Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill Sent Back to Parliament for Reconsideration
The Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, which had previously passed through Parliament earlier this year, is now set to be reconsidered after President Mnangagwa declined to give his assent. The President expressed reservations regarding certain clauses in the Bill that he believed violated the Constitution.
According to the Constitution, there are two possible routes for further consideration. The first route necessitates amending the Bill to address all of the President’s reservations, thereby gaining his acceptance. The second route allows Parliament to override the President’s reservations but requires the Bill to be passed again with a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
Mr Kennedy Chokuda, the Clerk of Parliament, confirmed the referral of the Amendment Bill and stated that Parliament was not in session when it was sent back, delaying the immediate consideration of the reservations. He explained that Parliament would need to convene a sitting to address the President’s concerns after reporting the referral.
Sources indicate that the President had reservations about only a few specific issues in the Bill. One of the concerns raised was related to organizations that were already registered, suggesting the need for a transition period during which they would be required to comply with the new law rather than immediately upon its implementation.
This marks the second time President Mnangagwa has referred a Bill back to Parliament due to reservations. In 2018, he sent back the Mines and Mining Amendment Bill, expressing concerns about certain clauses potentially violating constitutional provisions, particularly regarding property rights.
Under Section 131 of the Constitution, the President has the authority to refer a Bill back if he has reservations about it. The Speaker of the National Assembly is then responsible for convening a sitting to reconsider the Bill and accommodate the President’s reservations or pass the Bill, with or without amendments, by a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. The Speaker must promptly present the Bill to the President for assent and signature and publicly announce the date of submission.
The Constitution also outlines the President’s obligations if he remains dissatisfied with the Bill. If the modified Bill sufficiently addresses the President’s reservations, he must assent to it within 21 days, causing its publication in the Gazette. However, if the National Assembly fails to address the reservations adequately or overrides the President, he has the option to assent to the Bill despite reservations or seek advice from the Constitutional Court on its constitutionality.
The Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill aims to enhance financial accountability among NGOs, monitor funding sources and their utilization in Zimbabwe. These measures primarily aim to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing through PVOs, as well as ensuring that PVOs operate within their registered areas, such as health, education, wildlife conservation, supporting vulnerable populations, and other designated purposes.
One concern in Zimbabwe is the potential misuse of PVOs to circumvent the law prohibiting foreign funding of political parties and candidates, which implies money laundering. The Bill also aims to strengthen financial controls to protect donors from fraudulent activities perpetrated by certain groups.
During the Bill’s initial presentation to Parliament, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi acknowledged the contributions of many PVOs in areas such as health and education. However, he expressed concern about certain organizations covertly engaging in partisan politics instead of open support by party members.
The Bill includes provisions for an annual stakeholder meeting, facilitating discussions between non-governmental organizations and the government on matters of mutual interest, thereby maintaining the collaborative environment that shaped the current form of the Bill.