By Staff Reporter
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have joined forces against the Patriotic Bill which the government is reportedly working on.
The Bill according to the CSOs is among other things attempting to silence and shrink the civil space, criminalise free speech and ultimately control, intimidate and stifle citizen’s democratic rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the constitution.
In a statement, the CSOs (ZESN, WoCOZ, ZimRights, MAZ and ZCTU) said the Bill is seeking to stifle the activities of CSOs.
“It is important to note that civil society in their watchdog role, raise alarm both domestically and internationally on human rights developments.
‘’Therefore, the Patriotic Bill when viewed in unison with the proposed changes to the Private Voluntary Organisations Act points to an apparent attempt to stifle the activities of CSOs, thus undermining their watchdog and agenda setting role in perpetuating national democracy, good governance, demanding accountability and independently monitoring duty bearers,” read the statement.
The civil societies organisations fear that the Patriotic Bill will be used as weapon to punish them by the government when they call it out for violating human rights.
Zanu PF government has come under international criticism in the past two decades for being brutal against its citizens during and after elections.
Journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, and artists have also been at the receiving end of government heavy handedness.
On its part, the government has defended the Bill arguing that it is meant to protect the image of the country.
Zanu PF Chief Whip in the National Assembly Pupurai Togarepi told Parliament that Zimbabwe has lost opportunities because of people who have spoken badly about the country.
The motion on the Patriotic Bill was raised in the National Assembly by the late Mberengwa South legislator Alum Mpofu.
Political watchers are of the view that the Bill is also targeted at MDC Alliance leaders such as Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti who are accused of begging for sanctions on the country.