“Patriotic Bill” sails through Senate, now awaits Mnangagwa’s signature

After sailing through the Senate on Wednesday, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, dubbed the ‘Patriotic Bill,’ which attempts to criminalise “unpatriotic” conduct by Zimbabweans who criticise their country, now awaits President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s signature.

A bill becomes an Act after it has been introduced and passed by both Houses of Parliament, a procedure that has now been completed and awaits assent and the president’s signature.

Speaking at the Senate on Wednesday, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi, moved that the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill (H.B,15A, 2022) be read a third time, which was done.

The ‘Patriotic section’ under Clause 2 of the bill has been widely condemned by civic society organizations and human rights defenders for shrinking Zimbabwe’s democratic space and undermining the country’s constitution, which was adopted in 2013.

This is due to the disputed Patriotic provision in the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, which makes it unlawful for people to speak negatively about the country or mingle with foreign diplomats or other foreigners addressing such matters.

Critics have accused Zanu PF of “smuggling” Clause 2 on Patriotism into the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, which was gazetted on December 23, 2022, of attempting to legislate patriotism because the bill as a whole seeks to amend the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23], which contains three other clauses that have been described as progressive steps. 

The other three clauses include Clause 3 will amend Section 65 of the Principal Act to make 15 years the minimum required punishment for rape, in response to the rise in horrendous crimes of sexual violence and rape.

Clause 4 proposes to amend Section 155 of the main Act’s definition of dangerous drugs to include prepared opium, prepared cannabis resin, and a drug schedule. 

It also includes a description of industrial hemp, as Zimbabwe is dealing with a significant drug problem.  

Clause 5 proposes to amend Section 174 of the main Act as the existing definition of criminal abuse of office, as provided for in Section 174 (i), is fairly broad, allowing public officials to be charged for honest mistakes made while doing their duties. 

As a result, the amendment will narrow the offence to include the essential elements of a public official’s knowledge that his or her behaviour was illegal. 

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