The Zanu PF-led government is once more determined to legislate the so-called Patriotic Bill. In our view this will be the most atrocious and despotic legislation in the world.
The key wording of the Bill is the criminalisation of “private correspondence” to foreign governments with the aim of defeating the interest of Zimbabwe.
This Bill comes at a time when almost every government of the world has incorporated Human Rights Law in their national laws. The human rights guarantee the right to respect for citizens’ private and family life, his/her home and his/her correspondence.
The Patriotic Bill is designed to remove this right from people of Zimbabwe. The government argues that the country’s misfortunes are caused by citizens who communicate with foreign governments whose responses are the imposition of sanctions.
The tragic thing is that Zanu PF thinks that the party is Zimbabwe. After having lived abroad for 20 years, we are as patriotic as any other Zimbabwean home or abroad. We can even argue that those abroad are economically patriotic because in 2020 the country received $657,7 million from the diaspora. We have watched Zimbabweans attending demonstrations and vigils against Zanu PF misrule in foreign countries but still carrying the Zimbabwean flag. This is a clear demonstration that every Zimbabwean loves his/her country but what they abhor is Zanu PF’s native coloniality which has become counter-revolutionary and contrary to the ideals of our independence.
Coming to the Bill, we have heard arguments and attempts to equate the Bill with the Logan Act and Patriotic Act 2001 in the USA. This is a misreading and failure to understand these two pieces of legislation.
There are vast differences in rationale and justification for the Bills. First the Patriotic Act was enacted because a different type and style of terrorism had occurred in the USA. The country in its history and laws had not envisaged crimes of such nature and it was right for them to come out with legislation which deals with such crime.
The Logan Act was meant to prevent private citizens from conducting “foreign affairs” without the permission or involvement of the US government, whereas the Zimbabwe Patriotic Bill is aimed at criminalisation of private citizens who make correspondence with foreign governments with intention of causing adverse effects/ detrimental effects on Zimbabwe.
The differences: Zimbabwe is under targeted sanctions which were imposed by western governments because of alleged human rights abuses, brutality, corruption and misgovernance.
The government wants the populace to believe that their woes are caused by sanctions as opposed to the reason mentioned above. The targeted or smart sanctions are supposedly “targeted” (named /listed individuals and companies) to avoid widespread harm to the innocent citizens.
In any event the issues of sanctions are as old as democracy, they have existed since 1919 and countries have relied on economic sanctions not only to influence foreign policy and national security objectives but also to respond to domestic political needs and economic pressures. Whereas foreign policy is basically policy of a government in dealing with other countries or with activities overseas. Governments understand foreign affairs via its embassies, news and observations and formulate their foreign policy not private letters written by citizens.
As stated above the US Patriotic Act was designed to deal with a new and urgent type and style of crime brought by terrorism whereas the Logan Act 1799 criminalises negotiation by unauthorised American citizens with foreign governments having a dispute with the US.
Lately Zimbabwe did send its Foreign minister to the UK because he was not on the targeted list, Zimbabwe still receives aid and assistance from the world at large and it is a falsehood to say that people in Zimbabwe are suffering due to targeted sanctions.
In any event the rationale of any law in any country is to define the limits of acceptable behaviour, the consequences of certain forms of behaviour, and processes for the transaction of business and other activities, as well as creating regulatory frameworks, giving authority to agents of the state to take actions against wrong doers.
In the Zimbabwe situation the wrongdoers in these instances are corrupt leaders, human rights abusers, and use of unprecedented force against citizens, looting and corruption.
What effect can a private correspondent have in such instances and how do you police private correspondents without infringing the fundamental rights of citizens?
The Bill is irrelevant, sadistic, and tyrannical and a total infringement of human rights and dignity of persons and it must be resisted.
Prinsloo Kandemiiri (CIArb), LLB (hons) LLM