November 22, 2001

ZIMBABWE: New Bill Against „Terrorism“

In its latest crackdown against the opposition, the Zimbabwean government said it planned to introduce severe new legislation, which includes provision for the death penalty, to curb subversion and terrorism.

President Robert Mugabe's latest plan comes three days after he vowed to crush the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Describing opposition work as „terrorist activities“, the government said the new bill would legislate the hanging of those found guilty of trying to overthrow the government. The new legislation, the Public Order and Security Bill, follows Tuesday's ruling by the Supreme Court dismissing terrorism charges against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, brought by the government under the colonial-era Law and Order (Maintenance) Act.

The government was expected to introduce the new bill to parliament as soon as possible. It will punish people and organisations, including the media, who communicate false statements about the state, incite public disorder and violence, undermine the country's defence and security and negatively affect the nation's economic interests. The bill also makes it an offence to undermine the president's authority by making public statements or publishing remarks causing hostility towards him.

Meantime a European Union delegation said it had failed to hold constructive talks with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, and that its relations with the country had reached a „critical point“. This said Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, who headed the EU team. In the beginning of November, EU foreign ministers agreed to invoke Article 96 of the Cotonou agreement that governs relations between the European Union and its African, Caribbean and Pacific partners. The move meant that the 15-nation EU was to formally ask Zimbabwe to discuss such issues as land reform, ending political violence, ensuring press freedom and judicial independence, and allowing election observers at next year's presidential poll. (Business Day)

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