On 7 June 2022, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare submitted significant amendments to the gazetted 2021 Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill (PVO Amendment Bill), on the National Assembly Order Paper. These amendments, which will be formally introduced by the Minister in Parliament at the Committee stage, materially alter the gazetted PVO Amendment Bill. Since December 2021, CSOs have presented oral and written submissions, including the CSOs’ Consolidated Analysis of the PVO Bill, highlighting their concerns to the Parliament Legal Committee, Parliament Portfolio Committee on Public Service and at the public hearings convened in terms of section 141 of the Constitution. The concerns have also been raised at relevant meetings with the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and officials within the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. The proposed amendments do not address these concerns at all. All the rights issues raised in the Consolidated Analysis are still applicable to the proposed amended Bill, except the proposed amendments introduce even more restrictive provisions.
On 11 April 2022, during a consultative meeting with civil society organisations (CSOs) the Minister of Justice agreed to introduce various amendments such as;
- Introducing transitional provisions granting those CSOs currently operating lawfully but not registered as PVOs, six months to regularise their registration under the new Act.
- Reviewing the composition of the PVO Board to a manageable number and to be more representative of PVOs; and
- Reviewing and reducing the penal provisions.
On 12 April 2022, the Minister of Justice reported back to the National Assembly confirming that he had consulted with CSOs and stating that the authorities were willing to seriously consider suggestions to improve the composition of the PVO Board to ensure a fair representation of a cross-section of PVOs and CSOs. He also confirmed that he had agreed to consider amendments to the Bill to refine the Minister’s powers to intervene in the operations of PVOs in a manner consistent with constitutional rights, especially the freedom of association. Finally, he confirmed that he had agreed to reform provisions criminalising the politicisation of charitable activities, so that PVOs do not operate in fear of being subjected to criminal prosecution. Of note is that the amendments extensively revise the Bill, introducing new provisions that were not there when the Bill was taken for public hearings. This violates the public’s constitutional right to participate in law making, as the authorities have a constitutional obligation to consider the views of the public in terms of section 141 of the Constitution.
Download the whole document on the link above to read more on the nature of the amendments.