By Anna Chibamu
ZIMBABWEAN activist and #ThisFlag movement founder Evan Mawarire has condemned the Criminal Law Code Amendment Bill (Patriot Bill) describing it as ‘draconian’ after it sailed through Parliament, Wednesday.
Parliamentarians voted 99 in favour and 17 against the bill’s clause which will criminalize private correspondence with foreign governments, false statements or any conduct aimed at undermining the country with violations punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.
Human rights lobby groups, activists and opposition parties have raised concerns the bill will muzzle freedom of speech if passed into law.
Mawarire wrote: “Very sad day for Zimbabwe. Parliament passed the draconian Patriot Act.
“It criminalizes freedom of speech, freedom of association, and assembly and disallows Zimbabwe citizens from engaging foreign government officials. Zimbabwe has become far worse than any of us imagined.”
Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson and lawyer Fadzayi Mahere said under the ‘dangerous’ bill person can be sentenced to the death penalty which is in violation of the country’s Constitution.
“Did you know? A person convicted under the ‘Patriotic Bill’ can potentially face the death sentence.
“This violation of the right to life under Section 48 of the Constitution which says the death penalty can only be imposed for murder committed by men between 21-70 years,” she said.
CCC Harare East MP Tendai Biti who debated against the passing of the bill expressed his disappointment over the passing of the draconian bill in Parliament.
“It was a day indeed as Parliament passed the Patriot Bill this evening.
“New law is an unprecedented law that seeks to proscribe freedom of association, assembly, and speech of any citizen holding a meeting with a foreign government.
“Not even Apartheid Rhodesia passed such repugnant law,” Biti said.
The bill will amend the Criminal Law Code in four respects which are: to create the crime of “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe” [the “patriot” part of the bill] and provide mandatory minimum prison sentences for rape.
The bill will also alter the definition of dangerous drugs whose possession, sale, and use which are prohibited by Chapter VII of the Code, and will narrow the scope of the crime of abuse of public office.