Galz chairperson summoned to court

HARARE - Authorities have summoned Martha Tholanah, the chairperson of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz), to appear in court to stand trial on charges of running an “unregistered” organisation.

Tholanah was recently served with summons to appear in Court 5 at Harare Magistrates’ Courts to answer to charges of running an unregistered organisation in contravention of Section 6 (1) (3) of the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Act Chapter 17:05.

Charges of running an unregistered organisation were preferred against Tholanah, who is represented by Tonderai Bhatasara of Mupanga Bhatasara Attorneys, a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), in August 2012 after police raided and conducted a search at the Galz offices in Harare.

According to the summons, Tholanah though with the knowledge that Galz was not registered “unlawfully took part in the management of the organisation by gathering its members and continued to carry out activities while engaging in gays and lesbians activities” in contravention of the PVO Act.

The search at the Galz offices was preceded by instances of police harassment of members of Galz while some materials including computers and fliers were confiscated. However, on January 14, High Court Judge Justice Priscilla Chigumba ordered police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri, chief superintendent Henry Dhowa, detective chief inspector Runganga, detective assistant Ben Justen, and the minister of Home Affairs to return the Galz property.

The granting of the order came after Bhatasara filed an application in the High Court in October 2012 seeking the release of the property, arguing that it was not linked to the commission of any crime.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police had opposed the application and argued that it would not release the property until the completion of their probe and because they wanted to use the items as exhibits in court.

Justice Chigumba also declared invalid and set aside the warrant of search and seizure issued by Dhowa and executed by Runganga and Justen when they raided the Galz offices.

The search and seizure, the High Court judge said, was unlawful and contravened the rights of Galz as specified in Section 17 of the former Constitution of Zimbabwe and Section 57 of the current Constitution of Zimbabwe.

The High Court order further stated that Galz is not obliged to register in terms of the Private Voluntary Organisations Act [Chapter 17:05] as it is not a private voluntary organisation and is specifically exempted by the Act.

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