Martha Tholanah (far right) outside the court with the GALZ legal team. (Pic courtesy of ZLHR)

Zimbabwe’s leading LGBT rights group gets to continue to operate following another court victory.

A Harare magistrate has thrown out charges against Martha Tholanah, the chairperson of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), of operating the organisation illegally.

She was charged, after a raid on the organisation’s offices in August 2012, with contravening the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Act, in an apparent effort to have the group fined or shut down.

The state claimed that Tholanah “unlawfully took part in the management of the organisation by gathering its members and continued to carry out activities while engaging in gay and lesbian activities” without being registered as a PVO.

On Wednesday, however, Magistrate Don Ndirowei quashed the charges. He noted that the High Court had already ruled in January – in a separate case concerning the return by the police of items confiscated in the 2012 raid – that GALZ was not required to register under the POV Act as it’s not a private voluntary organisation.

According to GALZ, “Magistrate Ndirowei ruled that the facts as alleged by the State did not disclose an offence and that… the State could not proceed to prosecute GALZ.”

The organisation welcomed the court ruling, describing it as “yet another legal victory that vindicates GALZ work of representing and protecting the rights and interests of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and Intersex people in Zimbabwe.”

Earlier this month, a Bulawayo court dismissed an attempt to prosecute a transgender woman for using a female public bathroom.

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