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ZCTU: Freedom of expression under threat as Zimbabwe approves the Patriotic Bill

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has said freedom of expression is under threat after Cabinet approved the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill 2022.

The bill will criminalize conduct deemed as unpatriotic or undermining Zimbabwe’s sovereignty after inserting clauses of the Patriotic Bill.

In a statement seen by the publication, ZCTU said Zimbabwe does not need the bill. Read the statement:

SUBJECT: FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION UNDER THREAT AS GOVERNMENT APPROVES PATRIOTIC BILL

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) notes with great concern and alarm that Cabinet has approved the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill 2022, which will impose stiff penalties on Zimbabweans who are alleged to be campaigning against perceived national interests.

The Statement by the government indicates that the Bill will criminalize any conduct that is deemed to undermine Zimbabwe’s sovereignty, dignity, and national interest. The Bill effectively bars Zimbabwean from talking to foreign governments about the prevailing situation in the country. Even in our African tradition, when a father beats his children, the children can approach neighbors for mediation. Zimbabwe does not need this Bill and by approving this law, the Government is shooting itself in the foot as this will cement the widely held view that Zimbabwe is under authoritarian rule.

There is no doubt that this Bill will be used as a weapon against opponents of the government to clamp down on dissenting voices. The ZCTU believes that issues to do with patriotism should not be imposed on citizens and patriotism does not mean keeping quiet when there is bad governance. No one has a right to prescribe to Zimbabweans what is and what is not patriotism.

With elections drawing closer, the ZCTU also believes this Bill is meant to instill fear in society and Zimbabweans not to speak out on issues to do with violence, harassment, and intimidation that have been a hallmark of our elections over the years. The Bill is a direct attack on democracy, freedom of expression, and association. If it passed, it will confirm that indeed the government enjoys tightening its noose on Zimbabweans.

The ZCTU demands that legislators in Parliament reject the Bill and ensure that Zimbabweans’ right to freedom of expression and association, which are ar teed in our Constitution, are protected.

Runesu Dzimiri ACTING SECRETARY-GENERAL

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