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Government’s Proposed Amendments To The PVO Bill “Unconstitutional” – Veritas

Public Service minister Paul Mavima has proposed more amendments to the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) Amendment Bill in an apparent move to tighten the screws on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the country.

The new amendments will be submitted at the Committee Reading Stage of the PVOs Bill, which is currently in the Second Reading Stage in the National Assembly.

Fears abound that the Bill, already viewed as oppressive, is meant to stifle government critics and human rights defenders. 

Authorities say the Bill is meant to ensure that NGOs do not interfere in local politics.

In its latest Bill Watch online publication, legal think-tank Veritas said Mavima had proposed several new amendments which would give the minister powers to control every association, to give permits, to register PVOs and NGOs, and convene annual forums for PVOs to discuss issues of interest.

The Veritas publication seen by NewsDay said the new amendments left the “worst” clauses unchanged, but seek to consolidate the government’s powers over trusts.

It also says the new amendments were effected in violation of section 141 of the Constitution because they were smuggled in after public hearings on the Bill were done. Said Veritas:

The amendments will delete provisions in the Bill which would have allowed the registrar of PVOs to require trustees of any trust either to forswear their right to collect funds for charitable purposes or to register their trust as a PVO.

In place of these provisions, however, the amendments will insert a new section 6 in the PVO Act (“the Act”), which will require any trust that collects funds for charitable purposes to register under the Act, prohibit anyone from collecting funds from the public except in accordance with the Act — which means that only registered PVOs will be allowed to do so, debar unregistered PVOs from receiving funds from the State, and  permit the Registrar to require any trust to get itself registered as a PVO, and make trustees and their trusts jointly liable to criminal penalties for failure to comply with the new section.

Veritas also said:

a). Clause 11 of the Bill was unconstitutional because it proposes a new schedule providing for the imposition of civil penalties for certain contraventions of the Act.

b). Clause 2(b) of the Bill will also insert a new provision into the Act, allowing the Public Service Minister to make regulations permitting him to designate associations that he regards to be at high risk of misuse by terrorist organisations.

Veritas said the provisions are far too vague for a penal provision and are therefore n violation of the rule of law which demands that laws, particularly penal ones, “must be intelligible, clear and predictable.”

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