Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services Nick Mangwana says the United States government has a tough law on civil societies than Zimbabwe.

His sentiments follows outcry over the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill, which was gazetted recently by the government.

Apparently, Mangwana says having read the American law, PVO is not that bad after all.

“Yesterday, I learnt that the US has a law called the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

“Reading it’s core principles left one in no doubt that this law has the same elements as our PVO Amendment Bill except that FARA is really much tougher than PVO,” he says.

Meanwhile, according to critics the PVO Amendment Bill, H.B. 10, 2021, on the organisation of associations, which recently was subjected to community-based public hearings across the country, exposes the intention of the Zimbabwean government to provide itself with legal tools to control and ultimately silence civil society.

If adopted, the amended law would provide the government with wide powers to interfere in civil society organisations’ governance and activities.

First, PVOs would need the government’s permission for any “material change” in the organisations, including changes to internal management and funding.

Moreover, the government would have the power to designate any PVO as “high risk” or “vulnerable” to terrorism abuse.

That would allow them to revoke their registration or even to replace their leadership.

Additionally, the new bill would include harsh penalties, including imprisonment, for administrative offences related to the registration of PVOs.

Finally, the bill contains provisions that allow for the banning of civil society organisations from “engaging in political activities”, a broad and vague concept that could include legitimate human rights activities.