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Zimbabwe NGO Faces Charges of 'Violating' Electoral Law

Zimbabwe elections

Zimbabwe elections

Police in Harare on Monday charged a local non-governmental organization for illegally conducting voter education ahead of elections expected to be held sometime this year.

Tawanda Chimhini, the director of the Election Resource Centre (ERC), a local NGO that operates in the field of election monitoring and voter education, handed himself to police at Harare Central Police Station after being summoned Sunday following the arrest of three staffers of his organization.

Chimhini’s lawyer, Tonderai Bhatasara of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, told VOA Studio 7 that his client was charged on behalf of his organization for contravening a section of the Electoral Act.

Bhatasara said the three ERC staffers who were arrested Sunday will now stand as state witnesses while the police recorded warned and cautioned statements from Mr. Chimhini before releasing him.

Bhatasara said the police are expected to proceed by way of summons for Chimhini to appear in court representing his organization.

Meanwhile, MDC-T secretary general and Harare East legislator Tendai Biti told Studio 7 that eight MDC-T youths who were arrested in his constituency on the same allegations were fined and released before being summoned to the police station again Monday.

Six other members of the Youth Agenda Trust were arrested in Glen View high density suburb Sunday. A statement released by the organization said the activists were fined for conducting peer voter education before being released.

In terms of the Electoral Act, it is an offense for anyone or organization to conduct voter education without approval from the country’s electoral body.

The arrests come at a time when political parties and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission are urging all eligible Zimbabweans to register as voters to enable them to exercise their right to vote in elections expected to be called sometime this year.