Zanu-PF pushes for law banning criticism of govt and talking to foreign govt

U.S. Senators Jeff Flake, Zimbabwe Politicians Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti, Author Peter Godwin

Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party will, in the next few weeks, table in parliament the Patriot Bill, a law that will criminalise communicating with foreign embassies without government clearance.

The bill also criminalises openly criticising the regime.

In an interview with the state-controlled Sunday Mail, Zimbabwe’s justice, legal and parliamentary affairs permanent secretary, Virginia Mabhiza, said the law would be grounded on promotion and protection of national interests.

“Conduct such as private correspondence with foreign governments or any officer or agent thereof will be prohibited, including false statements influencing foreign governments, or any other such conduct aimed at undermining the country,” she said.

After winning disputed polls in July 2018 amid a failing economy and rising corruption, President Emmerson Mnangagwa was forced to use the army and police to quell resistance from the main opposition MDC Alliance and civic society.

But the latest crackdown on civic society and opposition that resulted in kidnappings, torture and the arrest of activists and journalists before the planned July 31 riots, drew international criticism.

The UK’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization and the UN in Geneva, Julian Braithwaite, on Wednesday at a policy review on Zimbabwe, called on the country to uphold the rule of law and human rights and fight corruption for the country to move forward.

“Meaningful progress on reforms, along with respect for human rights and the rule of law, are the only way to sustainably deal with Zimbabwe’s underlying challenges,” he said.

Zanu-PF says there is no crisis in Zimbabwe but chaos created by the opposition and its foreign allies. Therefore, in the event of conviction under the law, stiff penalties will be imposed.