n his inauguration speech
on 24 November 2017 following the ouster of former
Zimbabwean leader Robert
Mugabe, President Emmerson
Mnangagwa said he would
ensure the pillars of democracy were strengthened and
respected in Zimbabwe.

At face value, these remarks
can be interpreted as a realisation that
during his 37-year hold on power,
former President Mugabe, failed to
strengthen the pillars of democracy. This
was despite the coming into existence of
the much-acclaimed 2013 Constitution
which was expected to usher in a new
democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe.
In so saying, President Mnangagwa was
on target, given that as the year came
to a close, laws such as the inaccurately
named Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), used to
license and regulate the media; the Official Secrets Act (OSA), which would
broadly embargo information held by
public bodies; and the Broadcasting
Services Act (BSA) threatening to hinder
free establishment of private radio stations, remained entrenched in the country’s statutes.
Other restrictive laws include the Public
Order and Security Act, Censorship and
Entertainment Controls Act (CECA) and
the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. These should also be viewed
against the government’s accelerated efforts to introduce the cybercrimes law,
generally perceived as designed to curb
free speech online.
The above-mentioned laws are seen as
essentially curtailing citizens’ rights to
freedom of assembly and association,


So This is Democracy? 2017

protest and petition, including the right
to freedom of conscience, as provided
for by Sections 58, 59 and 60 of the
Constitution, as well as contravening
Sections 61 and 62 which protect the
right to free expression, media freedom
and access to information.

The government
demonstrated its determination to close
the democratic space
through a slew of
threats to clamp down
on, among other repressive measures,
social media and those
who are alleged to
abuse it.
While section 62 of the Constitution
explicitly provides for the right to access public information and urges the
enactment of a requisite law to give effect to the enjoyment of this right, the
widely hindering AIPPA remains firmly
entrenched in the statutes.

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