EU against Zimbabwe’s own Patriot Act

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HARARE – The European Union (EU) says it is concerned about laws that Zimbabwe is crafting that will further restrict freedom of expression. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is pushing for the amendment of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO), which civil society organisations argue is aimed at restricting their operations.

The government is also considering a new law to punish “unpatriotic” Zimbabweans. Timo Olkkonen, the EU head of delegation in Zimbabwe, told Europe Day celebrations in Harare on Friday that the proposed PVO Act amendments were worrying.

“The consequences of the PVO Bill on the operational space of the civil society is of particular acute concern,” Olkkonen.

“We also fail to see the need for a Patriotic Act to restrict freedom of speech.”

The government claims the PVO Act is being amended to stem terrorism financing while the proposed Patriotic Act is meant to stop Zimbabweans from lobbying for sanctions against the country. Olkkonen said the EU was also following closely Zimbabwe’s preparations for next year’s elections.

“Another issue we are following closely, and also supporting through our development cooperation, are the preparations for the 2023 general elections,” he said.

“There will be a follow up to the EU Electoral Observation Mission from 2018 to assess the status of the recommendations made in 2018.

“Recommendations of electoral observation missions together with those of the Motlantle Commission provide a useful tool in looking at where we are in terms of political reforms in Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa has been lobbying for improved relations between the EU and Zimbabwe since coming into power after the 2017 coup, but he has been accused of failing to deliver on promises of swift political and economic reforms.

The EU has been loosening its targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe, but continues to speak against human rights violations and lack of political reforms.

[The Standard]

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