Plans by the government to come up with a Patriotic Bill seeking to criminalise citizens who criticise Zimbabwe and its leadership will further shrink democratic space, a Bulawayo legal practitioner has said.
Late ZANU-PF legislator for Mberengwa South, Alum Mpofu, moved a motion on the Patriotic Bill in Parliament last year, which has since been endorsed by the government which is reportedly crafting it.
Speaking during a CITE online programme; “Know Your Right,” Monday, Matshobana Ncube of Ncube Attorneys, said the bill would be a regression on the advancement of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“We are going backwards,” lamented Ncube.
“We are regressing to the period perhaps back to the dark ages in this country. We had moved so far when we agreed to adopt a new constitution. If you look at that constitution, it represents a radical break from a bitter, painful, dark and undemocratic past.”
He said the attempts by the country’s new supreme law adopted in 2013 to create a better Zimbabwe were being overshadowed by regressive pieces of legislation such as the proposed patriotic bill.
“With this, I fear that we are going so many steps backwards,” said Ncube.
“It means all the struggles that we have engaged in trying to bring about democracy, to bring about a better human rights culture in this country are all going down the drain. So we are going back to where we started and it’s so unfortunate.”
Ncube said the repeal of repressive laws such as Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the coming into effect of the Freedom of Information Act would be rendered meaningless should the bill materialise.
“What we are giving with the left hand, we are taking away with the right hand,” bemoaned Ncube.
“That’s what is happening. So there is no movement whatsoever because you also have to look at the repeal of AIPPA and the coming into force of the Freedom of Information Act, which seeks to allow journalists to work better and flourish but in fact, if this bill was to come into effect it means as a journalist you need to be careful about what you inform the public about. When you do your work you should be worried that a policeman may be knocking at your doorstep in the evening and taking you to a police station.”