Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

ZimRights officials in forgery, fraud charges

By Tendai Kamhungira and Alex Bell

HARARE – Two Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation (ZimRights) officials yesterday appeared before the Harare Magistrates’ Courts for allegedly manufacturing fake copies of voters’ registration certificates.

Zimrights employees arrested following a raid at their offices in Harare, arrive at the Harare Magistrate's courts yesterday. Pic: Annie Mpalume
Zimrights employees arrested following a raid at their offices in Harare, arrive at the Harare Magistrate’s courts yesterday. Pic: Annie Mpalume

Dorcas Shereni, 42, and Leo Chamahwinya, 28, employed by ZimRights as chairperson and programme manager respectively, are jointly charged with Farai Bhani, 38, a taxi driver and Tatenda Chinaka.

They face forgery and conspiracy to commit fraud charges or publishing false statements prejudicial to the state. It is alleged the four produced fake copies of voters’ registration certificates between May this year and this month, in a bid to defraud the Registrar General.

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The court heard they allegedly used false names to complete the registration forms. It is alleged Bhani registered as a voter in May this year and acquired a certificate of registration, which the ZimRights officials allegedly used to create several fake ones.

According to court papers, Chamahwinya would allegedly use the completed fake documents at ZimRights offices for their analysis, which they would use to criticise and tarnish the Registrar General’s office, it is claimed.

The court heard that there was a possibility that the misrepresentation could cause “bloodshed or a chaotic situation in Zimbabwe” if the fake documents were only detected during the 2013 general elections.

The four who are represented by Emmanuel Nyambuya, Tavengwa Masara, Trust Maanda and Tarisai Mutangi, will be back in court today for their bail application.

Chamahwinya was held without charge until last Friday, when he was formally accused of ‘conspiracy to commit fraud’. He is now still being detained in Harare and his legal team are set to file a bail application in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the ZimRights offices in Bulawayo were raided on Monday, in what is being slammed as a deliberate crackdown on civic groups in Zimbabwe. Staff was questioned during the raid, but no one was arrested.

Dzimbabwe Chimbga, from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), told SW Radio Africa that the police spent more than hour “turning the place upside down,” but eventually left empty handed.

“This comes off the back of the arrest of a ZimRights official in Harare and we believe this raid is linked. Police claimed they were looking for subversive material linked to so-called illegal registration of voters. But they didn’t find anything,” Chimbga said.

The lawyer agreed that civic groups and other NGOs appear to be targeted as part of a deliberate and “ruthless” campaign of intimidation and harassment. Last week, two officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) were detained for organising an “unsanctioned public meeting” on International Human Rights Day. Their detention came just days before ZimRights’ Chamawhinya was arrested.

Last month several employees from the Counselling Services Unit (CSU), an NGO that provides support to victims of torture and political violence, were arrested and illegally detained because CSU was allegedly in possession of “offensive and subversive material.”

And in August the headquarters of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Zimbabwe (GALZ) was ransacked on multiple occasions, during which visibly drunk riot police assaulted GALZ employees and seized office materials.

Authorities later attempted to shut down the GALZ operations altogether, charging a co-chairperson with running an “unregistered” organisation. Daily News/SW Radio Africa