Harare, September 13, 2013 – The operations of several Zimbabwean non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will be under the spotlight when the trial of Abel Chikomo, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum commences on Monday in the capital.
Chikomo will stand trial on charges of running an “unregistered” organisation in what the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights described as “yet another official harassment of civic organisations and human rights defenders.”
Chikomo, whose trial was initially set to commence in August will appear in court 5 at Harare Magistrates Court building on Monday after prosecutors served some of the State papers to the human rights campaigner’s lawyer, Selby Hwacha.
Prosecutors claim that Chikomo contravened Section 6 (3) of the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Act Chapter 17:15 after he allegedly conducted some activities without being registered with the Social Welfare Department under the PVO Act.
The charge, came after the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, a non-governmental umbrella organisation conducted a survey on transitional justice in Harare’s Highfield suburb.
Prosecutors charge that this was illegal since the organisation is not registered as a PVO. They claim 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.
Over the past two years Chikomo has been interrogated and asked to report to the police station on several occasions on the activities carried out by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.
The judicial harassment of Chikomo is the latest attack on NGOs by President Robert Mugabe’s administration as it steps up efforts to silence critical voices.
Police have since 2010 been hounding Chikomo by raiding his offices, summoning him to their offices and pulling down his organisation’s billboards which call for the government to ratify the Convention Against Torture and to outlaw torture.
Early this year, former Masvingo Provincial Governor Titus Maluleke banned 29 NGO’s from operating in his province after accusing them of not registering their operations with his office and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. But the NGOs dismissed the ban as a nullity as Maluleke had no mandate to police them.