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Ziyambi, Machaya defend Patriot Act

by Staff reporter
14 Nov 2023 at 04:52hrs | Views
JUSTICE minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and Attorney-General Prince Machaya, have came out in defence of the controversial Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Act saying it does not violate human rights and people's freedoms.

Ziyambi and Machaya spoke strongly in favour of the law in their opposing affidavit against last week's High Court application by a human rights activist seeking the scrapping off of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Act from the country's statutes.

The application was filed by United States-based Zimbabwean activist and technology entrepreneur, Freeman Chari.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, commonly referred to as the Patriot Bill, into law in July this year.

The revised law provides for such severe penalties as 20 years in jail and revocation of citizenship for those charged with damaging the country's interests.

It also stipulates the execution of any person found to have advocated for international sanctions which harm the country or its people.

The Bill was widely condemned, but sailed through the Zanu-PF-dominated National Assembly and Senate, paving way for Mnangagwa to append his signature.

Chari said the law was vague and undemocratic.

In their opposing affidavit, Machaya said there was nothing wrong with the law

"I do, however, deny that section 22A(2)(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (hereinafter referred to as the Criminal Code) is unconstitutional, vague and violates sections 61 and 67 of the Constitution," Machaya said.

"The conduct that constitutes the offence in section 22A(b) of the Criminal Code is couched with sufficient clarity to enable citizens to regulate their conduct accordingly.

"What applicant takes issue with is that all words which establish the offence, namely, "subverting, upsetting, overthrowing or overturning" the constitutional government in Zimbabwe have not been defined,"

"I aver that this is not always necessary for the legislature to do at all times.

"Where a definition has not been provided, the tenets of interpretation require that one looks at the ordinary meaning of the words in question in relation to the crime sought to be established," read the opposing affidavit.

Machaya said the law did not criminalise criticism of the government as alleged by Chari.

"Criticising or challenging a government is not what is prohibited under the impugned section; otherwise the legislature would have used words like "criticise" or "challenge" etc," he said.

"The kind of behaviour that is criminalised under section 22A (20) (b) goes beyond the normally accepted methods of removing or changing a constitutional government."

"It is, as I have said earlier, a species of treason as it is not the normal critical behaviour expected in a democratic society, such as demonstrating against a government or criticising it in any way."

Machaya added: "Section 22(2)(b) of the Criminal Code is very clear and precise and does not in any way violate political rights and the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media as encapsulated under section 61 and 67 of the Constitution.

Opposition and human rights groups have been calling on Mnangagwa to repeal the Act, arguing that the new law is evidence that Zimbabwean authorities are bent on closing civic space as well as suppressing all forms of dissent.

Zanu-PF activists have defended the law as necessary to punish citizens bent on pushing a regime change agenda in cahoots with the West.

Under Mnangagwa, the democratic space has been shut down through controversial laws.

Source - newsday