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Ministers of Religion Condemn Zimbabwe's Proposed Law Capable of Crippling Private Voluntary Organizations

Reverend Dr. Kenneth Mtata
Reverend Dr. Kenneth Mtata

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) says it is worried about the the proposed Private Voluntary Organization’s Amendment (PVO) Bill as it has potential of complicating the charity and humanitarian services the churches provide through various organizations that are currently registered as trusts.

In a statement, the ZCC said undue restrictions on sources of support for many programs may also expose vulnerable groups to extreme poverty as “some of our funders are the faithful based overseas.”

The ZCC said the strict registration requirements of institutions “may disrupt the services the Church has been providing to meet the needs of vulnerable groups since time immemorial.

“The Church strongly believes that the centralization assumed in this proposed Bill reverses the spirit of devolution by ascribing too much authority to the Minister and the Registrar of PVOs. As the Church, we are guided by the Church teachings on the principle of subsidiarity and believe that authority to run PVOs should actually be decentralized so that there is more participation of the PVOs in issues that affect their operations.”

The ZCC further said the potential negative impact of the proposed Bill comes at a time when ordinary citizens are experiencing limited quality service due to a limited national budget in social services such as education and health to which the church has made tremendous contributions through its service arms in support of the efforts of the government.”

The ZCC noted that the Church “wishes to commit its continued support of the efforts of the government to rationalize its laws but to have this done in ways that do not disrupt the services to the vulnerable communities.

“As the church, we are willing to engage further on how State and non- State actors could work together in a transparent and complimentary way.”

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa was unavailable for comment. She was quoted recently by the state-controlled Herald newspaper as saying the Bill will prohibit PVOs from dabbling in politics.

A registrar of PVOs can impose penalties on PVOs that break the law, including the placement of private organizations under a state monitoring mechanism.

According to some provisions of the proposed piece of legislation, a PVO can be suspended for either maladministration or failure to discharge their declared mandate.

Mutsvangwa was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “Without being checked PVOs can be used as agents of post colonial colonialism. If unchecked they can act as catalysts that speed up Western Hegemonic goals not only in Zimbabwe but the developing world at large … No country can grant unlimited and suicidal freedom to organizations sponsored from without …”