NGO Forum boss’ trial opens


HARARE – Sydney Mhishi, the director of Social Services in the ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, will today testify in the trial of Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Abel Chikomo, facing charges of running an “unregistered” organisation.

The trial, which commenced last Wednesday after three years of false starts, resumes today at the Harare Magistrates Court.

Mhishi, who tendered two letters to the Zimbabwe Republic Police “outlawing” the activities of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, will be the State’s second witness.

Chikomo pleaded not guilty when he appeared before Harare Magistrate Elijah Makomo last week.

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.

The State says this was illegal since the organisation was not registered as a PVO.

The State claims that he 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 organisation registering with the Social Welfare Department under the PVO Act.

Last year, Chikomo’s trial on the same charges, which first arose in February 2011, was shelved after State prosecutor Innocent Chingarande withdrew summons issued against him as the State was not ready to proceed with the matter.

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 all-out judicial persecution to which Chikomo has been subjected for more than two years is yet another official harassment of civic organisations and human rights defenders operating in Zimbabwe.

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