Mnangagwa refers contentious PVO Amendment Bill back to Parliament

HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa has returned the highly contentious Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill to Parliament for reconsideration. 


This comes more than a year after the Legal Committee of the legislative house gave it a non-adverse report.

The bill passed through the National Assembly in December 2022, and the Senate in early February 2023. The Minister of Justice Ziyambi Ziyambi praised the bill and said that Parliament had done a “good job” and that the bill had been sufficiently scrutinized.

“I think parliament has done a good job. The bill was debated and there was general support for [it],” Ziyambi told journalists in February.

The President’s reservations

The PVO Amendment Bill passed its final reading in the Senate on 1st February 2023 and, after a long delay [presumably while it was tidied up by lawyers in the Attorney-General’s Office] it was sent to the President for signature and assent on 9th August – the date is recorded in Parliament’s Status of Bills report. 

Legal watchdog Veritas, said Mnangagwa did not sign the bill immediately, perhaps distracted by other issues such as elections, inaugurations, appointing a Cabinet and other political pressures. 

“He has now, according to Parliament’s Status of Bills, sent the bill back to Parliament with reservations, in terms of section 131(6) of the Constitution,” Veritas said.

“We do not know the President’s reasons for referring the bill back to Parliament: whether he considered it unconstitutional [it certainly is] or whether he had other reservations about it [and he might well have had serious reservations about many aspects of the bill]. No doubt his reasons will be explained to the National Assembly in due course.”

Veritas also pointed out that they have not seen the version of the bill that was sent to the President for signature and has now been referred back to the National Assembly. "It will no doubt be made public when the President’s reservations about the bill are reported to the Assembly.”

The next steps

Veritas explained what happens after the President has sent a bill back to Parliament, as set out in section 131(7) of the Constitution.

“Where a bill has been referred back to Parliament in terms of section 6(b), the Speaker must without delay convene a sitting of the National Assembly, which must— (a) reconsider the bill and fully accommodate the President’s reservations; or (b) pass the bill, with or without amendments, by a two-thirds majority of the total membership of the National Assembly; and in either case the Speaker must cause the bill to be presented to the President without delay for assent and signature and must give public notice of the date on which the bill was sent to the President,” Veritas said. 

The section gives the National Assembly only two options. It must either amend the bill so as to meet all the President’s objections and reservations, or it must by a two-thirds majority resolve to override the President’s objections. 

In either event it must send the bill back to the President who must then, in terms of section 131(8), either assent to the bill or refer it to the Constitutional Court for an opinion as to its validity.

Veritas added: “These constitutional provisions are not well thought out: Firstly, the National Assembly has the sole right to decide what to do when the President sends a bill back to Parliament: the Senate has no role in the proceedings, even though it may have passed the bill originally.”

Veritas hoped the Assembly would abandon the PVO Amendment Bill, which faces global backlash for its restrictive clauses on NGOs. The Bill grants the minister excessive authority to license and revoke NGOs, and to require them to reveal their funders. 

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