Zimbabwe gov makes move to repeal notorious media law

Monica Mutsvangwa, Energy Mutodi, and Nick Mangwana

HARARE – The Zimbabwe government has finally considered repealing the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), with three separate bills on the cards as replacements.

This was revealed by the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services during a media briefing after today’s cabinet sitting at Munhumutapa Offices, Harare.

“In today’s meeting, only the principles for the Zimbabwe Media Bill were considered by Cabinet. The proposed amendments are in fulfilment of the requirements to align the country’s laws to the Constitution. The repeal of AIPPA will give rise to the introduction of three separate Bills namely:  Access to Information, Zimbabwe Media Commission, Protection of Personal Information or Data Protection bills,” the Minister said.

Meanwhile, International human rights organisations have petitioned Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa to “respect the human rights” and “end the escalating crackdown” on protesters.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam International implored Mnangagwa to take concrete and effective action to address the deteriorating human rights situation and increasing risk of a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

“We are seriously concerned about the escalating crackdown by your government on human rights defenders, civil society activists, labour and opposition leaders and members, and Zimbabweans protesting the recent fuel price increase,” the organisations said in a letter to Mnangagwa, which was signed by their leaders Kumi Naidoo, Kenneth Roth, and Winnie Byanyima.

“We have observed with concern a pattern of suppression of dissenting voices in Zimbabwe. On 1 August 2018, seven people were killed after the deployment of the military during post-election protests. To date, those responsible for the killings have not been brought to justice.”

The human rights organisations demanded that Mnangagwa act swiftly and ensure that security forces who unleashed terror against citizens were held accountable and launch an impartial and independent investigation into allegations of human rights violations and abuses, including rape and other sexual abuse of women by security forces.

The petition comes against the background of demonstrations and subsequent deployment of soldiers to crush dissent twice in six months.

Since the January 14 to 16 mass labour stayaway, 17 people have died and more than a thousand arrested, including opposition figures and human rights activists.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police and the military have refuted assertions that members of the security services are terrorising civilians. In a joint press statement, the army and the police claimed that rogue members and civilians stole military fatigue uniforms. The security establishment demanded that the uniforms be surrendered.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) has ordered its members to stop wearing uniforms in public, saying they would now only be worn in cantonment areas.

In a statement to its members dated February 6, the military said the measure had been undertaken to “ensure imposters abusing the uniform will be easily identified and also ensure safety of members outside cantonment areas”.

“Commander ZNA has directed that with immediate effect no military uniform will be worn outside cantonment areas. This applies to members commuting to and from places of work, intra- and intercity commuting,” the ZNA said.

“Take note that after working hours, members are to put on civilian clothes and leave their uniforms in cantonment areas. All are to comply with this instruction.”