The United States of America and British embassies in Harare have reacted to the signing of the Patriotic Bill into law by President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.

The two diplomatic missions condemned the Act saying it chokes Zimbabweans’ rights to freedoms of expression and association.

They also said it is bad for the country’s re-engagement efforts.

“Every Zimbabwean has the right to freedom of expression, assembly, and association. New legislation subverts these constitutional rights, undercuts Zimbabwe’s international reengagement efforts, and is bad for business,” said the US Embassy.

The British Embassy said:

“The rights to freedom of expression and association are guaranteed in Zimbabwe’s constitution.

“Parts of today’s new legislation have serious implications for Zimbabweans’ ability to exercise those rights without fear, and for Zimbabwe Govt’s efforts at international reengagement.”

Human rights defenders have roundly condemned the Act saying it is prone to abuse by the Zimbabwean Government.

The Act introduces section 22A to the Criminal Law Act, under which it criminalises “willfully injuring the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”.

Section 22A criminalises any meeting or any communication between a Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident that involves or is facilitated by a foreign government or any of its agents with the aim of “subverting, upsetting, overthrowing or overturning the constitutional government in Zimbabwe”.

The criminalisation of any communication constitutes an immediate threat to the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

Analysts say the vague and broad wording of the suggested provision is further appalling as it constitutes a high potential of abuse and misuse by state authorities to silence any dissent or criticism of state authorities.