The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), an association of over 250 000 patriotic Zimbabweans who believe in human rights, joins the nation in marking the 41st anniversary of Independence, albeit with an undemocratic bill hanging over our heads.
The attempts by the government of Zimbabwe to legislate patriotism through the clearly unpatriotic proposed Patriot Bill is an affront to the values of the liberation struggle and reverses the gains of independence that we are supposed to celebrate today. As we commemorate this day, we call on all Zimbabweans to guard against the violations of our fundamental rights that we fought for during the war of liberation and that many continue to fight for in the continuing struggle for democracy and good governance.
Patriotism or national pride is the feeling of love, devotion, and a sense of attachment and commitment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.
41 years after Independence, 4.5 million patriotic Zimbabweans have had to pack their bags and leave the place they call home. Over the past year, our brothers and sisters have perished in foreign lands due to the COVID-19 while serving other families when their own families at home have no one to look after. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food Hilal Elver has warned that over 7 million Zimbabweans are food insecure.
Real patriotism is working towards restoring the dignity of every Zimbabwean no matter where they are, no matter what political party they support, and no matter their political views. Every Zimbabwean has got the right to participate in the welfare of his own country without fear of retribution from their government.
The government’s own economic blueprint the National Development Strategy 1 acknowledges the role that good governance plays in national development. The Patriotic Bill goes against everything that the government must embrace in order for real economic prosperity. 41 years after independence, if we surely had played our politics right and built national unity and harmony, we would not be legislating patriotism as this would come naturally to citizens.
The Patriotic Bill whose motion was moved in Parliament by the late Mberengwa MP. Alum Mpofu seeks to criminalise critical citizen participation in national affairs, criminalise human rights work, and international advocacy. It seeks to violate the fundamental rights to free speech and association.
The Patriotic Bill instead is an affront to democracy and human rights that President Mnangagwa promised at his inauguration.
At 41, let’s reflect and correct the past mistakes by promoting a human- rights centred approach in dealing with the problems we are facing and indeed we will not have to legislate Patriotism.