THE United Nations Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Ms Alena Douhan, will be in the country from tomorrow to October 28, to assess the impact of sanctions on Zimbabwe. Our Reporter, Debra Matabvu (DM) spoke to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi (ZZ) about the visit. The interview touched on other matters such as the amendment of the country’s electoral laws in line with the Constitution.
DM: The Government recently invited the UN Special Rapporteur, what is the reason for the invitation?
ZZ: Our position from the start has always been that sanctions are a violation of human rights in several aspects. So by inviting the rapporteur, we want the United Nations to understand the effects of sanctions on the ordinary people even though they are alleged to be “targeted”, they have effects on the grassroots, on the very ordinary people of this country.
We want the UN to appreciate that while they say sanctions are targeted, and that they are directed at State-owned companies, they are creating shortages for the ordinary people.
DM: What are your expectations from the visit?
ZZ: Our expectation is that at the end of the visit the evils of sanctions would have been exposed. We believe it is a violation of human rights. The economic decline has largely been due to us as a country being unable to trade freely.
DD: May you give us a brief itinerary of the visit?
ZZ: She is going to meet the President and will get briefings from several Cabinet Ministers. She will also visit other cities like Bulawayo and Mutare.
DM: Indeed as you say, those who imposed sanctions on the country claim that the measures are targeted, so how do you seek to prove that?
ZZ: If you impose sanctions to target a company such as Zimphos for instance, which produces fertilisers, the country will have a shortage of fertilisers. The livelihoods of our people depending on agriculture will be affected.
It is well known that because of sanctions our agriculture sector was affected. Industries were affected and even our currency was affected. So we want the UN to know that while they propagate the observance of other rights, they are turning a blind eye to the need to ensure that Zimbabwean citizens’ rights are upheld.
The right to food, education and health. Our health sector is not the same as it was before the imposition of sanctions. So we want the Rapporteur to come and appreciate that sanctions are a violation of the rights of the ordinary people. They are illegal. So they must put pressure on those people who imposed sanctions as a regime change tool to remove them.
DM: The Government is currently amending the Criminal Code Act which compels citizens to be patriotic and makes it a criminal offence to call for sanctions against the country. How far have you gone with this legislation?
ZZ: We are amending the criminal code. There are various crimes against the State and we decided to tighten the banner under the State. So those who lobby for sanctions or any harm against the State, have their days numbered.
Our constitution clearly bestows that function of foreign relations on the President. So anyone who goes and purports and tries to influence relations among states, we believe that it is equivalent to treason and that individual must be sanctioned.
That is work in progress. The Attorney General’s office is already drafting the amendment to the criminal code. This is to ensure that we include a section more or less equivalent of what the Patriotic Act says, to deal with those who go and call for punitive action against their own country, or who go and speak against their own country so that the ordinary people end up suffering. You recall that there was a time that certain individuals called upon South Africa to shut off electricity and fuel supplies to Zimbabwe. We have people in hospitals in ICU and when someone calls for supplies to be cut off this is tantamount to saying those people in hospital must die. Thus we are saying such conduct is not patriotic. We must all be patriotic. If you are outside the country what you should advocate for is for the people of Zimbabwe to have everything to their advantage and not to be starved or to be cut off from the rest of the world.
Once the Attorney General has finished, the legislative process in Parliament will take off with public consultations.
DM: When do you expect to have this law against sanctions-calling in place?
ZZ: By the first quarter of next year, we must be through with these Bills, especially the Amendment to the Electoral Act and the amendment to the criminal code to criminalise such unpatriotic behaviour.
DM: Ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections, which are about a year and half away from now, are you satisfied with the electoral reforms that have been made so far?
ZZ: Each year before we go for an election, we assess how we would have fared in the previous election. We look at challenges that we encounter and we say what is it that we can learn from others? Those who would have been observing our elections and those we would have observed.
We do not do it the other way round and say let us bring observers to be referees and then they give us a direction which we should take.
We decide after an election, we have a review and identify the gaps that we need to deal with before the next election. We have been doing extremely well in terms of reforming our electoral laws. Even before the 2018 elections we had an amendment of our Electoral Act.
We are in the process of looking at some of the areas that we feel need amendment, some of them which have been highlighted and pointed out by the observers.
Our Attorney General is looking at it with the view of bringing the Amendment Bill to Parliament so that we can deal with those issues. So it is now in progress. We hope that we have an amended Electoral Act when we go to the elections in 2023.
We were slowed down a bit because of Covid-19. The Covid-19 induced lock down saw Government employees stationed at workplaces reduced to 25 percent and this affected our drafters in the Attorney General’s office.
So we are now trying to catch up to ensure that the pieces in the Electoral Act we need to deal with before the elections are done.
We have and are happy with some of the things that we identified, but the legislative process is open. Once we have an Amendment Bill we submit it to all our stakeholders to bring their inputs and then have a final document which will sail through Parliament.
DM: Which are some of the issues that you have identified that will be included in the amended Electoral Act?
ZZ: At this juncture it will be premature for me to publicise things that have not been agreed to by Cabinet. What I can simply say is there is going to be an amendment to the Electoral Act that is agreed to and I will present that to Cabinet. It will then be finalised and become a public document, for public consultations. – Sunday Mail