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Court reserves judgment in NGOs case

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BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA

HIGH Court judge, Justice Esther Muremba on Friday reserved judgment in the matter of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which defied Harare provincial development co-ordinator (PDC) Tafadzwa Muguti’s directive to report to him.

The NGOs  had challenged Muguti’s directive.

In the arguments presented before the judge, State lawyers failed to prove where the authority of the PDC was derived from, as defined by the law.  They ended up conceding that Muguti’s office did not exist in terms of the law.

In the application, the applicants, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said they were seeking an order declaring that Muguti, cited as the first respondent, had no regulatory powers over civic society organisations (CSOs).

Muguti recently ordered NGOs that defied his directive to submit work plans to his office to stop operating, except for only 40 that complied.

In the court application, the CSOs, represented by Tonderai Bhatasara of the Zimbabwe lawyers for Human Rights, said Muguti’s directive was unconstitutional and should be declared null and void. They also applied for an interim order allowing them to operate pending courts determination on the constitutionality of the ban.

But in their opposing affidavits, Muguti and Local Government minister July Moyo, who was cited as the third respondent, said their office was not seeking to register NGOs, but was playing an oversight role for compliance with the
regulatory measures put in place by government.

“The order being sought is frivolous and baseless for reasons that the Press statement is legal as it outlined  the policy regarding operations of and activities of NGOs, faith-based organisations, CSOs and trusts,” Moyo stated in the affidavit.

“The applicants are well aware of the policy and cannot proffer ignorance of such requirements as pronounced in the Press statement. It is, therefore, not correct to say that the first respondent is policing the applicants. The first respondent needs to be guided and know all the activities by the applicants to ensure that there is harmonisation and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance by the applicants.”

Public Service minister Paul Mavima, who was cited as fifth respondent in the matter, insisted that the NGOs ought to have complied with Muguti’s directive in accordance with the laws and policies that govern their work.

“As such there has been no infringement to the applicants’ rights. Moreover,
the perceived harm by the applicants can be prevented by their simple compliance with the procedures set out in the policy, and as such, this application is
frivolous and ought to be dismissed,” Mavima said.

Follow Miriam on Twitter @FloMangwaya

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