Does the Patriotic Bill put a final nail on the coffin of democracy in Zimbabwe?
The Zimbabwe parliament, dominated by ZANU-PF party, on 31 March 2023 passed the Criminal Code Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill 2022, or Patriotic Bill. The Bill broadly criminalizes actions deemed to “willfully damage the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”. These include, among other offenses, planning state boycotts, sanctions, or any acts deemed as ‘subversion’ of the state. Penalties for these transgressions include deprivation of citizenship and possibility of the death penalty, which the government had previously committed to repealing (REF).
Moments after the Bill was passed, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), primary opposition party tweeted “Democracy is in distress as a report from Parliament confirms that the Patriotic Bill, which is considered unlawful and perilous, has been approved after amending the Criminal Code”.
The passing of this Patriotic bill is a move to close democratic space whilst strengthening authoritarianism, particularly as the country heads into general elections slated for 23 August 2023. The primary opposition political party, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), will work in a very difficult electoral context if this bill is passed into law because it sticks the odds against them.
With 43 years of one party in power, having been fused with the state, the current happenings are indications that the party in power is ready to use all the tools at their disposal to deny Zimbabweans full enjoyment of their civil and political rights which among others include freedom of association and assembly and freedom of opinion and expression.
This bill as is, puts the final nail in the coffin of democracy in Zimbabwe.