Harare, November 13, 3013 – Abel Chikomo, a prominent human rights campaigner and the executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of running an “unregistered” organisation.
Chikomo was arrested in in 2011 and his case on charges of contravening Section 6 (3) of the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Act (Chapter 17:15) took more than two years to be tried. Prosecutors allege that his organisation conducted some activities without being registered with the Social Welfare Department under the PVO Act. The charge, which Chikomo denied in court Wednesday, 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.
Asked on Wednesday by Harare Magistrate Elijah Makomo how he pleaded to the charges, Chikomo said: “I plead not guilty your Worship.”
Prosecutors 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.
The State led evidence from Chengetai Mugidwa, from the police constabulary, who arrested two employees of the non-governmental umbrella organisation and who in his testimony absolved Chikomo of any wrong doing.
Chikomo’s trial will proceed next Tuesday after Magistrate Makomo adjourned proceedings to allow prosecutors to summon its second witness Sydney Mhishi, the Director of Social Services in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.