Pressure is mounting on President Emmerson Mnangagwa not to sign the Private Voluntary Organisations bill into law.
This time, United Nations experts have said Mnangagwa should not sign the bill because it is incompatible with international human rights obligations, in particular the right to freedom of association.
Zimbabwe says the bill is meant to bring about sanity within the non governmental organisations sector as some of them are now dabbling in politics.
The four UN experts that have appealed to Mnangagwa not so gin the bill are: Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.
“While one of the stated aims of the Bill is to counter terrorism and money laundering in Zimbabwe, the restrictions contained therein will have a chilling effect on civil society organisations – particularly dissenting voices. By enacting this legislation, authorities would effectively be closing an already shrinking civic space,” the experts said in a statement.
“It is not too late for the President to change course,” they said, adding: “We stand ready to assist the government to revise the Amendment Bill to ensure compliance with international human rights norms and standards.”
It is not clear what action Mnangagwa will take but the PVO bill was passed by the Senate on 1 February.
Zimbabwe has every reason to be suspicious of some NGOs because international donors, especially those from the US and the United Kingdom are not channelling their money through the government and could thus be pushing their anti-government agenda.
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