Parliament on Tuesday passed the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, which contains the controversial Patriotic clause that criminalizes fundamental freedoms of association, assembly and speech of any citizen who holds meetings with foreign diplomats or any other foreigner, plunging the country into the dark days reminiscent of the oppressive Rhodesian colonial era.
The Bill, gazetted on December 23, 2022, seeks to amend the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23], has four clauses, three of the amendments have been described as progressive excluding Clause 2.
There is a clause which amend Section 65 of the Principal Act to make 15 years the minimum required punishment for rape, in response to the rise in horrendous crimes of sexual violence and rape.
Another one which seeks to amend Section 155 of the main Act’s definition of dangerous drugs to include prepared opium, prepared cannabis resin, and a drug schedule.
Another one that proposes to amend Section 174 of the main Act as the existing definition of criminal abuse of office, as provided for in Section 174 (i), is fairly broad, allowing public officials to be charged for honest mistakes made while doing their duties.
The controversial Clause 2, introduces the Patriotic Clause in Section 22 (a) of the main Act. It creates a new crime for willfully injuring the sovereignty and national interests of Zimbabwe, hence the moniker Patriots bill or Patriotic bill.
The bill now awaits senate and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s signature to become law.
This comes as the nation heads towards general elections.
Main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) deputy leader Tendai Biti said not even the colonial government would pass such a law.
“A sad day indeed as parliament passed the Patriotic Bill this evening. The 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 a repugnant law,” wrote Biti on his official social media accounts.
The proposed law was introduced amid repeated accusations against the opposition for allegedly campaigning for western imposed sanctions of the country.
CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere added: “Dark day for democracy – We are receiving a disturbing report from Parliament that the dangerous, unconstitutional Patriotic Bill brought via an amendment to the Criminal Code has been passed.
“It criminalises “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe.”
Meanwhile independent Norton MP, Temba Mliswa was Tuesday kicked out of parliament after he accused Zanu PF of committing Gukurahundi atrocities while debating the bill in Parliament.
While debating on the bill in parliament, Hwange legislator, Daniel Molokele described the bill as unconstitutional and not to force patriotism on citizens.
“I have a big problem with this clause. The first one is it tries to reduce the definition of patriotism into a political discourse. Patriotism must never be reduced into a political discourse where if I don’t agree with a certain political perspective, then I am seen as an unpatriotic person. This is ridiculous, it is manifestly unconstitutional,”said Molokele.