HARARE (Bloomberg) — Zimbabwe’s cabinet wants to bar its citizens from holding “unauthorized” communication and negotiations with hostile governments.
“Such communication or negotiation has a direct or indirect implication on Zimbabwe’s foreign relations and policy,” Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told reporters Tuesday in the capital, Harare.
The proposed cabinet amendments to a current criminal act will make illegal any cooperation with overseas government for self-gain or to inflict damage on Zimbabwe’s people and national interests, she said.
“The individuals or groups involve themselves in issues of foreign relations without verifying facts or engaging domestic authorities,” said Mutsvangwa. “Such willful misinformation of foreign governments will therefore make the individuals or groups liable for prosecution.”
Zimbabwe has often labeled and tarred government critics as agents acting at the behest of foreign powers. In July, the Southern African nation accused the U.S. of interfering with its internal affairs after journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested, in a further souring of relations between the two nations.
The development was confirmed by information publicity and broadcasting services minister, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa, at Tuesday’s post-cabinet media briefing.
“… the Vienna Convention on diplomatic Relations (1961) only recognises States as legitimate players in foreign relations and negotiations,” said the minister.
“Private players thus have no business in foreign relations and negotiations between countries.”
At the weekend, Zimbabwe and the region marked the second SADC Day against sanctions imposed by the West to punish Harare for its land reforms.
Now in place for two decades, the crippling sanctions were imposed at the active instigation of local opposition parties and anti-Zimbabwe civil society groups.
“The amendments will criminalise the conduct of isolated citizens or groups who, for self-gain cooperate or continue to connive with hostile foreign governments to inflict suffering on Zimbabwean citizens and to cause damage to national interests,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
Wilful misinformation of foreign governments will also be liable to prosecution under the changes, including the staging of protests “deliberately designed to coincide with major international, continental or regional visits.”
The minister added; “There are also various unsubstantiated claims of torture and abductions that are concocted to tarnish the image of government, and (the) amendments will criminalise such conduct.”