High Court Reverses Govt’s Threats To Shutdown NGOs

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE High Court Friday granted non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which were facing an imminent ban, an interim relief after suspending a directive by the government to stop operating if they failed to tow new state directives.

The threat to shut the NGOs was issued by Harare Provincial Development Coordinator Tafadzwa Muguti last July.

However, High Court judge, Justice Esther Muremba said the directive was unconstitutional before ruling that awaiting the final court ruling of the challenge, the NGOs can carry on with their work.

However, Justice Muremba ordered Muguti to stop interfering with the operations of the organisations.

The application was filed by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC).

“Applicants are not challenging the validity of the government policy on the operations of NGOs in Zimbabwe. Instead, they are challenging the legality of the directive issued by the 1st respondent (Muguti) on the basis that he does not have the power and authority of law to do so. He had no power whatsoever to supervise the operations of NGOs.

Justice Muremba noted the applicants had proven they were at risk of suffering damages if an interim judgment was not granted.

“The balance of convenience favours the granting of the interdict. No prejudice will be suffered by the respondent. On the other hand, the applicants and NGOs stand to suffer irreparable harm as operations may be stopped at any time.

“In the result, I will grant the provisional order as prayed for by the applicants. It be and is ordered that; the respondent and all its agents are interdicted from enforcing, interfering with, suspending or stopping operations of NGOs.”

Muguti wrote a letter on June 30 directing all NGOs, faith-based organisations, civil society organisations, and Trusts to submit monthly work plans, information on workshops, and monthly reports to his office.

He threatened that any organisations which had not complied with his orders would be barred from conducting any operations until they fully complied with the policy prompting the challenge.

Cited as respondents are Muguti, Harare Metropolitan Minister Oliver Chidawu, and Local Government Minister July Moyo.