Draconian laws set to sail through Parliament

Legislation includes terrorism, pricing and spying bills calculated to cripple any opposition to Zanu (PF)
HARARE - The Zimbabwean government is expected to push through parliament next week a package of controversial bills which critics say is aimed at bolstering President Robert Mugabe's grip o

n power.
Parliament reconvenes on Tuesday after a four-week break to consider legislation that includes a terrorism and spying bill that analysts say are calculated to cripple opposition to the veteran leader’s 27-year-rule and muzzle criticism over the imploding economy.
The session comes ahead of a European Union meeting in Brussels next month, which will discuss the deepening political crisis in the southern African country.
The EU is threatening to renew travel sanctions on Mugabe and his henchmen over land seizures, the drive against the media and the judiciary and Zanu (PF) supporters’ campaign of violence.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) denounced Mugabe’s government for abusing Parliament by bulldozing despotic laws aimed at preserving the incumbency of the governing party.
“The fact of the matter is that the Zanu (PF) regime is now the most racist and fascist regime,” MDC information secretary Nelson Chamisa said.
Acting Information Minister Paul Mangwana told state media at the weekend that the government would move to adopt the spying and terrorism bills “without fear or favour” and would not be deterred by criticism led by former colonial power Britain and its erstwhile ally the US.
Mangwana accused Britain and the US of double standards, saying their terrorism laws were more stringent than Zimbabwe’s, whose own legislation was based on its national constitution.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the four laws – the Interception of Communications Bill, the Suppression of Foreign and International Terrorism Bill, the National Incomes and Pricing Commission Bill and the Census and Statistics Bill would be carried over from last year.
The Interception of Communications Bill, which is currently with the Parliamentary legal committee, will give Mugabe’s government unfettered authority to monitor phones and emails sent from both land- and internet-based addresses. Mugabe claims the bill is meant to protect national security and fight crime. Under this legislation, the government will establish a communications monitoring centre which will “monitor and intercept certain communications in the course of their transmission through a telecommunication, postal or any other related service system”.
The Suppression of Foreign and International Terrorism Bill, which is set to be introduced to either House, is another proposed law in a cocktail of legal instruments that analysts say would further curtail most basic freedoms. The law will see those convicted of working to overthrow Mugabe jailed for life.
The National Incomes and Pricing Commission Bill, which has sailed past the second reading is now on the committee stage, will enable government to fix the prices of goods and commodities below the cost of producing them. Government has already been warned against enacting this law but is prodding ahead despite caution.
Critics say the Census and Statistics Bill, which will see the establishment of a parastatal which will handle official data, would enable government to manipulate inflation figures and other statistics such as unemployment levels, which in the past have embarrassed government.
Observers say the bills are draconian and have vowed to ignore them.
Zimbabwe government officials said the parliamentary session starting Tuesday would also debate the Domestic Violence Bill, the Petroleum Bill, the Judicial Services Bill and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill. Critics say this will give Mugabe sweeping powers to clamp down on the opposition as he faces the biggest threat of a civil disobedience campaign over the 2010 poll plan.
The government says the bill is aimed at consolidating law-and-order legislation and has nothing to do with elections.
Parliament is also due to consider portfolio committee reports on Education Sport and Culture, and also the report on the Foreign Affairs, Industry and International Trade over the Ziscosteel scandal. The privileges committee is also set to open the impeachment of Industry minister Obert Mpofu on allegations for lying to Parliament about the pillaging at Ziscosteel. – Own correspondent

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