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Zimbabwe looks to criminalise meetings with other countries

The Patriot Bill, if enacted, will impose heavy jail terms on those convicted, but critics say it will be used to silence dissent.

Zimbabwean flag. Picture: Supplied.

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s government wants to bring in a new law to make it a criminal offence for citizens to hold meetings with foreign governments without state approval.

The Patriot Bill, if enacted, will impose heavy jail terms on those convicted, but critics say it will be used to silence dissent.

Top parliamentary affairs ministry official, Virginia Mabhiza, has told the state-run _Sunday Mail _that parts of the new bill have been drafted and will be presented to cabinet. She says private citizens shouldn’t be meeting with foreign governments.

Some will read that as a reference to when Tendai Biti of the MDC Alliance and Dewa Mavhinga of Human Rights Watch appeared before the US Senate’s committee on foreign relations shortly after the ouster of Robert Mugabe in 2017.

With the opposition threatened by infighting and the governing party under heavy international criticism, the MDC Alliance says the proposed new law will threaten Zimbabwe’s already-fragile democratic space.

Timeline