The Parliament of Zimbabwe has passed a law that criminalises criticising the government.
The Criminal Law Codification and Reform Amendment Bill (Criminal Code) contains a clause often called Patriotic Act.
The clause criminalises “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe.”
According to the Legal think tank Veritas, Clause 2 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, inserted a new section into the Code, creating the crime of “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”. Said Veritas:
The crime will be committed by a citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe who takes an active part in a meeting involving or convened by an agent of a foreign government, if the citizen or resident knows or has reason to believe that the object of the meeting is:
- to consider or plan armed intervention in Zimbabwe by the foreign government, or
- to subvert or overthrow the constitutional Zimbabwean government, or
- to consider, implement or extend sanctions or a trade boycott against Zimbabwe, or against an individual or official if the sanctions or boycott affect a substantial section of the people of Zimbabwe.
Penalties for the crime differ according to the object of the meeting:
- if the object of the meeting is to consider or plan armed intervention, the penalty for participating in it is the same as for treason, namely the death sentence or imprisonment for life,
- if the object of the meeting is to subvert or overthrow the government, the penalty for participating in it is the same as for subverting constitutional government, namely imprisonment for up to 20 years, and
- if the meeting is about sanctions or a trade boycott, the penalty for participating in it is a fine of up to Z$200 000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years or both. And in addition, if the crime is committed in aggravating circumstances (i.e. if sanctions were implemented as a result of the meeting or if a non-binding advisory was issued with the same effect as sanctions, or if the convicted person made a false statement during the meeting) and if the prosecutor so requests, the court may impose any of the following penalties:
- deprivation of citizenship, if the convicted person is a citizen by registration or a dual citizen,
- cancellation of residence rights, if the convicted person is a permanent resident of Zimbabwe,
- prohibition from being registered as a voter or from voting, for a period between five and 15 years, or
- prohibition from holding public office for a period between five and 15 years.