Mnangagwa signs ‘draconian’ Patriotic Bill into law
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has signed into law the much-criticised Criminal Law Code Amendment Bill, widely known as the “Patriotic Bill”.
This was confirmed in the government gazette General Notice 1189 of 2023.
“The following laws, which were assented to by His Excellency the President, are published in terms of section 131(6)(a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe- Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Act, 2023. (No.10 of 2023), Labour Amendment Act, 2023 (No 11 of 2023),” read the notice by Misheck Sibanda Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet.
The controversial Bill sailed through the Zimbabwean Parliament in June after 99 MPs voted in its favour and 17 against.
The bill then sailed through the Senate before Presidential assent.
Human rights lobby groups, activists and opposition parties raised concerns saying the bill will muzzle freedom of speech if passed into law.
Among other things, the Patriotic Act criminalises any actions considered to be wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of the country.
The crime will have been committed by a citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe who takes an active part in a meeting involving or convened by an agent of a foreign government, if the citizen or resident knows or has the reason to believe, among other things that the meeting was to consider or plan armed intervention in Zimbabwe by the foreign government or to subvert the Constitutional government.
Penalties include a death sentence and life imprisonment if the meeting one is convicted for was to plan armed intervention.
For subversion, one will face up to 29 years imprisonment while if the meeting is considered to have been for trade boycott or sanctions, one will have to pay a ZW$20 000 fine or 10 years imprisonment or both.
When the Bill sailed through parliament Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum director said: “That law enacted is bad. It’s an unconstitutional law. It infringes on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, all sorts of civil and political rights are infringed by this type of Bill. In my estimation.
“This Bill is the most draconian law that we have seen in Zimbabwe. Laws like POSA and AIPA given the PVO Bill that is currently on the making, they come nowhere near the infringements that this Bill infringes on the society. If this law is gazetted it will obviously be challenged in the courts.”
Despite clear human rights obligations espoused in the Constitution of 🇿🇼 and International Human Rights Instruments, the President of Zimbabwe has signed the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act amendment Bill into law. @UN_SPExperts @cvoule @RFKHumanRights @achpr_cadhp… pic.twitter.com/9k59kGQMy1
— Roselyn Hanzi (@rose_hanzi) July 14, 2023