Here is what Senator Phugeni said about Patriotic Bill #StopThePatrioticBill
Senator Khaliphani Phugeni (Bulawayo): I am, however, not proud Hon. Minister on the Patriotic Bill. I call it unpatriotic Bill. This is because we did go through this yesterday and I do not want to debate what we did yesterday, but there is a danger here of penalising political speech. My colleague here has just taken us to an instance where a very known figure in this country tweeted ‘Let us go and protest’, and he has been taken to prison for three years, for a tweet that says let us go and protest.
Part of the clauses in the Bill said that even if it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the speech or the contribution of the accused person did not cause sanctions in this country, it says that is not defence enough or that does not constitute a defence. What type of a law is that? What type of a law that shifts the burden of proof to an accused person? The burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt must always rest with the accuser. If it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that whatever I say did not bring sanctions to anyone or the country, how can that not be defence?
This Bill is not sensible. I would think that we want to stop foreigners interfering in a manner that punishes the country and its developmental goals. After you presented this Bill in the National Assembly, the House of Commons had already discussed the Bill and they had already challenged their foreign secretary to do something and not only with regards to Zimbabwe but to put pressure to our neighbouring states to do something about Zimbabwe.
I am saying this Bill is having a complete opposite of what we want to achieve. We are trying to be part of the Commonwealth, we are trying to be part of the International Community of Nations but this is not the way to go about it. In case there is any doubt, I am against sanctions. I think they do not work because the people who are sanctioned seem to live their lives largely. If you go out here and look, there is only one party which has got cars leading up to this election. The Opposition does not have cars and largely because there are sanctions in this country.
The people who are sanctioned are able to go on with their lives, accessing medical health outside the country and can be involved in economic activities. The ones who are supposedly calling for the sanctions are the ones who are sanctioned. No doubt, I do not support it. I have travelled around embassies telling them that these sanctions take them away because if anything now, they are an excuse for the ruling elite not to perform.
This Bill is no way to go about it – we will not remove sanctions by this Bill. If anything, we are making our lives difficult. Of course, I have already said that the ruling elite are not affected by the sanctions, but if this action brings more sanctions to us, brings isolation, the very people who are unfairly carrying the blunt of sanctions now are going to be worse off. I thank you Mr. President.