Tillsammans med vår partnerorganisation The Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT) skriver vi om lagförslaget “The Private Voluntary Organization (PVO) Bill” och dess eventuella implementering i Zimbabwe som innefattar risker för civilsamhällesorganisationer och deras verkan i samhället. Lagförslaget ämnar motverka terrorism och förbjuda politisk lobbying från icke-statliga organisationer, men denna breda definition av vad som kan räknas som terrorism och politiska aktiviteter riskerar att även innefatta legitimt arbete med mänskliga rättigheter och demokrati. Detta medför stora risker för civilsamhällesaktörer i landet, vi är oroade över vad implikationerna kommer innebära för rättighetsbärare och deras meningsfulla deltagande i politiska och beslutsfattande processer. För att motverka införandet av denna lag har vi ett par rekommendationer som vi hoppas tas i beaktande av beslutsfattare, läs de längre ner i texten.
The Zimbabwean government introduced the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Amendment Bill in November 2021 to “counter terrorism and prohibit political lobbying from non-governmental organisations”. A revised bill was presented in June 2022, which imposed stricter and more repressive clauses, and was passed by the Senate on 1 February 2023. The legislation is currently before the President of Zimbabwe for his final decision on its enactment.
YETT is concerned about the PVO Amendment Bill, which contains unreasonable and unjustifiable clauses that threaten the social, economic, and civic rights of Zimbabweans. YETT continues to work alongside coalitions of Non – Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Zimbabwe to respond and oppose the Bill with a coordinated approach. Civil society organisations’ (CSOs) play a vital role in Zimbabwe’s social and economic life and are critical actors in addressing the needs and challenges of citizens.
The amended bill in question is a threat against NGOs championing for political rights and greater transparency and accountability in governance and the use of national resources. The government will have broad powers to interfere in CSOs’ governance and activities, including designating them as “high risk” or “vulnerable” to terrorism abuse, revoking their registration, or replacing their leadership. The bill also includes harsh penalties for administrative offences related to PVO registration and provisions that allow for the banning of CSOs from “engaging in political activities,” which could include legitimate human rights activities.
The PVO Amendment Bill has faced strong opposition from civil society organisations including YETT and other youth – led and focused organisations as well as the broader regional and international community. UN experts have concluded that it is incompatible with international human rights obligations. Despite consultations, the current version of the bill does not address these concerns and UN experts have urged Zimbabwe’s President to reject it, citing excessive oversight and discretionary powers for the Office of the Registrar of PVOs without independence from the executive branch.
In Zimbabwe, youth (who are below the age of 35) account for 67.7% of the country’s population yet this group has continued to bear the brunt of social, economic, and political exclusion, and vulnerability as witnessed through high unemployment, low levels of political representation and lack of opportunities. For youth, and youth-led, driven and focused organisations, the Bill poses a threat to their very existence and for the meaningful and critical participation of young people in civil society.
In light of the conventions to which Zimbabwe is a state party and the Zimbabwean constitution, the Bill in its current state violates the right to freedom of association, expression, administrative justice and to participate in politics. The Bill is not only unconstitutional, but it also violates regional and international conventions, treaties and agreements which Zimbabwe, as a party, has pledged to uphold.
Call to action!
- The Zimbabwean government should abandon the PVO Bill and instead, consult and work with and alongside civil society to better foster an enabling civic space as promised in the country’s laws and policies.
- Regional and international authorities should recall the struggle for democratic values that continues in Zimbabwe and fully and openly support civil society in Zimbabwe.
- The international community should continue monitoring the situation in Zimbabwe and put pressure on the government to ensure respect for human rights.
- Regional and international development partners should show solidarity, understanding and support towards civil society actors and organisations upholding democratic principles, in navigating and addressing the Bill, if passed into law.
- Support youth and youth led organisations and movements in the forefront of the democratic movement.
- Civil society in Zimbabwe should continue to collaborate towards a unified response to the introduction of the Bill into Law and continue to protect and promote the progressive realisation of social, economic, and civic rights of the Zimbabwean people and sustainable development.
The Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT)
The National Council of Swedish Children and Youth Organizations (LSU)