New law to criminalise conniving with hostile foreign countries on cards
Harare (New Ziana) – Private citizens and groups who negotiate with hostile foreign governments to the detriment of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy will be liable to prosecution under proposed amendments to the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Cabinet had at its Tuesday meeting approved the proposed amendments.
“Cabinet noted that the current law does not criminalise the unauthorised communication or negotiation by private citizens with foreign governments if such communication or negotiation has a direct or indirect implication on Zimbabwe’s foreign relations and policy,” she said.
“According to the Constitution (of Zimbabwe), the foreign policy of Zimbabwe must be based on the promotion and protection of the national interests of Zimbabwe, respect for international law, peaceful co-existence with other nations and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.
“In addition the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations of 1961 only recognises states as legitimate players in foreign relations and negotiations, private players thus have no business in foreign relations and negotiations between countries.”
She added:“The amendments will criminalise the conduct of isolated citizens or groups who, for self-gain, cooperate or connive with hostile foreign governments to inflict suffering on Zimbabwean citizens and to cause damage to the national interest. Individuals or groups who involve themselves in issues of foreign relations without verifying facts or engaging domestic authorities, such wilful misinformation of foreign governments will therefore make the individuals or groups liable for prosecution.”
Mutsvangwa said the amendments also sought to punish organisers of protests deliberately timed and designed to coincide with major international, continental or regional events or visits.
“There are also various unsubstantiated claims of torture and abductions that are concocted to tarnish the image of government and these amendments will criminalise such conduct,” she said.
Attorney General Advocate Prince Machaya weighed in saying the amendments were also intended to cover gaps within the existing laws.
Asked if the amendments were not retrogressive, Machaya said: “I do not understand how the crafting of laws that are consistent with our own Constitution and consistent with international law is retrogressive.”
The new amendments are in line with international trends with countries such as the United States of America having enacted such laws centuries ago.
The United States enacted the Logan Act in 1799, a federal law that criminalises negotiation by unauthorised American citizens with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States.
The intent behind the Act is to prevent unauthorised negotiations from undermining the government’s position and its violation is a felony.