The Sunday Mail
The Private Voluntary Organisation Bill, PVO Bill, has now passed the various stages of the legislative process.
It is now being cleaned up for my assent. I will sign it into law once it reaches my desk. Thereafter, Zimbabwe will enter a new era of genuine philanthropic and advocacy work, unsullied by ulterior political or financial motives. This has been our goal as Government in drafting such a law. To protect our society, specifically the needy and the vulnerable against the greed, wiles and subterfuges of the crooked, found both here at home and abroad.
NGOs as Trojan Horses
We also sought to protect and defend our sovereignty from foreign interests, which seek to take advantage of genuine need in our society to infiltrate and destabilise us. Or which seek to turn a small section of mercenaries in our midst into the proverbial Trojan Horse for attacking our sovereignty, our values and our politics. The goal was never helping the poor; the target was always challenging our sovereignty and hard-won independence under the guise of helping our less privileged.
Fortifying our sovereignty
It is regrettable that a sector meant to do good for the weak and vulnerable has over the years got infiltrated and weaponised against our nation and our people, including the very poor in whose name and for whose benefit the sector arose to serve in the first place. Any responsible Government would not stand idly by as this happened. Corrective action had to be taken to cure such mischief. It has since been taken through this enabling legislation, which now empowers Government to protect the weak and vulnerable, while fortifying our sovereignty against insidious encroachment by these hostile forces.
Genuine NGO work will be protected
Bona fide non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have nothing to fear. These will continue with their Godly work and vocation by serving the needy and the poor, thus augmenting the many safety nets which Government put in place and continues to finance for the benefit of the vulnerable and the less-privileged in our immediate communities and in our broader society. The same also holds for those involved in genuine advocacy work. The new law allows them to raise awareness and arouse the collective conscience of our society on those rights and interests we must never overlook, rights and interests we must seek to safeguard and protect at all times. Indeed, any society, ours included, is as humane and as compassionate as it treats and provides for its needy, weak and vulnerable.
Churches have been apprised
Government held several meetings with church organisations in order to allay any fears or misgivings they may have had regarding this proposed law.
Our churches have been in the forefront of doing humanitarian work. This Godly role must be nurtured, furthered and protected. To that end, governance structures envisaged by the new law for the sector will incorporate churches so they bring their honest, beneficent influence to bear on all actors.
Why PVO Bill?
What prompted Government to draft and sponsor this Bill was the deteriorating conduct of several organisations, which Government had registered in good faith and allowed to operate in our country as PVOs. In spite of the clarity of the law then, and of terms and conditions for registration, some NGOs wilfully departed from their original, founding mandates. Worse, many had become a law unto themselves, all in the name of defending and serving the poor. Others abused resources donated to assist the poor to self-enrich themselves. Accountability had broken down and fortunes were being made in the name of our poor. That was callous.
Money laundering offences
A more serious situation had also developed. Some of the NGOs were being used to launder or to clean dirty money, which would find way into our systems, thus impinging on national security and breaching international laws.
This presented a real, direct threat to our nation, including how our country was perceived and rated internationally. In this era of ever-present threat of international terrorism, this could not be ignored.
Largest number in so small a country
Our dollarised economy did not help matters. Because this sector had become veritable refuge for the deviant and wayward, and for actors with sinister motives, our country, which is relatively small both by territorial size and by population, acquired and assumed the dubious honour of having one of the largest number of NGOs. Yet little showed on the ground by way of real humanitarian work. Quite the contrary, Government’s burden in carrying and looking after the poor, the vulnerable, the ailing and the unemployed, grew and multiplied. Inevitably, Government started asking very pertinent and penetrating questions.
Spawned by hostile foreign policy
We also wondered why, more than any other nation of our size, we seemed so much favoured, patronised and blest by so many foreign-funded NGOs. And why the presence of these foreign-funded NGOs seemed to grow and increase numerically whenever certain Western countries became hostile to us, especially in the wake of our Land Reform Programme, and especially always towards every election.
Surely, the poor, as the Bible teaches us, have no season, are and shall always be with us. Why these patterned ebbs and flows, which invariably coincided with our politics and broken relations with a certain group of countries, all of them drawn from one specific hemisphere? To the number, nations connected to us through a peculiar history of colonialism; nations, therefore, opposed to and challenged by our mere existence as an independent and fully sovereign people.
Little states within the State
Bilaterally and multilaterally, the concerned nations would shun normal channels of government-to-government relations and interaction, preferring instead to work with and through particularly selected NGOs, which tried to become substitutes for the Zimbabwe Government. Why would foreign sovereigns seek to relate to another sovereign State through NGOs?
Symbiotic relationship with
On close scrutiny, we discovered that the preferred NGOs traced their origins to those same countries which favoured them: by lead personnel, by funding, by politics, by agenda, by values they espoused, by the attitude they adopted towards Government and by loyalties which were decidedly foreign. Again to the number, they became the underhand of those countries’ foreign policies, only thinly disguised and fronted as NGOs! The relationship was symbiotic, often in an open and brazen way. This amounted to gross interference in the internal affairs of our country, a tendency totally eschewed by the Geneva Convention and international law.
Why no NGOs in those foreign
Even as we went through the motions of making this law, protests came from “mother” countries of these very political NGOs. No protests came from our poor for whom support from those NGOs has always been a pie in a foreign sky.
Ironically, those “mother” countries have no NGOs in their own societies, even though the poor and needy exist in numbers larger than we have here.
The same countries have tougher laws against foreign-funded organisations than our PVO Bill can ever approximate. What is good for the goose seems bad for the gander!
A law for a sovereign Zimbabwe
The PVO Bill is a Zimbabwean law, which is meant for Zimbabwe and its people. Unlike those other imperious nations we all know, Zimbabwe makes no laws for other nations or peoples.
We make laws which are good and which are needful to our country. We do not need the approval of foreigners from whatever quarter to write such laws.
Foreigners must keep out, as we realise and fulfil our sovereignty through the laws we make for ourselves.
On that score, no amount of foreign noises will stop the passing of the PVO law which, in any case, has gone through our Parliament comprising all the elected parties and representatives of our country.
We do not enjoy democratic space or any of our freedoms through foreign NGOs; we enjoy them everyday in the very society we have founded and built through our own blood and struggles.
This must sink in the minds of all those who solicitously involve themselves unduly in our legislative processes.
Let me repeat: once the Bill is cleaned and sent to my Office, I will sign it into law. Speedily, too!