BILL WATCH 30/2022
[13th July 2022]
The Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill : A Better Option
The controversial Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill [link] aroused a storm of protest from civil society after it was published in the Gazette last year. It is currently passing through the National Assembly, and the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare has published a long list of amendments to the Bill which he proposes to move when it reaches the Committee Stage. A consolidated version of the Bill, incorporating these proposed amendments, can be found on the Veritas website [link].
Veritas analysed the Bill in Bill Watches 72/2021 [link] and 74/2021 [link] and found it to be unconstitutional, inimical to freedom of association, ill-conceived and badly drafted. It will stifle the activities of private voluntary organisations [PVOs] of all kinds and will put at risk the social and economic development they bring.
We analysed the Minister’s proposed amendments in Bill Watch 26/2022 of the 16th June [link] and found that they will not improve the Bill at all – quite the reverse, in fact.
A Better Way?
There is a better way to regulate private voluntary organisations, and South Africans found it when their parliament passed the Nonprofit Organisations Act in 1997. The long title of the Act describes the Act’s purpose admirably:
“To provide for an environment in which nonprofits organisations can flourish.”
The Act does not oblige non-profit organisations – i.e. PVOs – to register with the government: instead it encourages them to do so by giving registered organisations benefits such as tax relief.
An Alternative Bill
Veritas has prepared a model PVO Bill based on the South African Act. It is an attachment to this bulletin.
The main features of the Veritas model Bill are:
· Registration will not be compulsory for most PVOs. The only ones obliged to register will be:
o those that seek donations from the public – they need to be registered to ensure that the donations are not stolen or misused, and
o those that are identified, after careful assessment, as vulnerable to being used for money laundering, terrorist financing or other serious crimes. It is important for these PVOs to be monitored so that Zimbabwe can comply with rules laid down by the international Financial Action Taskforce.
· Any other non-profit PVO will be permitted to register with the government so long as it has a written constitution providing for such basic things as its name and objectives and basic structures such as a management committee.
· Registered PVOs will be monitored by a Registrar – a government official – and a PVO Board composed of representatives of government and PVOs.
· Registration will confer benefits on PVOs such as corporate status, limitation of liability for members (like shareholders of companies) and other benefits that may be prescribed in regulations.
· Registered PVOs will have to provide the Registrar with basic information showing that they are being properly run and that their activities are lawful:
o the names and addresses of their office-bearers,
o their annual financial statements, and
o yearly reports on their activities.
· The activities of unregistered PVOs will be governed by the ordinary law, which those PVOs will have to obey like everyone else.
The Veritas Bill, in short, will give the Government adequate control over PVOs, to the extent that it is necessary to control them, while complying with the Constitution and Zimbabwe’s international obligation to control money-laundering, terrorist financing and other transnational crimes.
Veritas calls on Members of Parliament to urge the Government to withdraw the Bill that is currently going through the National Assembly and to replace it with the Alternative Bill.