President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government on Friday gazetted the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Amendment Bill which seeks to severely punish Zimbabweans for alleged crimes against the country including charging them with treason.

The Bill, which has become known as the Patriotic Bill, comes hard on the heels of the Private Voluntary Organisations Act Amendment Bill that is on the final stages of parliamentary approval.

The Criminal Law Codification and Reform Amendment Bill has clauses proposing penalties such as termination of citizenship, being barred from voting and holding public office if found guilty of crimes of hurting the country’s interests.

“Any citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe (hereinafter in this section called “the accused”) who, within or outside Zimbabwe actively partakes… in any meeting whose object the accused knows or has reasonable grounds for believing involves….military or other armed intervention in Zimbabwe…subverting, upsetting, overthrowing or overturning the constitutional government in Zimbabwe; shall be guilty of wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe and liable to— (i) the same penalties as for treason, in a case referred to in paragraph (a); or (ii) the same penalties as for subverting constitutional government,” the proposed amendments read in part.

It says those found  guilty of “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe and (will be)  liable to— (i) a fine not exceeding level  12 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or both..

“A termination of the citizenship of the convicted person, if the convicted person is a citizen by registration or a dual citizen…prohibition from being registered as a voter or voting at an election for a period of at least five years, but not exceeding 15 years.

“Prohibition from filling a public office for a period of at least five years but not exceeding 15 years, and, if he or she holds any such office, the convicting court may declare that that office shall be vacated by the convicted person from the date of his or her conviction, unless the tenure of the public office in question is regulated exclusively by or in terms of the constitution.”

The proposed law has been criticised by human rights activists and the opposition as an attempt to silence critics.

Zanu PF has defended the law as necessary to punish regime change enablers and said there is nothing peculiar with the Act drawing parallels with the United States’ Logan Act.

The Logan Act criminalises negotiation through correspondence or communication by unauthorised American citizens with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States.

United Nations experts have criticised the PVO Amendment Bill as draconian, but Mnangagwa’s government is pressing ahead with the enactment of the proposed law that critics say will close the democratic space in Zimbabwe.

The 80-year-old ruler is set to face Citizens Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa  in next year’s presidential elections in what could be a repeat of the hotly contested 2018 polls.

the standard