By Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare
As the Civil society organisation that proposed the #PatrioticAct, in a series of proposals to the government, today, our organization is proud to see the enactment of the law, to punish those who sabotage the country’s sovereignty, dignity, independence and national interests.
In two ZUAUWS proposals titled War Of The Minds, sent to a prominent government official on the 19th of June 2019, and Murenga Rising anti-sanctions proposal of 11 November 2019, sent to various government stakeholders; we advised the government to create and enact laws similar to the United State’s Logan Act and USA PATRIOTIC ACT, in order to empower the government to arrest citizens who commit treason, call for sanctions on Zimbabwe and sabotage the country.
What Was The Intention?
The law was intended to create a legal instrument that the government could use to punish treason and sabotage of the country by citizens. In turn, it would be a deterrent against citizens sabotaging the government by going to enemies of the state and foreign governments, to ask for illegal [unilateral] sanctions to be imposed upon innocent civilians, in an effort to weaponize them into overthrowing their government.
Not only was the proposal inspired by the Logan Act and the US PATRIOT ACT, but it was also informed by two other U.S. laws: FARA or Foreign Agents Reporting Act, which requires all U.S. lobbyists to get permission from their government, to lobby for foreign governments in Washington.
Thus, on the back of this law, in 2013, Gregory Turner and Prince Asiel Ben Israel, both U.S. citizens, were arrested and charged by the U.S. government for lobbying against U.S sanctions for the Zimbabwean government without a license from their government.
Another law was the Anti-Communist Act, which seeks to prevent U.S. citizens from cooperating or working against U.S. national interests, with enemies of the U.S. government (in particular Russia and other communist states).
Our proposition further encouraged the Zimbabwean government to create the law as a hybrid of the above U.S. laws and then to dub the law the Patriotic Act.
Act Title and Constitution.
The title was meant as a reminder to Zimbabweans, that Chapter 3 of our constitution -on Citizenship and what constitutes a Zimbabwean citizen- Section 35 talks about the duties of a Zimbabwean citizen which starts with point 4(a) stating that every Zimbabwean must be loyal to Zimbabwe.
Point 4(d) of the same section, then goes further to say that every Zimbabwean must defend the country to the best of their ability. But all this does not expose the intent of the lawmakers until you read Section 39 on the “Revocation Of Citizenship by registration”, where point (b), outlines that citizenship by registration can be revoked when “a citizen during a war in which Zimbabwe was engaged, the person concerned unlawfully traded or communicated with an enemy or was engaged in or associated with any business that was knowingly carried on so as to assist an enemy in that war”.
It’s clear from reading that Chapter that the drafters of our constitution intended for Zimbabweans to be loyal and patriotic to their country, and not to aid foreign enemies in a fight against their nation.
In drafting our proposals to the government, ZUAUWS directors felt that many Zimbabweans were collaborating with enemies of the state in the illegal economic warfare that Zimbabwe is facing.
But what is particularly interesting is, when the opposition (which has a number of lawyers who were party to creating our constitution) was in power, they were reticent to call for sanctions upon a Government of National Unity they were part of, but the moment they were voted out of government in 2013, they began to advocate vociferously for illegal sanctions.
This betrays a conscious and intentional contravention of Chapter 3, Section 35, 4(a), 4(b) and section 39, 1(b) to sabotage progress in the country.
As a result, the nation needed laws to enjoin Zimbabweans to uphold their citizen duties by prohibiting them from decampaigning the country and collaborating with enemies of the state to create division, cause civil unrest and Arab Spring-style protests against the government in an effort to facilitate NATO intervention and regime change.
Is The Law Good?
It would seem from the public announcements on the new law, that the government has taken full cognizance of all the issues that we felt were relevant to consider in maintaining national sovereignty, the legitimacy of the government, the integrity of the nation, the dignity of its people and reminding citizens of their duties. We are yet to read through the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) amendment to determine how well the laws have been drafted.
Over the past few years, the Patriotic Bill has faced a number of hurdles as it was debated in the Zimbabwean parliament. In a telephonic meeting with the Minister of Justice, Ziyambi Ziyambi, on the 6th of September 2020, in which we discussed how Zimbabwe could avoid a Financial Action Taskforce blacklisting, he intimated that the Patriotic Bill had been proposed by an official who passed it off as his own.
Nonetheless, the Minister was happy to know the origins of the bill were from someone who was now taking him through the FATF greylisting, which he was not aware of.
He then gave us (myself and a third party) the assurance that the Patriotic Act would be enacted by February 2021. Albeit, as the Zimbabwe parliament and political parties, debated and interrogated the bill, the legislatures of the United States and the United Kingdom, launched scathing campaigns in their houses, to disparage the bill as a draconian law tailored to suppress the opposition and free expression.
These comments by the United States and the United Kingdom were aimed at interfering with the legislative process in Zimbabwe, through the demonization of this law.
Accordingly, this interference, alongside the coercion of sanctions on Zimbabwe (for purported suppression of human rights freedoms), the law to fail to pass in February 2021 as promised. Instead, it’s now coming out a year and ten months later, having shed the title Patriotic Act and it is now part of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill.
The changing of the name of this law and the amount of time taken to bring it into effect because of the meddling of the Americans and the British is yet another example of how unilateral sanctions on Zimbabwe are a hindrance to democracy in Zimbabwe, as our lawmaking is constantly influenced by sanctions sender nations and not the citizens of Zimbabwe.
In essence, this means that Zimbabwe is not free to craft its own laws that are driven by the demands of the Zimbabwean people and the pressure of civil society groups that are pro-Zimbabwean. Only laws pushed by civil society that is opposed to the government of Zimbabwe, seem to be acceptable to our sanctions senders and not those of pro-Zimbabwean groups.
For this same reason, the U.S. government issued a US $5 million tender in July 2020, to aid anti-Zimbabwean civil society organizations to push the Zimbabwean government to draft separate LGBTQ, child and women rights laws, despite the protections offered to all groups in our constitution.
The same pressure that was put on the government of Zimbabwe, to stop it from enacting the Patriotic Act, is the same pressure that is being levied on them now to influence our legal case in South Africa against U.S. and South African banks.
In this case, the United States and South African governments, summoned our ambassadors to explain whether we (ZASM) were being sent by our government to sue their institutions. This kind of demarcation is something our government has never done when American or South African citizens or organizations sue our government.
And even though we have no mandate from the government, our ministries, eager to distance themselves from us, are reluctant to give us evidence and public information, to prove how South African and U.S. banks are instituting illegal sanctions without trial upon Zimbabweans.
Once again, this is an infringement of pro-Zimbabwean civic rights by the coercion of western sanctions and diplomatic bullying.
However, here is where our government lost the plot. As we stated above, in proposing the Patriotic Act, we deliberately benchmarked it against U.S. laws designed to protect U.S national interest.
So, the point our own government and parliament should have driven was the fact that if a “leading democracy” like the United States, needs best practice laws like the Logan Act, FARA, Anti-communist Act and USA PATRIOTIC ACT to protect its national interest, why would Zimbabwe emulating and making the same laws for the same reason, be draconian when they are not draconian when implemented by the United States?
Notwithstanding, the newly enacted law is a testament to how active citizens can make huge contributions to the policies of a nation, without occupying the political positions.
Suffice to say, it must also be acknowledged that this is only happening because the Mnangagwa government is a listening government (even though many ministers in his government steal ideas and never acknowledge the originators), which is quite a departure from the Mugabe government that sought to stifle good ideas.
By Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare the Chairman of ZASM and ZUAUWS.