HARARE – Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Abel Chikomo is now a free man, after the court yesterday ruled that the State had failed to prove a prima facie case against him.
Chikomo was being accused of running an “unregistered” organisation.
However, Harare magistrate Elijah Makomo said there was no need for the matter to be referred to defence because the State had failed to prove its case.
Chikomo, who was represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights board member, Selby Hwacha, was arrested in 2011 on charges of contravening Section 6 (3) of the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Act (Chapter 17:15).
It took more than two years for him to be tried. Prosecutors alleged that his organisation conducted some activities without being registered with the Social Welfare Department under the PVO Act.
The charge, which Chikomo denied, came after the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum conducted a survey on transitional justice in Harare’s Highfield suburb.
Prosecutors claimed that the survey was illegal since the organisation was not registered as a PVO.
The State claimed Chikomo had 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.
However, in his defence, Chikomo argued that he was wrongly charged and that the Forum was not a private voluntary organisation which required registration under the PVO Act.
Through his lawyer, he argued 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.