JUST IN: Zimbabwe Senate passes bill to crush voices of opposition ahead of elections


The Zimbabwean Senate, which is dominated by ZANU PF, has passed the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, also known as the Patriot Bill. This controversial bill was passed by the National Assembly last week despite objections from the opposition benches.

The bill seeks to criminalize citizens found guilty of “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe” and includes penalties such as revocation of citizenship and prohibition from being registered as a voter or voting in an election for at least five years.

Rights lawyers have criticized the bill, arguing that some of its provisions are unconstitutional and are meant to silence government critics and close civic space ahead of the upcoming general elections. The Zimbabwe Lawyers of Human Rights have argued that the penalties are an assault on democratic and civic spaces, and that they violate political rights and human rights at a time when Zimbabwe has committed to implementing critical reforms.

The Patriot Bill is one of several contentious pieces of legislation introduced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to entrench his power since coming into office via a military coup in 2017.

Other laws include the Cyber Security Act, Constitutional Amendments 1 and 2, and the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill. The passing of the Patriot Bill has raised concerns about the future of democracy in Zimbabwe and the ability of citizens to exercise their civil liberties.

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