PVOs Bill declared constitutional Advocate Jacob Mudenda

Zvamaida Murwira

Senior Reporter

The Parliamentary Legal Committee has declared the redrafted Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill to be compliant with the Constitution, allowing the Bill to enter the Parliamentary processes of discussion and debate.

While the original draft largely insisting on better financial accountability of private voluntary organisations was finally passed by Parliament and submitted to President Mnangagwa, the President was unhappy with some of the provisions and returned it to Parliament. 

It then lapsed when Parliament was dissolved just prior to the August 2023 election.

The clean bill of health for the Bill by the committee now clears the way for it to proceed to the next stages, where its desirability, effectiveness, implications and support will be assessed, with the first step being the public hearings where members of the public are invited to give their views in line with Section 141 of the Constitution.

The Parliamentary Legal Committee scrutinises Bills and statutory instruments submitted by the Executive branch of Government or private initiatives to establish if they are consistent with the Constitution. 

An adverse report means that the committee finds there is a potential clash with the Constitution, and that normally requires a redrafting to replace the objectionable clauses.

The non-adverse report has put paid to those who sought to cast aspersion on the constitutionality of the Bill as the focus now will be on gathering views from the people meant to improve the proposed law.

Members of the public are currently submitting their views on the Bill through the relevant Parliamentary portfolio committees and a report will be tabled before the parliamentary processes and votes proceed.

Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda recently told the legislators that an non-adverse report had been issued by the Parliamentary Legal Committee, thus allowing it to proceed.

Clause Two of the Bill amends the existing section 2 of the Private Voluntary Organisations Act which houses the interpretations of words and phrases used in the principal Act through the inclusion of the definition of “funds or other assets” which is very wide ranging to include all financial assets and funds or other assets of every kind. 

The clause also amends the definition of “private voluntary organisation” to ensure it covers all relevant organisations that fall under this law. 

Clause Three seeks to formally establish the Office of the Registrar of Private Voluntary Organisations as a statutory office in the Ministry responsible for social welfare. 

The object of this establishment is to ensure the Office of the Registrar is able to perform its functions more efficiently by enabling it to employ dedicated staff to assist the Registrar, whose role will be to assess the fitness of PVOs to be registered under the Act.

The Clause repeals the existing section of the principal Act requiring the registration of private voluntary organisations and replaces it with a more comprehensive provision that brings within the scope of registration certain entities previously excluded from registration and excluding from registration certain other entities.

Clause six inserts a new section in the principal Act setting forth the circumstances under which a registered organisation must apply for the amendment of its original particulars of registration, in particular, where there has been a “material change” to those particulars.

Clause seven makes new proviso for appeals against the Registrar’s decisions under the principal Act, setting for the grounds on which the Minister may set aside or substitute the Registrar’s decisions on appeal.

Clause eight inserts a new part and section governing the prudential and ethical principles by which all private voluntary organisations are expected to conduct themselves within Zimbabwe.

The breach of some of these principles are declared to be civil defaults for which the offending PVO may become liable to pay a civil penalty.

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