Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday signed into law a bill imposing penalties on citizens who portray a negative image of the country, ignoring a chorus of disapproval from opposition parties and pro-democracy groups.
The Criminal Code Amendment and Reform Bill, commonly referred to as the Patriotic Code, punishes Zimbabweans for “willfully harming Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and national interests”.
The enactment of the new law, which critics have called “draconian”, comes just weeks before general elections are held in a country that some observers say has already been undermined by politically motivated violence and unequal opportunity.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda called President Mnangagwa’s latest move a “sad day for democracy” in Zimbabwe.
“We are saddened that Zimbabwe is on a regression path in terms of hindering citizens from exercising their rights. It is a sad day for Zimbabwe. It is a sad day for democracy. We are completely taken aback by a government that has made promises that it will promote or make people enjoy their rights. We are seeing this happen in The direction of holding elections, and this shows that the government does not want any constructive criticism and constructive advice.”
Amnesty International, another human rights watchdog, criticized the enactment of the new law, saying it constituted an obstacle to the enjoyment of basic freedoms enshrined in the country’s constitution.
An “alarming” crackdown on human rights
“It is deeply troubling and points to a worrying crackdown on Zimbabweans’ rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The weaponization of the law is a desperate and patent move to curtail the right to freedom of expression,” said Flavia Mangovia, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. expression and public participation in the elections scheduled for August.
It is a matter of concern that the new law “will also give the authorities greater powers to unnecessarily restrict human rights,” Mangovia said, adding that it would allow the death penalty to be imposed on those perceived to be critical of the government, including political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, civil society leaders, and political parties. Opposition and whistleblowers.
You do not legitimize patriotism. Patriotism is something that stems from a sense of pride, dignity and belonging.
Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party, described the enactment of the new law as a desperate attempt by the Mnangagwa administration to justify omissions and mandates.
You do not legitimize patriotism; Patriotism is something that stems from a sense of pride, dignity and belonging. “It has not been done by creating legislation,” Chamisa said.
Government says law ‘necessary’
According to Mnangagwa’s government, it was concerned about Zimbabweans collaborating with foreign forces to impose sanctions on the country; So it was necessary to enact this law.
Zanu-PF spokesman Christopher Mutsvangwa was not immediately available for comment, but the party’s leading activist Peter Tangye said. Daily Maverick that the law was necessary.
It all started when some Zimbabweans demanded sanctions from America, Britain and other countries in the West. Tangi said, “Every country has its own principles and we will not allow Zimbabweans who demand punitive measures … on Zimbabweans for allowing the West to change the regime in our country.”
However, Chamisa said Zimbabwe’s problems stemmed from a leadership crisis in the country.
“The government is the biggest punishment in Zimbabwe and we have to remove all punishments starting with corruption, starting with [current] government, starting with those who cause problems and nightmares,” Chamisa added.
A spokesman for the movement’s leader, Douglas Mwonzora, Lloyd Dampa, said his party would push for the law’s repeal.
“We will repeal this law because it is cruel, outdated and incompatible with the democratic principles of any country in the world,” Dampa said. DM