One of the most topical issues in Zimbabwe lately is the new Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO) Amendment Bill. I have seen it being the subject of discussion on various platforms. The consensus is that most people are opposed to it. There are some reasons why most Zimbabweans feel this way. In this article, I shall be mainly looking at fears the new PVO Bill will lead to job losses. Registering a charity organization in Zimbabwe, especially through the PVO route has not always been easy, especially for foreigners.

Overview Of The New PVO Bill

First off, you might be wondering what the new bill seeks to do. Its purpose is 3-pronged namely:

  • To comply with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations
  • To streamline administrative procedures, plus facilitating efficient regulation of PVOs
  • To prevent PVOs from participating in political lobbying

Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendations

This is closely tied to the principal purpose of the new PVO Bill. Thus, you might need to understand who or what the FATF is. FATF is a global inter-governmental entity that essentially plays the role of a watchdog. It was set up 33 years ago to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. The recommendations are aimed at consolidating its efforts to deal with the aforementioned vices.

Why The New PVO Bill Now?

As it turns out there is a regional anti-money laundering watchdog called ESAAMLG. ESAAMLG stands for Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group. One of its responsibilities is to see to it that countries align themselves with the FATF recommendations. ESAAMLG reported that Zimbabwe is not yet fully compliant with one of the FATF recommendations. This refers to the 8th recommendation which stipulates that countries must safeguard vulnerable non-profit organizations (NPOs) from being used as a cover for bankrolling terrorist activities. Thus the coming in of the new PVO Bill is being premised on that pursuit to be fully compliant.

Numerous Problematic Areas

The provisions of the new bill in assessing the vulnerability of a PVO are problematic. The FATF stipulates that a country must collaborate with the PVO in question in doing this assessment. However, in the new PVO Bill, it is indicated that the assessment will be done only by the Ministry of Public Service and the central bank. This means the PVO in question is excluded from the whole process. The unfortunate possible outcome of this is that a PVO can be unfairly treated and have no say in it.

There are a lot more concerns about this new PVO Bill and I do not wish to explore this subject in-depth here. For instance, the scope of the bill oversteps its jurisdiction. Just imagine the implications of the Ministry of Public Service having jurisdiction over PVOs and their operations and administration. Another issue I can mention here regards how Trusts, under the new bill, can be barred from doing any fundraising activities. Either they will have to comply or register their Trust as a PVO. The rationale behind this is not explicitly clear. Registering a Trust in Zimbabwe is way easier than a PVO which is why most prefer the Trust route. Thus trusts will most likely be forced to register as PVOs since a Trust cannot quite function without being able to fundraise.

Implications Of The New PVO Bill On Jobs

It is being reported that roughly 18 000 jobs can be lost because of this new PVO Bill. (That is of course if it eventually gets passed into law). This was stated in a report done by Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. Notice what I mentioned regarding Trusts and fundraising activities. The new bill will most likely negatively affect the financial health of many Trusts.

This subsequently means that many people employed in NGOs can end up losing their jobs. This also has a ripple effect because those people have families and other dependencies. Not forgetting that NGOs have largely contributed to community development and improvement of livelihoods. That also stands to suffer a disruptive blow if the new PVO Bill is passed. There are unfavourable economic consequences of all these dynamics.

At the moment public interfaces are being done to gather what people think about the proposed PVO Bill. So far it has been abundantly clear that the vast majority are against it. It is also interesting to note that the UN and the EU are heavily opposed to it as well. That is just how problematic it is but we will wait to see how things turn out.