NYANGA South legislator Supa Mandiwanzira has demanded that Government must “categorically” deal with the “misinformation and propaganda” by the UK House of Lords which this week accused Zimbabwe of persecuting journalists and political activists.
Debating in the UK House of Lords on Tuesday (See FULL DEBATE HERE), Lord Anthony St John said Zimbabwe had passed a law that made it criminal to criticise the President.
“Is the Minister (of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) aware that last week the Zimbabwe cabinet signed off on the Patriot Bill, which would make it a criminal offence for anyone to criticise President Mnangagwa and for any member of the opposition to speak to any foreign Government in a negative way about Zimbabwe?
“At a time when Zimbabwe is considering rejoining the Commonwealth, can the Minister make it clear that our Government will support this only when the rule of law is restored and freedom of speech and political freedoms are protected?” Anthony St John said.
Mandiwanzira in Parliament yesterday expressed concern over British propaganda which he said was now trending on social media platforms. The former ICT Minister, a trained journalist, said he was concerned “about the misinformation, propaganda and misinformed positions taken by parliamentarians in the House of Lords”.
The former Cabinet Minister said the British messages were “already doing significant rounds on social media” and demanded a strong response by Justice Minister Ziyambi and the Government.
“I would like the Hon. Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to state categorically that when this Parliament makes laws, they cannot be determined to be not lawful. Can the Minister (Ziyambi) please categorically state for the audience here, the recipients of that message, that in fact we make lawful laws in this House?”
Ziyambi said the members of the UK House of Lords were perhaps “ignorant as regards our law making process”, noting that Zimbabwe would continue making laws to protect its interests.
“We are looking into crimes against the State and ensuring that we amend our Criminal Code to include a crime where somebody lobbies for sanctions to be effected against his own country,” Ziyambi said.
“We believe that all patriotic Zimbabweans must not lobby for the suffering of Zimbabweans. We believe that is illegal, because the only organ that can impose sanctions is the United Nations.
“Therefore, when we put our laws to protect our sovereignty to ensure that we insulate ourselves from foreign attacks.”
On Tuesday in the UK House of Lords, Tariq Mahmood Ahmad, UK Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said that the political situation in Zimbabwe remained a source of concern for the UK Government.
“My Lords, the UK remains concerned about the political situation in Zimbabwe,” Ahmad said in response to questions about what London was doing to solve the crisis in its former colony.
“We regularly urge the Zimbabwean government to live up to their own constitution by ensuring that the opposition, civil society and journalists are allowed to operate without harassment, and that due legal process is respected.”
Lord Ahmad said the UK was lobbying Zimbabwe’s neighbours, such as South Africa, to lean on President Mnangagwa’s regime to end the human rights abuses.
“In this regard, we have engaged directly at the highest level with the South African government and we continue to engage with other regional partners, as well as regional associations, including the African Union, on this priority,” he said.
In its Human Rights Priority Countries’ ministerial statement for the period January to June 2021 published on Tuesday, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office said Zimbabwe remains a major source of concern.
“We remain concerned by the human rights situation in Zimbabwe with no notable improvement between January and June 2021,” the report says.
“We continue to be concerned by the pattern of harassment of prominent opposition and civil society figures, as well as journalists.
“We were yet to see accountability for the abduction and multiple arrests of opposition MDC Alliance members Joana Mamombe MP, Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, as well as the repeated arrest of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.”