The government has been interdicted from interfering with or suspending Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
Harare Provincial Development Coordinator Tafadzwa Mugwadi in June ordered NGOs operating in Harare to share their work plans for 2021, but many snubbed his directive. On July 29, Muguti issued a statement calling on police to arrest all NGOs that had refused to comply.
But Justice Esther Muremba of the Harare High Court on Friday granted an interim order sought by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition after the two organisations – representing 82 NGOs – argued that Muguti’s actions were illegal as they violated the right to administrative justice.
“I find merit in the applicants’ application for an interdict pending the return day (full hearing),” the judge ruled. “They have made out a prima facie case to establish the constitutional rights that are likely to be infringed, which NGOs have an inherent interest in. There is a reasonable apprehension of harm in that the operations of NGOs will be disrupted or stopped as per the press statement of the first respondent.”
Justice Muremba said the balance of convenience favours the granting of the interdict, adding that no prejudice would be suffered by Muguti.
“On the other hand, the applicants and NGOs stand to suffer irreparable harm if the interdict is not granted as operations may be stopped at any time as threatened by Mugwadi. In the result, I will grant the provisional order as prayed for by the applicant.”
In an urgent chamber application filed on August 3, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Trust said the directive was unconstitutional.
“Muguti does not state in his press statement the law under which he makes the declaration that NGOs will be stopped from operating. By purporting to have regulatory authority or power over applicants and other NGOs, Muguti has acted without jurisdiction,” they argued.
“As a result, his press statement and directives are a nullity and of no force and effect and liable to be set aside. The press statement is in clear breach of the Provincial Councils and Administration Act and the Private Voluntary Organisations Act.”
The NGOs said more significantly, the press statement abrogates the rights of applicants provided in section 57, 68, and 69 of the constitution.- State media