The Bill, gazetted on December 23, 2022, seeks to amend the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23], has four clauses, three of which have been described as progressive excluding Clause 2.
Clause 3 will amend Section 65 of the Principal Act to make 15 years the minimum required punishment for rape, in response to the rise in horrendous crimes of sexual violence and rape.
Clause 4 proposes to amend Section 155 of the main Act’s definition of dangerous drugs to include prepared opium, prepared cannabis resin, and a drug schedule.
It also includes a description of industrial hemp, as Zimbabwe is dealing with a significant drug problem.
Clause 5 proposes to amend Section 174 of the main Act as the existing definition of criminal abuse of office, as provided for in Section 174 (i), is fairly broad, allowing public officials to be charged for honest mistakes made while doing their duties.
As a result, the amendment will narrow the offence to include the essential elements of a public official’s knowledge that his or her behaviour was illegal.
Clause 2, which introduces the Patriotic Clause in Section 22 (a) of the main Act, is the one problematic.
“I have a big problem with this clause. The first one is that it tries to reduce the definition of patriotism into a political discourse. Patriotism must never be reduced into a political discourse where if I do not agree with this certain political perspective, then I am seen as an unpatriotic person. This is ridiculous. It is manifestly unconstitutional,” said Daniel Molokele while debating the bill.
Warren Park MP, Shakespeare Hamauswa said it would be a “shame” if this bill would be passed because it is not well thought out.
“It is focused on emotive issues which need to be dealt with through other means, not through legislation,” he said.
“One’s love for his own country cannot be legislated. It is something that needs to be engendered by the Government. It is something that needs to be inculcated. If you want people to love their country, there are things that the Government should put in place. One should be prepared to defend the interest of his country, not something that we say you should not speak against the ills of your country. If there are governance ills, the citizens of Zimbabwe should be able to say this is wrong.”
Dzivarasekwa MP, Edwin Mushoriwa said this Bill turns to stifle democratic space for Zimbabweans.
“ It is wrong, in my view, to smuggle in and try to criminalise anybody that does not share the same view with you. If you see this Bill talks about who controls the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mushoriwa said if the Bill was passed “no-one will be safe.”
“This law may actually have been put hoping to punish people from this side but if we go to the elections and as the indication is clearly indicating, we take the power in this country then members of this other side will actually face this same law, I do not think it will be to the best interest of Zimbabwe,” he stated.
However, Zanu PF MPs such as Dexter Nduna said the issue of patriotism increases workability and also the productivity of a workforce and workmanship.
“If you are not patriotic, you will always be in the streets trying to go against either your employer and/or either trying to have sloganeering against workability and productivity. So patriotism keeps workers in the factory and increases productivity and workability,” he said.
“It is my thinking that there is also a higher level of independence from other countries. If you are not patriotic, you will always be looking for solutions from other countries.”
Buhera MP, Joseph Chinotimba acknowledged that this Bill “may hurt other people but said it was noble, with good intentions.”
“The Bill encourages us to be patriotic about our country irrespective of our party affiliations. Even if Mr. Chamisa were to rule this country, it would not be proper for anyone to go around the world saying bad things about the President. This Bill is not meant to curtail the existence of political parties but it is there to encourage the people of Zimbabwe to love their country and stop denouncing it,” he said.
Gokwe/Chireya MP, Tonderai Moyo said he found this Bill very progressive because patriotism and nationalism are very important, especially in nation-building.
“The Patriotic Bill is very important and also not new to Zimbabwe. In the United States of America, they came up with the United States Patriotic Act in 1917 and the Act is still there. The current President of the United States of America, Joe Biden supports this Act and every Senator in the United States of America voted in favour of the Bill which led to this Act,” he said.