HARAREZ – Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa will seek to pass the controversial Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Bill – seen as an attempt to throttle independent civil society – in the first session of this new term.
The law, along with the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, Public Finance Management Amendment Bill, Medical Services Amendment Bill, and the Insurance Bill were outstanding from the ninth Parliament dissolved before the country’s August general elections.
The PVO bill made it to the president’s desk, but has now lapsed and returns to a Parliament, where Zanu-PF no longer commands an outright two-thirds majority.
Civic society groups are expected to continue to lobby the president to refrain from signing the PVO Bill into law, saying it would seriously undermine freedom of association and expression in the country.
The bill bans civil society groups from politics, and allows the state to make changes to their internal management and funding.
Organisations that fail to comply could be closed, or their organisers could be jailed.
It has been compared to apartheid-era South African attempts, and more modern Russian equivalents, to ban foreign funding for civil society.
In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) during the opening of the 10th Parliament, Mnangagwa said the outstanding laws should “be concluded during the first session of this Parliament.”
A parliamentary session in Zimbabwe is normally a year, and there are five sessions per parliamentary term.
In total, the first session will see the introduction of 17 new bills, and four outdated ones will be scrapped.
Opposition chief whip in Parliament Amos Chibaya said they didn’t attend the opening session because they didn’t view Mnangagwa as a legitimate leader.
“We view him as an illegitimate leader, hence our decision not to be addressed by him,” he told journalists.
That didn’t stop Mnangagwa from urging all legislators to play an active part in the crafting and enactment of the country’s laws.
“Let me once again take this opportunity to urge all parliamentarians to wholeheartedly participate in the enactment of laws that will improve the quality of life of our people.
“Further, Parliament is encouraged to be an institution of peacebuilding, hope, national development and the entrenchment of constitutionalism and deepening democratic practices in our country,” he said.
Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told journalists he had been tasked to look at ways of punishing opposition legislators for not attending the opening ceremony.