THE trial of Abel Chikomo, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum for allegedly running an “unregistered” organisation suffered yet another false start on Monday 14 October 2013 after Harare Magistrate Tendai Mahwe postponed the case to Monday 28 October 2013.
Chikomo, whose trial had been rescheduled to commence on Monday 14 October 2013 could not start as the State’s house was not in order prompting prosecutors to seek for the postponement of the matter, a request which was opposed by Chikomo’s lawyer, Selby Hwacha of Dube Manikai and Hwacha Legal Practitioners, who is also a board member for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Magistrate Mahwe postponed the trial to Monday 28 October 2013.
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, which Chikomo denies, 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 is 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 organization 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 prosecutorInnocent 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.