Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
- The national bill has been called the most draconian law passed in Zimbabwe since independence.
- Civil society organizations say the law signals the death of democracy in the country.
- There are up to 20 years and the death penalty for those who break the law.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s move to sign the Criminal Law Amendment and Reform Act of 2022, also known as the “Patriotic Act,” has been described by some as the death of democracy.
It is the latest in a raft of measures, such as banning opposition rallies, political violence, and using legal tools to disenfranchise candidates for election, ahead of elections this year.
The law criminalizes any Zimbabwean national or citizen caught “intentionally harming Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and national interests” and those who participate in meetings aimed at promoting calls for economic sanctions against the country.
Some of its provisions are:
- criminalizing any citizen caught who “intentionally injures the sovereignty, dignity and independence of Zimbabwe as a nation”;
- criminalize those who participate in the meetings with the intent to promote, promote, encourage, incite or advocate the imposition of sanctions or trade boycotts against the country;
- The death penalty for those believed to have plotted to overthrow the government, including individuals who act as agents or agents for such entities.
Some legal experts said that the draft law was worded vaguely, complicated and difficult to understand.
Therefore, they are subject to misinterpretation, and law enforcement officials can interpret them broadly to suit their agenda.
For months, civil society organizations have put pressure on the international community to urge the Zimbabwean government not to enact a law that gives the state leverage to suppress freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
Amnesty International said it was a calculated move to curtail people’s rights ahead of the elections on 23 August.
The weaponization of the law is a desperate, patent-pending move to curtail the right to freedom of expression and public participation in elections scheduled for August this year.
The Citizens’ Opposition for Change (CCC) described the law as indicating “a complete dictatorship run by a regime worse than Robert Mugabe”.
But the government defended the law as a way to promote unity and patriotism.
Fadzai Maher of the CCC said that if they come to power in general elections, these laws will be abolished.
“In the new Zimbabwe, unjust laws will be abolished. We will achieve freedom,” she said.
The president of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union, John Dlamini, said this was a law that protected the government from criticism.
He said, “It’s fascism. They don’t want to be vetted by people. They put in a law that says, don’t blame Mnangagwa, don’t say there are no jobs in Zimbabwe. It’s wrong.”
The Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO) Amendment Act, intended to oversee CSO operations, is another bill awaiting the president’s signature.
The PVO Act aims to silence dissenting opinions.
The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced by the Africa Office and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect the opinions and statements of the Hans Seidel Foundation.