Martha Tholanah

Martha Tholanah

The chairperson of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), Martha Tholanah, has been ordered to appear in court on a charge of running an “unregistered” organisation.

The summons was served on Wednesday to Tholanah’s lawyer, Tonderai Bhatasara, a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

It claims that she “unlawfully took part in the management of the group” and she has been instructed to face the accusation in court on December 12.

The charge followed a raid on the GALZ office on 20 August 2012, one of two raids last year for which the police appeared to have no grounds.

The authorities claim that GALZ has been operating in contravention of Section 6 (iii) of the Private Voluntary Organisation Act.

Chester Samba, director of GALZ, told Mambaonline that the organisation denied the charges.

“Obviously it is harassment of GALZ that unfortunately continues unabated,” he said, adding that the case was “a waste of state resources”.

Lawyers will argue that organisation is not a private voluntary organisation that requires registration but is a common law association.

Should GALZ – which was founded in 1990 – be found guilty, it could be fined or face forced closure, said Samba.

Last month, similar charges against Abel Chikomo, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, were dismissed by a Harare court.

Bolstered by President Robert Mugabe’s tirades against gays and lesbians, GALZ has been repeatedly intimidated and harassed by the authorities over the years.

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