The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, which attempts to penalise those who advocate for sanctions and trade boycotts against Zimbabwe through lobbying and engagement with foreign governments and harm to regular citizens, was approved by the Senate yesterday.
Emmerson Mnangagwa will now receive the bill for his approval.
Ziyambi Ziyambi, Minister of Justice, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs, stated that the Bill was not intended to limit criticism of the Government or the President but rather to punish people who collude with foreign governments or their agents to harm Zimbabwe’s sovereignty or national interest.
“We are not trying to inflict pain on anyone, but we want to deal with those individuals who engage foreign governments or their agents in meetings, calling for trade boycotts or imposition of sanctions against the country and causing suffering to ordinary people,” he said.
Minister Ziyambi denied claims by members in the British House of Lords that the Bill was meant to stop criticism of the President, saying it was evidence of their “ignorance to discuss something which is not there”.
The proposed amendments on Clause 2 (3) read as follows: “Any citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe who, within or outside Zimbabwe, intentionally partakes in any meeting, whose object or one of whose objects the accused knows, or has reasonable grounds for believing involves the consideration of or the planning for the implementation or enlargement of sanctions or a trade boycott against Zimbabwe (whether those sanctions or that boycott is untargeted or targets any individual or official, or class of individuals or officials), but whose effects indiscriminately affect the people of Zimbabwe as a whole, or any substantial section thereof, shall be guilty of willfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe…”
The clause provides penalties that include a fine not exceeding level twelve or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or both.
Other proposed penalties include termination of the citizenship of the convicted person if that person is a citizen by registration or a dual citizen, prohibition of being a registered voter for a period ranging between five and 15 years and prohibition of standing for a public office for a prescribed period.
Other amendments in the Bill include Clause 5 that seeks to amends section 174(1) of the principal Act after it was felt that the current framing of the offence of criminal abuse of office as provided was very broad in its scope in that it gives room for public officers to be prosecuted for honest mistakes made during the course of their duties.
The proposed amendment will limit the crime to include an essential element of knowledge on the part of a public official that his or her conduct was illegal.
The Bill also provides for a mandatory minimum sentence in rape and murder cases and expands the definition of “dangerous drugs”.