We are now seeing a growing trend where the law, as in the colonial era, is being systematically used to suppress citizens and Human Rights Defenders. The new report shows how the country’s legal framework is once more replete with repressive legislation. For example:
- the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act of 2020 which replaced the equally repressive Public Order and Security Act (POSA),
- the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (The Code)
- and the Freedom of Information Act of 2020, which repealed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) although some of its elements are yet to be replaced.
In essence these laws reflect a continuation of the colonial legacies of rule by law.
The use of Statutory instruments, which are executive in nature and content, and the gazetting of repressive Bills such as the Cyber Security Bill and the Patriotic Bill create a repressive framework that the state is using to curtail the rights of citizens.
The proposed Patriotic Bill seeks two objectives, namely:
“a) recognises and celebrates efforts made by Zimbabwean citizens at home and abroad to promote the country’s positive image and brand; and
“b) prohibits any Zimbabwean citizen from wilfully communicating messages intended to harm the image and reputation of the country on international platforms or engaging with foreign countries to communicate messages intended to harm the country’s positive image and/or to under its integrity and reputation”.
Former cabinet minister Professor Jonathan Moyo argues that the Patriotic Bill is reactionary in the extreme, and seeks to criminalise the very spirit and practice of solidarity, without which Zimbabwe would not be an independent country today. He argues that solidarity was a key to fight evils like UDI in Rhodesia and apartheid in South Africa.
Zimbabwe has a modern constitution with an expansive bill of rights establishing independent institutions to protect and entrench democracy and human rights. It also devolves governmental power and limits presidential terms of office. It was adopted after a historic referendum with more than 94.5% approval. Regrettably the government now seeks to amend the Constitution to give more powers to the President and centralise power.
This will erode and wipe away democratic gains made in the 16 March 2013 historic referendum. A cursory glance shows a state further unwilling to respect the constitution by continuously using unilaterally gazetted statutory instruments to subvert parliament’s law-making role and oversight. In 2020 alone, close to 270 Statutory Instruments were gazetted. Several repressive laws are yet to be either aligned to the new constitution or implemented.