The Patriotic Bill was first proposed by Zimbabwe's Cabinet Committee on National Peace and Reconciliation. The Cabinet Committee tasked the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to draft the Patriotic Bill.

Background

In August 2020, Zimbabwe's Cabinet Committee on National Peace and Reconciliation tasked the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to draft a law that prohibits citizens from conniving with hostile foreign governments to harm the country.

In October 2020, Sunday Mail reported that the principles of the Patriot Bill had been drafted and that Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi was expected to table the principles in Cabinet.[1]

During the Post-Cabinet Press Briefing on 27 October 2020, it was stated that the Cabinet had approved amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which would have a similar effect to a so-called Patriotic Bill.[2]

Zimbabwe's Government said that the Patriotic Bill is necessary to deal with citizens who propagate negative information to foreign governments, which undermine the Government of Zimbabwe’s efforts to attract foreign direct investment.[3]

The late ZANU-PF legislator for Mberengwa South, Alum Mpofu, moved a motion on the Patriotic Bill in Parliament in March 2021.[4]

Hon Mpofu said:

“I move the motion in my name that:

COGNISANT that Zimbabwe’s image and national reputation are critical factors in attracting foreign investment;

CONCERNED that the negative portrayal of the country’s image and reputation has an adverse and crippling impact on the country’s economic prospects especially on tourism, investment, and the welfare of the vulnerable such as youths, women and the disabled;

ENCOURAGED that other jurisdictions, recognising the need to preserve their image and soft power in a competitive global village, have enacted laws that bar their citizens from engaging in unpatriotic activities and communication intended to denigrate the integrity of their homeland;

BUOYED by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Zimbabweans are focused on building the positive image of the country as a reforming, open, peaceful, and democratic country that is attractive to investment;

NOW THEREFORE, call upon this august House to enact a law that:

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 with the intention of communicating messages intended to harm the country’s positive image and/or to under its integrity and reputation.”

[5]

Provisions of the Patriotic Bill

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza said that the Patriotic Bill draws from similar legislation in other jurisdictions such as the Logan Act in the United States of America.

Mabhiza said it was the sole responsibility of the State to engage other nations on issues pertaining to foreign relations.

Acts that will be criminalised will include corresponding with a foreign government without approval, making false statements that harm the country and conniving with hostile foreign governments to harm the nation. Other acts that will be criminalised by the Patriotic Bill if passed into an act are:

  1. private correspondence with foreign governments or any officer or agent thereof
  2. private citizens travelling to foreign countries as self-appointed ambassadors, meeting foreign officials to undermine the national interest.[1]

The proposed Patriotic Bill if passed into law will permit the government to pry into private communications between citizens and officials of foreign governments.[3]

In the event of a conviction, Mabhiza said stiff penalties will be imposed.[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lincoln Towindo, New law to criminalise unpatriotic acts, The Sunday Mail, Published: October 4, 2020, Retrieved: April 28, 2021
  2. Cabinet Meeting 2020-37: 27 OCTOBER 2020, Veritas, Published: October 27, 2020, Retrieved: April 28, 2021
  3. 3.0 3.1 NHIMBE TRUST DECRIES ZIMBABWE’S INTENTION TO ENACT A PATRIOTIC ACT, Kubatana, Published: March 25, 2021, Retrieved: April 28, 2021
  4. Mandla Tshuma, Patriotic Bill to further shrink Zim’s democratic space, CITE, Published: April 12, 2021, Retrieved: April 28, 2021
  5. NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 02 MARCH 2021 VOL 47 NO 27, National Assembly, Published: March 2, 2021, Retrieved: April 28, 2021