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rights on trial as Chikomo pleads not guilty
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
November 13, 2013
The trial of
Abel Chikomo, the executive director of the Zimbabwe
Human Rights NGO Forum finally commenced on Wednesday 13 November
2013 with the human rights campaigner pleading not guilty to charges
of running an “unregistered” organisation in a court
hearing viewed as yet another official harassment of civic organisations
and human rights defenders.
several false starts, Chikomo’s trial commenced before Harare
Magistrate Elijah Makomo where he entered a plea of not guilty.
arrested in 2011 and his case on charges of contravening Section
6 (3) of the Private
Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Act (Chapter 17:15) took almost
three years to be brought to trial.
allege that his organisation conducted some activities without being
registered with the Social Welfare Department of the Ministry of
Labour and Social Welfare under the PVO Act. The charge, which Chikomo
denies came after the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, a non-governmental
umbrella organisation conducted a survey on transitional justice
in Harare’s Highfield high density suburb.
from the National Prosecuting Authority told Magistrate Makomo that
the survey conducted by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum was
illegal since the organisation is not registered as a PVO. The State
claims that Chikomo unlawfully instructed two of the Zimbabwe Human
Rights NGO Forum’s employees to commence or carry out a survey
in Harare’s Highfield suburb with the intention to obtain
people's recommendations on the preferred transitional justice mechanism
for Zimbabwe, without his organization registering with the Social
Welfare Department under the PVO Act.
his lawyer Selby Hwacha of Dube, Manikai and Hwacha Legal Practitioners,
who is also a board member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights,
tendered his defence outline in which he argued that he was wrongly
charged and that the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum is not a private
voluntary organisation which requires registration under the PVO
The human rights
campaigner stated that Section 2 of the PVO Act exempts “anybody
or association of persons, corporate or unincorporated the benefits
from which are exclusively for its own members.”
He said the
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum is a forum, association and common
law universitas of 20 member organisations
The State opened
its case by leading evidence from Chengetai Mugidwa, a police constable,
who arrested the two Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum employees.
who indicated that he was not the Investigating Officer in the matter
absolved Chikomo of any wrong doing and stated that he was not familiar
with the PVO Act which the State relied upon in prosecuting him.
Mugidwa also disclosed that his only level of training in law enforcement
amounted to a two months refresher course which he attended at Morris
Depot Training Centre in Harare.
trial resumes on Tuesday 19 November 2013 after Magistrate Makomo
adjourned proceedings to allow prosecutors to summon the State’s
second witness Sydney Mhishi, the Director of Social Services in
the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare who tendered
two letters to the Zimbabwe Republic Police “outlawing”
the activities of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.
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