Victoria Falls police arrested the two on Sunday October 25 2009 after the NGO Directors’ Summer School which was held 23-24 October 2009 in the resort town.
Zinhumwe and Chikwengo were later on released on US$100 bail each and had to appear in court today on November 25 for routine remand.
They were to be charged under POSA for holding a meeting the police deemed political. Zimbabwe Lawyers’ for Human Rights Director Irene Petras, who also attended the Summer School,was said to be representing the two.
During today’s court hearing the magistrate told the prosecutor that ," You are flogging a dead horse".
The judge said NANGO is exempt from POSA and it does not have to give police notice to hold meetings..
Speaking on the phone in Harare a NANGO representative and the Board secretary ,Mr Godwin Phiri said,
"The chairperson and Chief executive officer went to court today and the magistrate acquitted them following lack of evidence.The judge said the State is advised to come forward with any new evidence if there is need for further charges."
The Directors’ Summer School is an annual event organized by the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) bringing together directors from NGOs in Zimbabwe to reflect on their work, discuss the way forward as civil society and issue statements targeted at the development of Zimbabwe among other things.
Police charges against the two stemmed from the statement issued by the directors in which they called for the intervention of SADC and the AU to ensure that the Global Political Agreement (GPA) was fully implemented. SADC and the AU are the guarantors of the agreement.
The arrests came hot on the heels of various news articles and opinion pieces in the state controlled media that attacked NGOs openly labeling them as working in cahoots with the West and MDC to effect regime change.
NGO heads and other members of civil society have said the arrests are malicious and they are aimed at intimidating civil society members to dissuade them from their work that includes the call for the democratization of the country and the full implementation of the GPA among other things.
Below is the full statement issued by NGO directors at this year Summer School that triggered the arrest.
We are gathered here today for our annual Directors summer school, and I can’t tell you how honoured and humbled I am to be here to day. When I joined civil society way back in 1998, I never dreamt that someday I would have the opportunity and priviledge to represent this great and hounourable association as its chairperson. You know you should be careful what you ask for from God. I said "God please give me an organisation to chair" and he answered and gave me two. So thank you all for entrusting me with this huge responsibility.
My timing could have been better than this…I was of the impression that this would be a very soft landing, considering where we are now against the challenges and difficulties that civil society and the country went through last year. No one will forget how we scrambled for bread last year!! Actually … my 10 year niece who is based in the UK made us all laugh last year when bread cost some trillion zim dollars.. she said oh that’s very expensive auntie Dadi, are you going to apply for a mortgage to get the bread! That kind of amount is associated with a mortgage not basic supply. I am sure The bankers here present, Mr. George Guvamatanga will agree with me. That was yester year and sure we had a sigh of relief in February this year.
I am coming at a time where the country in nursing the baby that we got from SADC after the protracted talks called GNU alias Inclusive Government. And this baby is somehow failing to thrive and too often is taken to hospital ill and the future of this baby lies on a life support machine. A number of processes are taking place towards reconstruction of the country, which inevitable are calling for our undivided attention as the Umbrella body. I am also stepping into this role when there is a major economic recession, threatening the continued existence and survival of our membership, our backbone. A lot of internal head winds what a time to be a chairperson of NANGO!
Just two nights ago we had a dialogue and engagement meeting with the various ministers to discuss the progress of the GPA. Let me take this opportunity to thank you Civil Society Leaders for your forward and insightful thinking in setting up the Civil Society Monitoring Mechanism (CISOM) as an independent monitoring organ of the GPA. I regret to say that on the balance less has been achieved CISOM report was disheartening but the pressure has been created.
However, despite all these seemingly insurmountable tasks and stumbling blocks, you know what; I think my timing is perfect. Allow me to quote the words of one of the great leaders of modern times, Winston Churchill who said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity but an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." I am the latter, an optimist, I acknowledge that the road is winding and uphill, but I see lots of opportunities. Opportunities to mobilise our membership, opportunities to increase and improve our membership base and most importantly to make our voices heard now more than has ever happened in the history of Zimbabwe. Your presence here today is an acknowledgement of these opportunities. Yes we can. Hence the befitting theme for this conference, Towards, sustainable partnerships for development
So how do we prepare for these opportunities and move towards sustainable partnerships for developments? I would like to extend my sincere thanks for those who have chaired this association before me, among them Rudo Kwaramba, Alexander Phiri and more recently Mildred Sandi and her team who kept the umbrella goingï¿½ I would like to thank them for the continuity and the establishment of some of the partnerships with similar or like – minded Umbrella bodies (NCVO,SCVO.Independent sector, SADC COUNCIL OF NGOS inter alia) which the Nango board will further strengthen.
You might have noticed but let me reiterate that the following two days will reflect such partnerships.. We have a range of speakers from civil society, private sector and government who will give presentations on various sub themes all aiming at developing sustainable partnerships. With that foundation laid down our focus for the coming year is reflected in three simple, yet powerful imperatives.. Luckily, they are easy to remember because they start with C, not Chikwengo, Chitekuteku or Cephas, Chidombwe, the ccs so much associated and familiar with NANGO.
Connect, Communicate, Collaborate,
Membership is the lifeblood of NANGO, so membership drive is important to us. How do we connect with current and future members? How do we connect with the government and the various ministries we operate with, how do we connect with the principals
to the GNU , the JOMIC, the CISSOM ,Our Funders? How do we disembed as civil Society. How do we connect with our counterparts in the region so as to form solidarity platforms?
It is not enough just to connect and we fail to communicate our brand powerfully and clearly. What is our brand today and what will it be tomorrow? I know most of us recognise the value of a brand this is why we are affiliated with those which we represent. We are I the process of asking our members and non members on what should be our strategy for the coming three years. Watch this space for more details.
Should we rebrand how can we serve civil society more and transform communities?
In that spirit of branding we have to take the "breathing space" we enjoy at the moment, from the "struggle with the state", since most of advocacy work will take a paradigm shift to a more negotiated orientation. So ladies and gentleman, this is a time for self introspection, particularly with regards to issues of good corporate governance, internal democracy as well as sound operational systems and procedures. Such a step would be essential in restoring the moral authority of NGOs to demand for accountability and transparency from the government. We want to safeguard our roles as watchdogs of the state so that as we criticise, we don’t run the risk of having a rot under our feet. That reminds me of a story about a woman who always looked at her neighour’s clothes hanging on the washing line and complained about how dirty they looked. Until one day, she looked and saw that the clothes were very clean, so she said to her husband, I don’t know who taught the neighbour to wash her clothes so clean, I am impressed. But the husband said no I cleaned the windows todayï¿½
With clear and defined partnerships with the state, hopefully the NGO sector in Zimbabwe would have an opportunity to map out a framework for self-regulation so that there is also corporate accountability on the part of these organisations. Beyond just "making noise" over process issues with regards to developing the new constitution among others, CSOs could actually provide technical support in community sensitisation and mobilisation, undertaking consultative processes, providing expert analysis and strategy to ensure effectiveness in the processes and appropriateness of content.
There is a movie called Yours, mine and ours. That brings us to the last c collaborate. We have our own organisations, initiatives and agenda, viva la difference (vive la deeferaarns), celebrate our differences and diversity. If we are to effect any positive change in this country then we must collaborate. (work in partnership) and speak with one voice on the issues that we have in common. I do acknowledge that we have done this on a number of occasions but we can do more. When we collaborate we will be a loud and powerful force. Even on those issues where we might disagree, if we are seated at the same table on a regular basis we can agree on how disagree, so that we continue to collaborate and potray a united front.
It is my goal in the trimester of my chairmanship, to start discussing innovative ways of collaborations, learn from each other and strengthen our organisations.
I challenge you as civil society leaders to step up and manage various changes that are surrounding us…economic, financial, political and social changes. Challenge you to be relevant and focus on the bigger picture
This is you association, I continue to challenge you to take these deliberations today seriously and critically, to consistently engage dialogue and challenge us to do better.
During this summer school we shall honour our members who have been outstanding and persistently serving the sector in the face of very difficult times.
So in conclusion ladies gentlemen, there are challenges but we will connect with the members and new upcoming leaders so that we strengthen our sector. We will communicate and build a strong, vibrant, brand. We will collaborate, so that together we can make a stronger voice. Once again, I want to assure you of NANGOs readiness to play its maximum role in promoting civil society initiatives in Zimbabwe.
Thank you once again and I am glad to be back at school today. And I promise I will be a good student…
NANGO Board Chairperson