US Eyes the 23 August Election

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Staff Reporter

The signing of the ‘Patriotic Bill’ into an Act by the President is a grave attack on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, the United States of America has said.

The enactment of the Bill is stronger evidence that the Zimbabwean authorities are bent on further shrinking civic space and silencing dissent ahead of the 23 August 2023 harmonised election.

According to Human Rights Watch, there are several challenges facing Zimbabwe’s political opposition ahead of the election. The criminal justice system has been turned into a weapon by the government against the opposition to the governing party. Administration critics and members of civil society have raised grave concerns that the administration plans to exploit the Private Voluntary Organisations Act and other legislation to criminalise their actions in the run-up to the election.

The Criminal Law Codification and Reform Amendment Bill 2022, sometimes referred to as the “Patriotic Bill,” went into force in July and contains overbroad provisions that violate the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.

U.S. Department of State, Assistant Secretary Molly Phee said, the US has seen a fact pattern over recent months that suggests that a free and fair election is in doubt, despite President Mnangagwa, call to hold free and fair elections that would promote peace and prosperity in Zimbabwe.

“The new legislation called the Patriotic Act was adopted, and in fact, that legislation imposes restrictions on basic political freedoms agreed in Zimbabwe’s constitution, and African Union protocols and in UN protocols,” said

These restrictions include freedom of assembly that allows citizens and political parties to meet and prepare to engage in an election process, and it also includes restrictions on speech and expression both by citizens, political parties, and journalists.

“We’ve also seen opposition political parties and citizens actively harassed and prevented from exercising their political freedoms that should be guaranteed by regimes under the Zimbabwean constitution, and as expressed by the African Union and the United Nations,” said the US.

According to Human Rights Watch, Zimbabwean authorities should take all necessary measures to guarantee that Zimbabwe police behave impartially and apolitically with regard to the election and the activities of all political parties. Additionally, they should make sure that any police or other authorities proven to have violated human rights are held accountable.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared in April that only observers from “friendly nations” will be permitted to watch the polls. Since then, authorization has been given for the European Union and a combined AU-Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa mission to observe the elections. There are worries that election-related abuses and criminal practices would continue unchecked since monitors might not be permitted access to all regions of the nation.

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