Patriotic Bill: We no longer have freedom of speech and freedom of association #StopThePatrioticBill
*HON. SEN. KOMICHI: Thank you Mr. President for affording me this opportunity. I also want to thank the Minister for this Bill. I see as if, in an attempt to try and want to correct anomalies, we might bring things that will hurt the citizens of the country. For one to come up with such an offence, we need to interrogate and say why would one be talking to strangers because in English, they say it takes two to tango. What it means is that, that person and the State have equal responsibilities to ensure that there is no disagreement, injury to the country; the sanctions that were imposed to this country is a bad thing but what caused the imposition of such sanctions? The people of Zimbabwe and the State are to blame or were responsible because the State should not expect that if one is assaulted they should keep quiet.
A person by nature, once assaulted, they will express pain. When pain is being expressed, it has no boundary. You cannot then cry out loudly to a certain extend. You can do anything because you have been hurt. There is someone who told me that if you assault your wife in your home, she will cry out loudly; if neighbours hear the cry, when they come to help your wife, they will not knock at your door. They will budge in to serve the life of your wife. The person who is going to rescue your wife will be embraced by your wife. It does not mean that they are in love but your wife is only seeking protection because as a husband or as a wife, you would have wronged your spouse.
There are things that we know, whether it is a black, white or light skinned person, human rights issues have always been there. Even in our culture, we always have human rights. We have always had fair and just manner of dealing with cases. A chief would be described as being cruel, or humane or a good chief, depending on how he handles issues. There are such qualities of which people appreciate how issues are dealt with. If those that are in power are now dispensing justice in a different manner from the one that is expected by the citizens, then people will cry out loud. Therefore, leaders should know how to dispense justice.
Once every five years we go for elections. I do not believe that we would ululate if people were to assault each other; if homesteads were to be burnt and people are going to be assaulted. We will not ululate for that. This law that we should not fight against each other, did not come from the whites. It is part and parcel of African culture. We live in harmony as Africans. Even in our communities, we value and respect lives of human beings. We respect peace and all those rights are within our cultures as black people. We should not do what is contrary to what we are talking about here because that is when we give those that you blame for taking measures against our country, the whites take advantage of what will be happening between us. Let us make sure that when we go for an election – because our elections are a centre of conflict, we conduct these elections freely and fairly and that they are credible. We must treat each other in the manner that you would also want to be treated.
Let us take the forthcoming plebiscites in August as an example, that no-one is going to assault anyone. No-one is going to insult anyone as we go into this election. We would want to see if those that talk about these laws that are infringed upon us will do it.
This law seeks to remove the rights to freedom of speech that is enshrined in our Constitution as well as our freedom of association. We are in a global village, we have exchange relationships. This law is oppressive. The right of expression is important to a person that if you think of something and you do not say it out, you can do anything. The things that we are trying to control or suppress; you end up doing that.
A few days ago, there was a case that emerged from the courts. A person wrote on twitter that people should go and demonstrate against corruption. It was an expression of opinion but the courts said he was in the wrong and he was sentenced to three years in prison. How then are the people going to express themselves, more so if you come up with this law, the people will be smiling at you but they would be afraid. They would not be free.
The problem however, is what causes people to get to this point of asking for interference or supervision from foreigners. It is because we are using their systems. The systems that they put in place. They are the ones that came up with elections and set up their standards. So they want to check their standards. The solution lies in that we should come up with our own Afrocentric way of doing things. Let us develop our local systems which have nothing to do with them like what China did. So once every 10 years when there is a change of guards, no one interferes.
With ours, there is interference because we are using their standards, and their systems. As Africans and Zimbabweans, we also encourage that we sit down and put our heads together so that we attend to these issues. The system that we have when we go for elections is the scotched-earth policy. If I lose out, then you will see what will happen to you, but yet there are other means that we can use to come up with that are Afrocentric. This system of no win-win solution should not be encouraged at all. This is the system that causes evil.
Let us come out with things that are suitable for Africa. No one will want sanctions. No one can survive when we have sanctions. Let us have laws that are friendly, laws that do not infringe on us, laws that will enable people that are going to elections to be free and not laws that induce fear into the people. That is my request.
This is not necessary 40 years down the line after the war of liberation. We should be at a stage where we should be happy, but we are now enemies, children of one father, one person. We may have diverse political persuasions but we are one as Zimbabweans and Zimbabwe is the only country that we have. Let us sit down and collectively come up with ways to ensure that this country succeeds or develops.
It is hurting us today. Are we, as blacks, failing to sit down and come up with solutions? This law that we want to put in place shows that we have failed. It shows that enmity amongst us has grown to greater heights because the ones that you are talking about feel threatened and once this person has been threatened, what are they supposed to say? They will say we are about to die here. We no longer have freedom of speech and freedom of association. Whatever it is that we will be trying to solve will not be solved. The State should be responsible.
That is my clarion call so that the citizens also become responsible. If the State is irresponsible, the citizens are also going to be irresponsible. Human nature by itself tends to feel oppressed and the nature of the human being will always react one way or the other. So we need to be careful and the State together with citizens should be responsible. I thank you