The warning by the European Union (EU) to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government over the crafting of repressive laws is quite instructive particularly at a time when the government is seeking re-engagement with the West.
The call is coming at a time when the Zanu PF leader, who is angling for imperial powers, has signed in record time the contentious Constitutional Amendment No 2 Bill into law, to strengthen his hold on power.
In his belated address in commemoration of the 2021 World Press Freedom Day organised by Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe in Harare, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen said some of the proposed constitutional amendments had eroded the progress that the country had made so far in terms of guaranteeing citizens’ freedoms.
As Olkkonen observed, the reform agenda should adopt a holistic approach than a fragmented approach so that the gains made under one law might not be eroded under another.
These remarks by the EU representative clearly spell out the areas Mnangagwa’s administration need to work on if the re-engagement drive is to bear any fruit.
Indeed, paying heed to not only these concerns but Zimbabwean citizens will be more beneficial than the futile exercise of splashing millions of dollars in scarce foreign currency to foreign public relations firms to lobby for re-engagement.
It is also far more constructive than engineering the setting up of pseudo opposition parties such as the Judiciary-engineered MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora to give a false impression of democracy.
The drive for re-engagement will be further imperilled by the introduction of the Patriotic Bill. The Patriotic Bill prohibits Zimbabwean citizens from wilfully communicating messages deemed as intended to harm the image and reputation of the country on international platforms, or engaging with foreign countries with the intention of communicating messages intended to undermine its integrity and reputation.
We do not hold any brief for any political actor in this country or elsewhere — governing Zanu PF or all opposition parties — existing or defunct.
However, the sinister motives of the Patriotic Bill, which include elbowing MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa out of contention in future elections due to being “unpatriotic” have been exposed by Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi.
Olkkonen has warned as much over the regressive Bill.
It is only normal that the EU is concerned about the proposed Patriotic Bill. We agree that there is need for a holistic approach in looking at all the legislation and see what its effects on political liberties and freedom of speech are.
Yet, the President has waxed lyrical about intensifying the re-engagement drive and coming back to “the table of nations”.
Listening and paying heed to the concerns of not only the EU but the generality of Zimbabwean citizens, will be a huge step towards achieving that. The ball is in Mnangagwa’s court.