Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Cabinet yesterday approved the draft of a proposed law that punishes Zimbabweans outside and inside the country who campaign for the continued imposition of sanctions with intent to harm the nation.
Strict conditions and definitions are incorporated in the proposals, basically requiring proof of intent to harm Zimbabwe and its people and so avoiding conflict with Constitutional rights.
According to the proposed law which will soon be tabled before Parliament, planned and timed protests deliberately meant to coincide with major international or regional events or visits by foreign dignitaries in order to tarnish the country’s image will also be criminalised.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Senator Monica Mutsvangwa said after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting at State House Cabinet considered and approved proposals to amend the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act as presented by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
“Cabinet noted that the current law does not criminalise the unauthorised communication or negotiation by private citizens with foreign governments. Such communication or negotiation has a direct or indirect implication on Zimbabwe’s foreign relations and policy,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
According to the Constitution, the country’s foreign policy must be based on the promotion and protection of the national interests of Zimbabwe, respect for international law, peaceful co-existence with other nations and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.
The Vienna Convention that governs diplomatic relations recognises only states as legitimate in foreign relations and negotiations, thus leaving private people and groups with no business in foreign relations and negotiations between countries.
“The amendments will criminalise the conduct of isolated citizens or groups who, for self-gain, cooperate or connive with hostile foreign governments to inflict suffering on Zimbabwean citizens and to cause damage to national interests. The individuals or groups involve themselves in issues of foreign relations without verifying facts or engaging domestic authorities,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
“Such wilful misinformation of foreign governments will therefore make the individuals or groups liable for prosecution. Other actions that will become punishable include planned and timed protests deliberately designed to coincide with major international, continental or regional events or visits. There are also various unsubstantiated claims of torture and abductions that are concocted to tarnish the image of the Government, and amendments will criminalise such conduct.”
Responding to questions from journalists, Attorney General, Advocate Prince Machaya said the proposed law was consistent with both the Constitution and international law.
“One of the requirements to be proven is that there was self-gain and connivance. The criteria on how to determine a hostile Government and other issues will be contained in the legislation. Another requirement is that the outcome is to inflict suffering for the people of Zimbabwe and that there was damage to the foreign interest of the country. Those will be the elements,” said Adv Machaya.
“The legislation will be clear so that citizens conduct themselves accordingly.”
The proposed law comes as Zimbabwe commemorated the Sadc-initiated Anti-Sanctions Day last Sunday, which was also endorsed by the African Union which was unanimous in calling for the removal of the embargo.
Opposition party activists and their supporters in civic organisations have in the past, come under fire for travelling to different Western capitals calling for the continued imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe as a way of trying to effect illegal regime change.
The call for the illegal sanctions is premised on the hope that citizens will experience hardships and turn against the Government.
The United Nations, Sadc and the AU have all called for the unconditional removal of sanctions which have denied the country access to finance from multilateral agencies.
Zimbabwe was slapped with illegal economic sanctions by the US and European Union nearly two decades ago after it embarked on the fast-track land reform that sought to address land ownership imbalances.
The illegal sanctions have suffocated the economy as Zimbabwe cannot access lines of credit from global financial institutions.
The Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa has been on an engagement and re-engagement drive aimed at ending the country’s isolation and the efforts are beginning to pay dividends.