President Emmerson Mnangagwa has signed a controversial new law that critics say will silence citizens and stop them from voicing concerns about problems in the country.
The so-called “Patriot Bill” criminalizes speech that is seen as “undermining the authority” of the government. Activists say this vague wording will allow authorities to arrest and charge anyone who criticizes the state.
Obert Masaraure from Crisis in Coalition Zimbabwe warns the law gives authorities “every potential to further diminish the credibility of the entire electoral process.”
This comes just weeks before crucial elections that the government has invited foreign observers to monitor. But Masaraure notes “It is surprising that the government has invited observers yet now chooses to gag citizens from speaking about the same election.”
He says observers rely on the experiences of citizens, “both good and bad,” to make judgments on the polls. But the new law will stop citizens from “saying things as they see them, not what the government wants to be said.”
Critics say the Patriot Bill confirms the government’s escalating crackdown on basic freedoms ahead of a crucial vote.