President Mnangagwa rejects PVO Bill, for now

Tawanda Majoni

Harare—President Emmerson Mnangagwa has sent the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill back to parliament, slightly more than a year after the Legal Committee of the legislative house gave it a non-adverse report.

The bill sailed through the National Assembly in December 2022 and, subsequently, the Senate in early February this year.

When Senate passed the bill, Justice minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, said it had been subjected to thorough scrutiny.

“I think parliament has done a good job. The bill was debated and there was general support for (it),” Ziyambi told journalists in February.

With parliament having given it the nod, the PVO Amendment Bill was sent for quality control at various offices that included the Attorney General’s department.

A track by NewsHub established that it took six months from the time of its passing before parliament dispatched golden copies of the bill to the president for his assent.

The bill, it was found out, was entered in the parliamentary journal for the dispatch on 9 August 2023.

The law requires that the president must assent to a bill within 21 working days from the time it was dispatched.

In effect, the assent stretch lapsed last Tuesday—on 12 September 2023—factoring in the three public holidays and weekends from the time of the dispatch.

Checks last week established that the bill was never sent to the Government Printers editorial team and other relevant stations for processing and subsequent gazetting.

Official public gazettes are printed by Government Printers.

This indicated that the golden copy was either stuck with the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) or the president had returned it to parliament.

Further inquiries today (Monday) led to the discovery that the president had sent the bill back to parliament, understandably for renewed deliberations, but the process would have to begin from ground zero again.

An official from parliament confirmed the return of the bill.

“I have been told by the relevant office that the bill was returned to parliament.  In that regard, parliament will once again have to deliberate on it. However, given the fact that the bill was passed during the last parliament and there is now a new one, it means the process will start afresh,” the official told NewsHub.

New parliamentarians were sworn in last week after the 23-24 August harmonised elections that were worn by Zanu PF as President Mnangagwa got a second and final five-year term.

The previous parliament’s life stretched from 2018 to this year.

Government, which sponsored the planned amendments to the PVO Act, argued that the bill was necessary to improve financial accountability among NGOs and stem money laundering and terrorist funding as well as criminal financing of political activities.

However, the non-profit sector was rattled by the intended law which it felt would give government sweeping powers and an opportunity to interfere with the governance and activities of targeted non-governmental organisations.

There have been repeated calls from civil society and human rights defenders for President Mnangagwa to drop the bill altogether.

It was not immediately clear why President Mnangagwa sent the PVO Bill back.

George Charamba, the deputy chief secretary in charge of communications in the OPC, said he was too busy when reached to comment.

The OPC chief secretary, Misheck Sibanda, was not picking calls.

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