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Zimbabwe passes law designed to throttle independent ci… – Daily Maverick

On 5 November 2021, the clerk of parliament in Zimbabwe published the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill 2021 (the PVO Amendment Bill) in the Government Gazette. The bill has since been passed by the National Assembly and will be debated in the Senate on 31 January 2023.

The amendments that are proposed might leave you thinking that the Zimbabwean government deals with a multitude of terrorist financing threats on a regular basis.

In summary, the amendments ostensibly seek to address two things:

  1. To prevent nonprofit organisations (NGOs) from being misused by terrorist organisations as fronts or “conduits for terrorist financing”;
  2. To ensure that private voluntary organisations do not undertake political lobbying.

These two issues clearly express the intentions of the government. The first is to monitor, cease and even seize funds received by NGOs in the country.

The second targets the activities of NGOs and seeks to silence dissenting voices and to further shrink, if not close, civic spaces ahead of Zimbabwe’s 2023 elections.

This is made clear by the major clauses of the bill which include changing the definition of PVOs as well as expanding the definition of “funds or other assets” to include “all financial assets and funds or other assets of every kind”.

To make sure that as many people as possible are forbidden by law from financially supporting the opposition or from opposing government (read Zanu-PF), the amended definition of a PVO includes anyone that fundraises for any activity.

zimbabwe politics
A billboard promoting Zanu-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa during election preparations in Harare, Zimbabwe, 26 July 2018. (Photo: EPA- EFE / Yeshiel Panchia)

For example, if you wake up and decide that, for your birthday, you will ask people to donate money towards the drilling of a borehole in your community, the bill demands that you must first register as a PVO. You can do that voluntarily or you can be forced to do so by the Minister of Social Welfare.

It means if, after registering as a PVO, you decide to donate 10 T-shirts to a candidate in the local government elections, you will be breaking the law as PVOs will now be prohibited from political lobbying.

Another clause seeks to criminalise the “supporting or opposing [of] a political party or candidate by PVOs”.

Clause 7 seeks to give the minister power to suspend an executive committee of any PVO suspected of maladministration, and powers for the minister to appoint trustees to run the PVO while it is being investigated.

Civil penalty orders

The bill seeks to have an Office of the Registrar under the Ministry of Social Welfare. This Registrar will have the power to consider and determine applications for the registration as well as proposed deregistrations of organisations. At least three of the clauses seek to give the Registrar more powers: including collecting fees for the registration of PVOs as well as “to impose civil penalty orders… on non-complying private voluntary organisations”.

By changing the definition of PVOs, the government of Zimbabwe wants to make sure that nobody in the civic space is left untouched by the proposed laws.

The bill aims to give rights to the minister to order any organisation they target to register as a PVO. Anyone or any organisation that “doesn’t use their own funds for their activities, but instead collects contributions from the public or receives financial assistance from anyone inside or outside Zimbabwe”, shall be forced to register as a PVO.

It is clear, as one reads the bill, that what the government regards as “terrorism” — or who they regard as a “terrorist” — is anyone they believe to be supporting the opposition or opposing government (read Zanu-PF).

One of the amendments reads:

“When any PVO that supports or opposes any political party or candidate in a presidential, parliamentary or local government election, or is a party to any breach under section 7 under part iii of the Political Parties (Finance) Act [Chapter 2:12] as a contributor of funds to any political candidate or otherwise, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of level 12 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, or both such fine or such imprisonment.”

zimbabwe politics
To make sure that as many people as possible are forbidden by law from financially supporting opposition, and from opposing government (read Zanu-PF), the amended definition of a PVO includes anyone that fundraises for any activity. (Photo: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images)

The bill claims to be addressing the threat of “terrorist financing”. However, the above paragraph makes it clear that the government considers the financial support of opposition parties to be terrorist financing.

Not only that, but they also criminalise opposition to any political party, which is basically the criminalisation of dissent. PVOs will be prohibited from calling out the government for, for example, human rights violations if that can be seen as opposing a political party.

Criminalising opposition politics

What the government is attempting to do is ensure that as many people as possible are forced to register as PVOs so that they can prevent not only the funding of opposition parties, but also restrict open support for the opposition.

The bill seeks to criminalise opposition politics, which includes the activities of civil society organisations and NGOs that are viewed as political lobby groups.

Most NGOs target human security in all its forms — from human rights to economic security and political insecurity, among other issues. The major cause of this insecurity is the government.

It is the inadequacy of the government that has led to health, education, water and sanitation crises in the country. It is their inadequacy that has led to starvation.

It is also their repressive laws and incompetence that have led to failed voter education and a failed voter registration drive.

When PVOs — being NGOs, civil society organisations (CSOs) and individuals — then raise funds from the public or from local and foreign donors to support service delivery (effectively subsidising government) and save lives, the government sees this as political lobbying.

They see it as such because they fear that, in their operations, PVOs will deliberately or inadvertently expose the government’s incompetence and failures.

Understandably, opposition political parties’ campaigns are founded on the idea that Zanu-PF must be replaced because of their failure to provide a stable currency and create an environment conducive to employment creation, as well as fail to provide merit and public goods. However, when PVOs address these issues, the government sees collusion — real or imagined — between PVOs and the opposition.

Voter registration crackdown

An example is the crackdown on organisations involved in encouraging people to register to vote.

One of the opposition’s campaigns has been to get as many people as possible to register to vote. In neighbouring Zambia, there are claims that the incumbent party won the election in 2022 because of a massive voter registration drive by the opposition.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Greater unity through Pan-Africanism can help save Zimbabwe’s democracy

When Zanu-PF sees anyone encouraging people to vote, it views it as political lobbying for the opposition, despite the fact that encouraging more people to vote will benefit candidates from all parties.

More people voting will also give a clearer picture of what the people want.

Democracy demands that people must be encouraged and capacitated to vote. Anyone who feels threatened by the masses being empowered to vote knows that their power is illegitimate — it is not derived from the people, and they would like to keep it that way.

We must be under no illusion that the PVO Amendment Bill targets NGOs, CSOs and activists.

This view of NGOs and CSOs as enemies of the state is expressed in the state-controlled Herald newspaper that said: “The NGOs have been at the forefront of funding subversive activities and the government has the rights to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Zimbabwe.”

The propaganda that anyone who expresses dissent is funded by the West through NGOs is believed by many Zimbabweans. It is meant to make people view dissenters with suspicion, even when they share the same views. This has led to many people folding their arms and sitting back as the government launches vicious attacks on free speech and civil rights.

It seems many Zimbabweans do not realise that in targeting NGOs, CSOs and activists, the PVO bill ultimately targets all Zimbabweans and seeks not only to silence us all, but to worsen our social and economic conditions.

PVOs are not just engaged in social justice work; they provide essential social services that government fails to provide, such as healthcare and food aid. Without NGOs, many in urban and rural areas would die of starvation.

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

Without NGOs, thousands of children in the country would be out of school.

There are currently many community projects, especially in rural areas, where individuals are pooling funds to build schools and feed schoolchildren, among other activities.

This bill seeks to force such people to register as PVOs and thus take away their rights to engage in political lobbying.

In the Monetary Policy Report of February 2022, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said NGOs were the third-largest contributor of foreign currency receipts in the country. The bedridden economy of Zimbabwe would have come to a standstill years ago were it not for the funds brought in by PVOs and the diaspora.

It is these funds that the government seeks to control, stop or seize, regardless of the fact that the bulk of these funds support health and education in Zimbabwe.

The National Assembly passed the PVO Amendment Bill on 16 December 2022 and it was sent to the senate for approval.

The silence by Zimbabweans on this issue is tragic and shows the fragmentation and disconnect between leaders and the greater society.

Why is it business as usual in Zimbabwe in the face of such a potentially damaging blow to civil liberties? DM/MC

Thandekile Moyo is a writer and human rights defender from Zimbabwe. She is a peace and security fellow at the African Leadership Centre where she is receiving training on Leadership, Peacebuilding, Security and Development. She uses print, digital and social media (Twitter: @mamoxn) to document and expose human rights abuses, bad governance and corruption in Zimbabwe. Moyo holds an honours degree in geography and environmental studies and is studying towards a Master’s degree in Development Studies at the University of Johannesburg.

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A new MDC variant emerges as Mudzuri splits from Mwonzora – The Zimbabwe Mail

MDC VP Engineer Elias Mudzuri & Sec General Douglas Mwonzora

MDC-T Break-away group, led by Elias Mudzuri and other suspended members, has said the party led by Senator Douglas Mwonzora currently does not have the capacity to rebuild Zimbabwe.

The group made the remarks during a press conference held in Harare on Thursday 02 February 2023. Said the group:

We do not think that we do have a party that can actually do the job for us to bring true liberation to Zimbabweans who are suffering, you know economic problems we are facing.

The group said there is a need for the opposition MDC-T to reorganise and restructure and put the right people for the right decisions to be made.

The break-away party consists of Mudzuri, Norest Marara, Gift Konjana, John Nyika, Den Moyo, Edwin Dzambara, and Edwin Kakora who were suspended from the MDC-T last month allegedly for breaking party rules, having illegal meetings, and undermining the democratic procedures of the organisation.

Following the suspension, Mudzuri vowed to resist expulsion saying Mwonzora can only expel him on paper.

There has been a leadership crisis in the MDC-T since the 26 March 2022 by-elections in which the party did not win a single seat.

Some members of the MDC-T blame leader Senator Douglas Mwonzora for the loss and they hoped he would be replaced during the party’s 5th Ordinary Congress held at the City Sports Centre in Harare on Sunday, 18 December 2022.

However, the MDC-T endorsed Mwonzora as the party’s sole presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections.

Mudzuri and colleagues say the congress must be declared null and void because Mwonzora did not follow due process.

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Switching Ukraine’s Mines to Vines | Wine-Searcher News & Features – Wine-Searcher

As Ukraine continues to reel from war, brave organizations are sweeping in to clear mines and grow vines.

Despite various efforts to ban landmines, they remain a persistent sinister threat in various countries around the world.
© Shutterstock | Despite various efforts to ban landmines, they remain a persistent sinister threat in various countries around the world.

The 4th century BCE was a busy time around the globe: Plato and Aristotle hung around, sharing their thoughts; Carthaginians invented the first donkey-powered mill; Romans built the first aqueduct; and winemaking emerged in Ukraine.

Monks really got the winemaking ball rolling in Ukraine in the 11th century, cultivating, growing and producing wine with intention in the northern part of the country. Under Soviet rule, Ukraine was one of the main sources of wine for the USSR, but the roughly 370,000 acres in vines were primarily used to produce industrial plonk.

In recent decades, winemaking in Ukraine has returned to its terroir-driven roots, but Russia, once again, is threatening not only the country’s wine culture but the country’s ability to function and exist as a civilized society.

The first hit came in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea – the biggest seizure of land in Europe since World War II. The illegal land grab immediately threatened the world’s post-Cold War order, and initiated a series of political chess moves that are still playing out today. It also resulted in the loss of about one-third of Ukraine’s vineyard space – much of it considered to be the best.

That annexation coincided with – or perhaps partially inspired – a doubling down on Ukraine’s production of Western-style dry wines, especially in the southern regions of Odessa and Kherson. Since the annexation, production of dry wines increased by 7-9 percent annually, according to Wines of Ukraine. In 2021, 100 million liters plus of wine were produced from almost 100,000 acres of vineyards, where 180 primarily indigenous grape varieties thrived.

Then the second hit came in February of 2022, when Russia invaded the country, actively destroying civilian infrastructure across the country, killing tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers, plunging the economy into freefall (unemployment is at 30 percent, inflation is hovering around 28 percent and hundreds of businesses and industries have been decimated) and turning an estimated 10 million people into refugees. Sales of many locally produced goods are down, but alcohol has been particularly hard-hit. Alcohol has been banned entirely during certain periods and restricted across the board. Year-over-year, sales of domestic wine are down by an estimated two-thirds.

Impact of war

Russia has staged a multi-pronged assault against Ukraine, sending rockets overhead, and, consequently, also sowing hidden, unexploded mines into the land. While rockets have immediate, devastating consequences, the unseen mines dotting the landscape threaten civilians and the many agricultural workers who make their living tending to that land. At this point, an estimated 30 percent of Ukraine’s farmland is riddled with mines.

“Landmines are hidden killers waiting for the foot of a child or farmer,” says Heidi Kuhn, who founded Roots of Peace, a nonprofit dedicated to the removal of landmines, in 1997. That same year, she witnessed the signing of the Ottawa Treaty that banned anti-personnel mines that same year. Ukraine is among the 164 signatories. Russia is not. (While the US supported, the treaty, it has also not signed it).

During the invasion, several wineries have been destroyed, vineyards have been mercilessly shelled and major wine-producing regions – including Kherson, Mykoliav and Zaoprizhzhia – have had to essentially stop production. 

Before the invasion, there were about 180 wineries in Ukraine. Some have still managed to carry on. Svetlana Tsybak, the chief executive of Beykush Winery, and president of the Ukrainian association of craft winemakers, accepted a gold award from Decanter World Wines in recognition of its bravery and continued operation even as war wages just beyond the borders of its vineyards.

But the unexploded mines must be dealt with immediately if the heroic work of Beykush and other wineries are to continue safely, and, indeed, if more than a handful of those 180 wineries are to have any future at all.

Roots of Peace is preparing to head in.

Organizations like Roots of Peace are actively trying to replace minefields with fields of flowers, vines, fruit trees and other crops.
© Shutterstock | Organizations like Roots of Peace are actively trying to replace minefields with fields of flowers, vines, fruit trees and other crops.

Planting Roots of Peace

“I’m a fifth-generation descendent of pioneers, and their respect for the land is in my DNA,” Kuhn says, adding that she grew up in the peace movement, attending University of California, Berkeley in the 1970s, and then going on to cover international politics for CNN as a reporter and producer.

“That all changed when I was diagnosed with stage 4 malignant cancer when I was 30 years old,” she says. “I had a 1, 3 and 5-year-old. My days of running around the globe were over I thought. It was a defining moment. I said, ‘Dear God, grant me the gift of life, and I will do something with it.'”

Kuhn emerged from cancer with a sense of purpose, and a passion for peace, and life. After managing to have another child, “without a cervix,” she turned toward the nonprofit sector.

“I remember watching [Princess] Diana walk through the minefields of Angola just a few weeks before she died, and it was such a profound experience for me,” she says. A few weeks after that, Kuhn was asked to host a reception to benefit, of all things, the removal of landmines.

“I made an impromptu toast at the reception, and out of nowhere, said ‘May the world go from mines to vines,'” she recalls. “That was it. I realized this was what I had to do.”

And she has, ever since.

“Land mines are an abomination, a cancer waiting in the earth,” Kuhn says. “The only solution is removal. And from there, if we want a country’s economy to grow, we have to replace those mines with things that will grow. Vineyards, fruit trees and crops that will help rebuild the economy.”

She began, in reporter form, “knocking on the doors of legends and hoping they’d answer.”

Thankfully, they did: Robert Mondavi, the Wentes, Tor Kenwood, et all, agreed to donate, get involved and share their knowledge and insights in lands that had been decimated by war.

“They responded as farmers,” she says. “I have been gratified by the response of not just vintners, but also politicians like Nancy Pelosi who saw the potential impact of the devastation of the mines across the world in war-torn regions, and the potential positive impact of replacing those mines with working farmland.”

In 2000, she teamed up with Miljenko “Mike” Grgich (of Judgment of Paris, and then Grgich Hills Estate fame) to transform Croatia‘s minefields into vineyards, and since then, they have worked together to facilitate the removal of landmines over 500,000 square meters of land, helping to reestablish vineyards in eight wine regions. Today, Croatia is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, due, in part, to their initiative.

Roots of Peace has also gone into Cambodia, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iraq, Israel and Zimbabwe and other countries, replacing minefields with farmland.

“We work on raising funds and awareness,” Kuhn explains of Roots of Peace’s role in the demining process. “We then partner with mine-removal organizations, NGOs and governmental organizations that do the work of demining and replanting.”

So far, Roots of Peace has – with the help of $85 million in grants and donations – facilitated the removal of more than 100,000 landmines, and the replanting of 7 million fruit, vines and trees that provide food security and economic sustenance to war-ravaged countries.

In December, Roots of Peace, in partnership with longtime partner Grgich and the Rotary E-Club of Ukraine, announced a plan to go into the Mykolaiv region of Ukraine and initiate demining. Yes, even as the war wages on.

“We need to get in there now and help farmers,” says Sally Camm, who handles communication for Grgich Hills Estate. “That region has been peppered with mines, but right now it is removed from the front lines. We can go in there safely and ensure that farmers can safely return to the land and resume farming and winemaking. We, and Mike in particular, who turns 100 years old in April, sees this as essential to the future of the country, and its economy.”

The war in Ukraine has consequences well beyond its borders. Russia’s war has created economic effects across the globe, from soaring energy costs, spiking inflation to the threat of a worldwide recession.

Will turning mines into vines change that overnight?

Of course not. But it is a positive step in the right direction: one that will not only ensure the wine growers and their children can safely resume walking their land without fear of death or maiming, and one that will fuel the country’s economic engine, giving essential jobs to growers and vintners – and the people who bottle, label, sell and transport their wines. It’s about building an economic framework for a nation’s recovery.

“We aren’t just turning mines into vines,” Kuhn says. “We are providing a business model for peace. Peace is the hardest aspiration, but it’s also the most rewarding. We cannot give up.”

To donate to the mission, go here.

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Former Senior MDC Alliance legislator says Grace Mugabe funded … – The Zimbabwe Mail

Chamisa Consoles Robert Mugabe’s Widow, Grace

ECONOMIST and former opposition legislator Eddie Cross has claimed that former First Lady Grace Mugabe bankrolled opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s 2018 presidential bid.

During the 2018 harmonised elections, Chamisa contested under the MDC Alliance ticket, but now leads the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party, an outfit he created in January last year after being elbowed out of MDC Alliance by Douglas Mwonzora.

The 2018 elections were held after the removal from power of the late former President Robert Mugabe by President Emmerson Mnangagwa through a military-assisted coup.

Addressing a Chief Executive Officers Roundtable meeting in Harare last week, Cross, who is also former MDC opposition legislator (Bulawayo South) said in 2018 Mnangagwa faced opposition from everybody.

“Mrs Mugabe financed Chamisa so that he defeats Emmerson and eventually Emmerson abandoned everything and concentrated on winning the elections, and thank God he did because if he hadn’t spent the next four or five months fighting the elections, he could have lost the election. As it is, he won it by 300 000 votes, and when he won that election, he then sorted the problems inside his government — all 20 ministers were Emmerson’s people,” Cross said.

But CCC deputy spokesperson Gift “Ostallos” Siziba said: “Eddie is trying by all means to be more Zanu than Zanu-PF people themselves. He is a delusional man who will do anything to get a seat in the gravy train.”

Added Cross: “It was all in that meeting with Members of Parliament (to impeach Mugabe in 2017) and in 15 minutes we couldn’t get out of the hotel. There were a quarter of a million people outside that hotel. I couldn’t push the door to find my way out. It was the response of the people that legitimised the change of government. I tried to go to the rally in Highfields that day, but we could not get within three miles, it was just packed with millions of people.

“Sadc [Southern African Development Community] observers came and flew around in a helicopter and they saw what was going on the ground and went back to the State House and they said to Mugabe, it’s over, the people have spoken and it was the people’s response to the coup which legitimised the change of government.”

Cross said the country incurred a huge deficit during Mugabe’s reign, and money was printed to cover the deficit.

He said Zimbabwe’s fiscal deficit was 40% of the budget which prompted Mugabe’s administration to continue printing money.

Cross said after winning the 2013 elections against MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai at the end of the four-year inclusive government, Mugabe re-assumed full control of government and accrued a debilitating fiscal deficit.

“By 2017, the fiscal deficit was 40% of the budget, how do you run a country like that? We had US$23 million in our bank accounts which we called United States dollars but it wasn’t United States dollars. It was there because Mugabe was printing money to cover the deficit. We were headed for the rocks again and that was when Mnangagwa decided the change of government was necessary, and on the 17th of November, the transition took place. I was actually still in Parliament. I sat at the Harare International Conference Centre waiting to impeach the old man, and then in walked a messenger with Mugabe’s letter of resignation,” Cross said.

Source – Newsday

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