Zim rights activist Chikomo finally acquitted

via Zim rights activist Chikomo finally acquitted | SW Radio Africa by Mthulisi Mathuthu  November 22, 2013 

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Executive Director Abel Chikomo Friday walked out of court a free man after a magistrate acquitted him on charges of running an ‘unregistered’ organisation.

A statement from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said Elijah Makomo found Chikomo not guilty of contravening Chapter 17 of the Private and Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act.

In his ruling Makomo castigated the state for dragging Chikomo to court because there was ‘absolutely’ no case against him lending credence to the widely held view that it was all part of the judicial harassment of human rights activists.

The case collapsed after a second witness Sydney Mhishi, who is also the director of social services in the Ministry of Labour, told the court that he was not sure if Chikomo had breached the law as he could not ascertain his organisation’s registration status.

Moreover, Mhishi told the court that he had neither interacted with Chikomo nor seen the constitution of his organisation.

Chikomo was facing accusations of conducting a survey on transitional justice without registration as required by the law.

The state also alleged that Chikomo instructed two of his subordinates to ‘unlawfully’ source people’s recommendations on what kind of transitional justice they would prefer in the country.

Chikomo was arrested in February 2011 and since then his trial has suffered four false starts with the state at one time dropping charges against him.

At the start of the trial last week Chikomo, who was represented by Selby Hwacha, pleaded not guilty.

In his defence Chikomo argued that he was wrongly charged and that the forum was not a private voluntary organization which requires registration under the PVO Act.