President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet has approved a law that criminalises “unauthorised communication by private citizens with foreign governments.”
Speaking at the post cabinet briefing held at government office, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the amendments will criminalise the conduct of isolated citizens or groups who, for self-gain co-operate or connive with hostile foreign governments to inflict suffering on Zimbabwean citizens and to cause damage to national interests.
Mutsvangwa said the cabinet had noted that the current law does not criminalise the unauthorized communication or negotiation by private citizens with foreign governments.
“Other actions that will become punishable include planned and timed protests deliberately designed to coincide with major international, continental or regional events or visits.
“Such communication or negotiation has a direct or indirect implication on Zimbabwe’s foreign relations and policy,” Cabinet said in its post briefing statement.
“According to the Constitution, the foreign policy of Zimbabwe 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.
“In addition, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) only recognizes States as legitimate players in foreign relations and negotiations. Private players thus have no business in foreign relations and negotiations between countries.
“The individuals or groups involve themselves in issues of foreign relations without verifying facts or engaging domestic authorities. 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 government, and amendments will crimilise such conduct,” Mutsvangwa said.
This comes barely a month after a campaign, the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter was trending on social media forcing advocacy networks to mount pressure on Mnangagwa’s under-fire administration to end human rights abuses.
The campaign was not popular with the Zanu PF leaders.