NGO’S crackdown continues as Chikomo's trial commences

The trial of Abel Chikomo, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum is scheduled to commence at the Harare Magistrates Court on Wednesday 25 July 2012 on charges of running an “unregistered” organisation. Chikomo was served with summons early this month by two police officers only identified as Sergeant Ndawana and Detective Chipwanya to stand trial at the Harare Magistrates Court on Wednesday morning.

Chikomo is charged with running an “unregistered” organisation. The charge, which he denies, came after the Forum conducted a survey on transitional justice in Harare’s Highfield suburb. The State says this was illegal since the organisation is not registered as a Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO). The State claims that he unlawfully instructed two of his employees to commence or carry out the activities of house to house survey in Canaan, Highfield, Harare with the intention to obtain people’s recommendations on the preferred transitional justice mechanism for Zimbabwe, without his organization Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum registering with the Social Welfare Department under the Private Voluntary Organisation Act.

The summonsing of Chikomo to stand trial is the latest attack on Non- Governmental Organisations (NGO) by the coalition government as it steps up efforts to silence critical voices ahead of a constitutional referendum and elections.

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. Chikomo’s trial also comes at a time when the coalition government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has renewed its onslaught on human rights defenders and NGOs.

Early this year, Masvingo 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.

Post published in: Politics

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