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‘Citizens must resist draconian laws’

The adoption of a motion to enact the Patriotic Bill by Parliament must motivate citizens to register to vote and remove Zanu PF from power, the opposition has said.

Last week, Zanu PF MPs supported the motion to adopt the Patriotic Bill, which will criminalise and impose stiff penalties for private correspondence by what was termed as ‘self-serving citizens’, with foreign governments or any officer or agent.

Zanu PF Chegutu East legislator Webster Shamu moved the motion for adoption, saying it came about as a result of a petition by the Zimbabwe Anti-Sanctions Trust calling on the government to enact legislation criminalising the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe by individuals or organisations.

Zanu PF Umzingwane legislator Levi Mayihlome supported the motion concurring that calling for sanctions is a threat to national security.

Parliament wants the Bill to be brought to the House by 30 November 2022, as the principles of the proposed Bill were approved by Cabinet.

However, the opposition believes this must be reason enough to motivate people to register and remove Zanu PF from power.

“People are duty bound to be unpatriotic to those which assault their personal and collective interests. Enacting draconian laws cannot stop change when it is due, it can only expedite the process. This is yet another reason why people should register to vote in 2023 and actually vote as a patriotic act for their country,” said ZAPU spokesperson, Msongelwa Ndlovu, in an interview with CITE.

Ndlovu noted that patriotism should come naturally and pointed out people were ‘naturally patriotic to systems that served their personal and collective interests’.

“As ZAPU we have no doubt that the so-called Patriotic Bill is a well-orchestrated assault on people’s rights, especially freedom of expression. The governing party unfortunately does not distinguish between Zanu PF, the government and the country Zimbabwe. To them, all is one and the same thing which is a tragedy and the lowest levels of lack of sophistication because patriotism should never be legislated,” he said.

A legal expert, Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda, highlighted that instead of promoting harsh laws, parliament’s focus must be aligning existing laws with the Constitution in order to promote and uphold human rights in Zimbabwe.

“This proposed Patriotic Bill serves to punish individuals, civil society organisations and political activists who say contrary to what is wanted by the state. This is worrisome to human rights activists whose role is to speak, highlight and bring attention to human rights violations,” he said.

Political analyst, Patrick Ndlovu, concurred that Zanu PF was failing to separate itself from government structures as it wanted to be in control of national processes.

“We have a problem where Zanu PF is failing to distinguish itself from the government. Therefore, they are trying to shut down voices of criticism. Once you criticise an MP who is a minister, they will think you are attacking the government,” he said.

“By wanting this law, Zanu PF is taking itself out of criticism and is shutting down the country’s democratic space and freedom of expression.”

The analyst urged opposition MPs to consider fighting this proposed law in court if they fail to do so in Parliament.

“MPs must not be place keepers but fight this actively in the courts too. The legislature and courts should be able to hold the executive to account because these are supposed to be powerful arms that stop the executive from making wrong decisions,” he said.

Civic society groups have also argued that the Patriotic Bill when read together with the proposed changes to the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act indicate attempts to stifle their activities, therefore, undermining their watchdog role in promoting democracy, good governance, accountability and independent monitoring of government officials.

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