Death, life in prison, loss of citizenship: What you face under Zimbabwe’s ‘Patriotic Bill’

You could face death or life in prison for calling for military action on your country, and your citizenship could be revoked for calling for sanctions, under a proposed new law against “unpatriotic” citizens.

Calling for sanctions can get you jailed for up to five years, and you will not be able to vote or stand for office for up to 15 years. This is under the proposed Amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, recently approved by Cabinet.

“Our Constitutional order of Zimbabwe that is based on parliamentary democracy affords many avenues for aggrieved citizens to redress their wrongs, including against the State,” the state-run Sunday Mail reports, quoting a memorandum summarising the draft Bill.  

“It is improper for citizens and residents of Zimbabwe to implement measures that undermine our sovereignty, dignity and independence as a nation. This clause will criminalise such conduct.”

A citizen who takes part in a meeting to discuss sanctions or any trade boycott of Zimbabwe will be guilty of “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”.

If the offender is a citizen by registration or a dual citizen, their permanent residence permit may be cancelled.

Critics say the Patriotic Bill, as the amendments have come to be known, is targeted at crushing the opposition. Government frequently accuses the main opposition party led by Nelson Chamisa of calling for sanctions, a charge that the party dismisses as propaganda to discredit it.

Under the proposed law, an opposition MP may lose their seat if found guilty of calling for sanctions. A convicted person will be barred “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 law threatens death for any Zimbabwean who invites military action on the country.  

It says: “Any citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe who, within or outside Zimbabwe, actively partakes (whether himself or herself or through an agent, and whether on his or her own initiative or at the invitation of the foreign government concerned or any of its agents, proxies or entities) in any meeting whose object the accused knows or has reasonable grounds for believing involves the consideration of or the planning for – military or other armed intervention in Zimbabwe by the foreign government concerned or another foreign government, or by any of their agents, proxies or entities; or subverting, upsetting, overthrowing or overturning constitutional government in Zimbabwe; shall be guilty of willfully damaging the national interest of Zimbabwe and liable to — the same penalties as for treason.”

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