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Reprieve for NGOs as High Court orders Muguti to stop issuing directives

by Stephen Jakes
21 Sep 2021 at 11:47hrs | Views
HIGH Court Judge Justice Esther Muremba on Friday ordered Tafadzwa Muguti, the Provincial Development Coordinator for Harare Metropolitan Province and some government agents to stop interfering with or stopping the operations of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO)s, Trusts, Civil Society Organistaions (CSO)s and Faith Based Organisations (FBO)s.

Muguti had on 29 July 2021 issued a press statement titled "Policy on Operations of Non-Governmental Organisations in Humanitarian and Development Assistance in Zimbabwe" stating that NGOs, Trusts, CSOs and FBOs who failed to comply with his directive issued on 30 June should immediately be stopped by police officers from conducting any operations.

In his directive issued on 30 June 2021, Muguti had accused some NGOs of straying from their mandates and demanded that they submit to him their work plans for activities to be conducted in 2021 including information on workshops, trainings, project and monthly reports of their operations.

This compelled Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition to file an urgent chamber application on 30 July 2021 challenging Muguti's directive and argued that he had no authority to supervise or control the operations of NGOs, Trusts, FBOs and CSOs.

The two organisations cited Muguti, Oliver Chidawu, the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Harare Metropolitan Province, July Moyo, the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Kazembe Kazembe, the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage and Professor Paul Mavima, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare as respondents.

In the application, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, who were represented by Godfrey Mupanga, Denford Halimani and Tarisai Mutangi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, argued that Muguti's position as Provincial Development Coordinator for Harare Metropolitan Province is not provided for by any law and as such he acted without authority when he issued the press statement. The two organisations also argued that the 2003 Policy which Muguti purportedly relied upon in sanctioning the NGOs, Trusts, FBOs and CSOs, is not law, but just a policy with no penal or criminal sanction.

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition further argued that even if there are some NGOs that are not operating in terms of the 2003 Policy, there are existing laws to deal with them instead of shutting down their operations without hearing them.

The two organisations, which represent 22 NGOs and more than 60 CSOs, argued that Muguti's press statement was a legal nullity as it violates the right to privacy enshrined in section 57 of the Constitution, the right to administrative justice provided in section 68 of the Constitution and the right to a fair hearing enshrined in section 69 of the Constitution.

In her judgment, Justice Muremba ruled that Muguti has no power to issue the directives which he handed out targeted at the NGOs as he has no power whatsoever to supervise their operations.

The Judge interdicted Muguti, Chidawu, Moyo, Kazembe and Mavima and all their agents or anyone acting on their behalf from enforcing, interfering with, suspending or stopping operations of NGOs, Trusts, CSOs and FBOs or in any way acting on the contents of the press statement dated 29 July issued by Muguti.

Source - Byo24News