turns to urge media players to lead efforts aimed at conscientising citizens on the dangers of the proposed law to their general livelihoods.
Among some of its ostensible objectives, the proposed law seeks to comply with recommendations made to Zimbabwe by the Financial Action Taskforce; streamline administrative procedures for PVOs to optimise regulation and registration as well as to put in place provisions to ensure that PVOs do not participate in political lobbying.
The Bill also compels all NGOs to apply for approval before making any material organisational changes which include their constitutions and leadership, disclosure of funding sources and amounts.
The law seeks to empower the government to impose its own leadership on an organisation deemed poorly managed.
Zimbabwean NGOs fear the proposed law is intended to become part the current administration’s sharpest tools to bring them down.
NGOs have been a handful to government on rights abuses and accountability.
In his contributions during the meeting, Dube said while local lobby was crucial, it was also imperative to alert donor agencies which have relative influence over the Zimbabwean administration that their funds donated to pursue a range of humanitarian work could be ensnared in a foggy political labyrinth presided over by government.
“The lobby should even go to the international agencies where we engage them on whether they would want their funds to be used in a system and manner which the Bill proposes,” Dube said.
“There is a provision in this Bill where it says the government can even decide to pay these board members from the funds of the organisation.
“So, in terms of transparency and accountability, are they (donors) comfortable in their systems to have that happening.”
Zimbabwean NGOs, which have led bitter relations with the government which accuses them of being aiders of a so-called regime change agenda, receive funding from the US Agency for International Development, UN agencies, EU and other philanthropy-based groups.