Harare High Court judge Esther Muremba yesterday dismissed an attempt by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to ban non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which refused to submit their work plans to the provincial development co-ordinator (PDC)’s office.

In July this year, Harare PDC Tafadzwa Muguti ordered NGOs that failed to submit their programmes to his office to stop operating.

This prompted the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition to approach the High Court challenging the prohibition order.

Muguti, Harare Provincial Affairs minister Oliver Chidawu, Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, Local Government minister July Moyo and Labour minister Paul Mavima were cited as respondents.

Justice Muremba, in her ruling, said the PDC had no right to ban the NGOs, declaring Muguti’s order null and void.

“The respondents and all their agents or anyone acting on their behalf are interdicted from enforcing, interfering with, suspending or stopping operations of NGOs, trusts, CSOs and faith-based organisations or in any way acting on the contents of the press statement dated July 29, 2021 by first respondent,” the ruling read in part.

“The averment of the third respondent that in terms of government policy, on the operations of the NGOs, the applicants before commencing any activities must seek support from the Provincial Development Committees chaired by coordinator is not correct.

“In the circumstances of this case, the applicants are not challenging the validity of government’s policy on the operations of the NGOs in humanitarian and development assistance in Zimbabwe. Instead, they are challenging the legality of the directives issued by the first respondent on the basis that he does not have the power to issue the directives he issued.”

Justice Muremba added: “I am strengthened in my position by the averments that were made by the fifth respondent in his opposing affidavits. He averred that the person to whom the NGOs submit their work plan is the registrar of NGOs.”

Mnangagwa’s regime has accused NGOs of being sponsored by the West to effect illegal regime change in the country, an allegation the civic organisations deny.

There have been threats from senior government officials to ban NGOs from operating in the country and a law is on the cards to regulate the operations of the civic groups, making it a punishable offence to be involved in politics. Newsday