The Sunday Mail
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the auspices of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC), which have become fretful over the proposed Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment, have hatched an elaborate plan to use neighbouring countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Zambia as conduits for resources to coordinate anti-Government activities ahead of 2023 harmonised elections, it has been learnt.
CiZC has already received US$160 000 through Botswana from an America-based organisation, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which has a chequered record of destabilising and toppling governments considered to be Washington’s adversaries.
Government, acting on recommendations on money-laundering and terrorist financing from France-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), intends to enact the PVO Amendment Bill to promote transparency.
Sources privy to the goings-on told The Sunday Mail that the money was deposited in CiZC’s Botswana account number 10002788390201 and is meant to strengthen the capacity of its secretariat and members to coordinate regional CSOs, labour, churches and political parties to spotlight what they allege to be a political crisis in Zimbabwe.
The activities are being camouflaged under a programme called “Coordinating Citizen Action and Regional Engagement Towards Democratic Reform”, which runs until January next year.
As part of the broader scheme, the organisation is reportedly already coordinating the SADC People’s Summit billed to take place on the sidelines of the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, in August.
Separately, it also intends to organise a round-table for Southern African civil society organisations and regional solidarity networks through its Johannesburg regional office to hype the purported crisis and ratchet up pressure against the Government.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said laws outlawing foreign funding for political parties were not peculiar to Zimbabwe.
“It is unlawful for political parties to get foreign funding. This is the case in all jurisdictions. The reason is simple: Democracy means a government must be chosen by its own people and not by foreigners,” he said.
“If you allow foreigners to finance political parties, it means they will dictate who gets into power, and not the people of Zimbabwe.”
He said because of the Political Parties (Finance) Act, some political parties were now being financed through CSOs and NGOs who channel money under the guise of sponsoring projects and programmes.
In light of the emerging security threats, he said, there was need to re-look the PVO Act.
“We need to strengthen our laws given the new security threats.
After failing to influence teachers to strike before the beginning of the second term, and unsuccessfully trying to mobilise a stay-away, CiZC has of late been pushing for demonstrations through its social media platforms.
The wider scope of the envisaged destabilisation programme includes organising xenophobic demonstrations against Chinese investments in Zimbabwe.
Law enforcement agents, however, say they are more than prepared to deal with law-breakers.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe said police would not hesitate to enforce the law.
“The law is very clear: Organisations cannot get foreign funding to coordinate political activities in this country. We have laws and police are prepared to enforce those laws; that we can assure you,” he said.
“We would like to warn those that get funding from outside dreaming to destabilise this peace-loving country that the law will take its course and it will indeed be enforced. Rest assured!”
Since the envisaged PVO Amendment Bill would make it difficult for some of the funding for such political activities to be directly wired to Zimbabwe, the CSOs and their funders are reportedly positioning their “war chest” in neighbouring countries, from where the money can be drawn down.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare is recommending that the Bill be fast-tracked in Parliament to prevent outside interfere in elections.
The Bill seeks to amend the PVO Act [Chapter 17:05].
In a report on public consultations on the Bill, the committee also recommended the cancellation of a certificate or licence of any PVO that deliberately fails to stick to its mandate or participates in politics.
“Some members of the public supported the Bill stating that PVOs need to be regulated at a higher level since some of them abuse funds from donors for personal gain. It was highlighted that as long as PVOs operate in good faith, sticking to their mandate and being transparent, they would never be adversely affected by the new amendments,” read the report.
“In addition, it was noted that good supervision of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) was necessary to stop them from meddling in politics, in particular by supporting political parties. Furthermore, it was noted that some PVOs were diluting the local culture, which resulted in moral decadence, hence there was need for regulation. Finally, the Bill was applauded as it sought to curb terrorism, which had profoundly affected some countries socio-economically, including those on the continent.”
The committee also exhorted Government to expeditiously implement provisions of the Bill once it was enacted.
However, the report said CSOs expressed reservations on the Bill in its current form, arguing that there already laws that regulate PVOs in terms of accountability and curbing money laundering.
The ruling party ZANU PF’s chief whip and Gutu West Member of Parliament, Pupurai Togarepi, said regardless of next year’s election, the country needs such a law as some NGOs have been destabilising the country at the instance of foreign countries.
“If we look at the Zimbabwean environment where we have political parties being locally funded without any foreign funding, its healthy. Anything that is supported and funded by the local people is welcome. Anything that comes from foreign interference is unwelcome,” he said.
“The law is to cure that. Our politics is muddied by foreign interests … Anyone who operates in Zimbabwe should do so according to the law and stick to their mandate. When they decide to do politics, they should be dealt with according to the law.”
The Bill was gazetted on November 5, 2021 and has passed the second reading in Parliament.
It now awaits debate in both the National Assembly and the Senate.
*Additional reporting by Richard Muponde