Parliament begins public hearings on PVO Amendment and Persons With Disabilities Bills


HARARE – The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, in collaboration with the Thematic Committee on Gender Development, has begun public hearings on the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill and the Persons With Disabilities.

Parliament in Zimbabwe begins public hearings on PVO Amendment Bill And Persons with Disabilities Bill

The hearings, which began today, will be held in various cities and towns across the country as part of the legislative process.

The PVO Amendment Bill aims to impose stringent regulations on the activities of private voluntary organizations, commonly known as non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Conversely, the Persons With Disabilities Bill seeks to grant additional rights to individuals with disabilities, with the objective of fostering their full integration into society.

The public hearings will be conducted by two teams over a five-day period, starting from Monday, May 13th, to Friday, May 17th. Each team will conduct morning and afternoon sessions.

Team A held public hearings in Nkai today at Agape Hall; and will continue with Bulawayo on May 14th at Lobengula Hall and Selbourne Hotel, Gwanda on May 15th at Constituency Hall, Masvingo on May 16th at Mucheke Hall and Civic Centre, and Gweru on May 17th at Mutapa Hall and Theatre Hall.

Team B conducted public hearings in Mutare today at Sakubva Hall; and will continue with Marondera on May 14th at Mbuya Nehanda Hall, Bindura on May 15th at Chipadze Hall, Chinhoyi on May 16th at Chinhoyi Hall, and Harare on May 17th at Waterfalls Hall and Ambassador Hotel.

To ensure the hearings maintain an atmosphere of impartiality, individuals wearing military uniforms, signs of rank, flags or badges, and political party regalia will be prohibited from attending.

Critics argue that the PVO Amendment Bill poses a threat to civic space, as it aims to amend the Private Voluntary Organizations Act, initially enacted in 1990 to regulate and supervise the operations of NGOs in Zimbabwe. Numerous civil society organizations (CSOs) have expressed concerns regarding the proposed amendments, citing potential limitations on their ability to function and fulfill their mandates.

One notable issue with the PVO Bill is a provision that restricts the number of organizations permitted to register in support of a particular cause. 

Critics fear that the proposed law would grant undue influence to the government over the registration of NGOs through the Office of the Registrar of NGOs. 

Many NGOs have already faced significant obstacles when attempting to register under the current PVO Act, and these challenges are expected to escalate if the new law comes into effect, particularly for organizations perceived as critical of the government. 

Concerns have been raised that the PVO Bill, if enacted, could be exploited by government officials, as the Minister would possess broad discretionary powers that may be used to interfere with NGO operations.

In contrast, the Persons With Disabilities Bill aims to replace the National Disability Board, established under the existing Act, with a Commission for Persons with Disabilities. The majority of the Commission's members will be selected by the Minister from panels of names submitted by registered organizations in the Register of Organisations of and for Persons with Disabilities, which will be established through the Bill.

The proposed legislation also introduces the Assistance Fund for Persons with Disabilities, for which the Minister will serve as the trustee. The Commission will administer the fund under the Minister's guidance. The resources for the fund will be derived from parliamentary appropriations, as well as gifts and grants from well-wishers. 

The fund's allocation will be directed towards establishing and operating vocational training centers, facilitating the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, providing scholarships, and promoting the general welfare of this community. 

The bill emphasizes that persons with disabilities should be treated as individuals entitled to equitable treatment and the same fundamental rights as everyone else, rather than objects of charity. Moreover, it expands upon the specific rights accorded to persons with disabilities under the existing Act.

Meanwhile, members of the public have been urged to scrutinize the proposed amendments outlined in the Persons With Disabilities Bill.

Dorothy Mashonganyika, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, last week emphasized the importance of broad participation in the hearings to ensure the development of comprehensive legislation for individuals with disabilities. 

Mashonganyika asserted that the Disability Act of 1992 has become outdated and that the forthcoming Disability Bill aligns with international best practices while remaining consistent with Zimbabwe's Constitution. 

She urged the public to attend the hearings with a sense of commitment and dedication, emphasizing the need for inclusivity and representation of the voices, experiences, and aspirations of people with disabilities.

"Let us work expeditiously to pass this Bill into law to strengthen the already existing Disability Policy and move towards a future where people with disabilities are valued, respected, and empowered to realize their potential," Mashonganyika said.

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