Constitutional lawyers yesterday said Zimbabwe government’s decision to regulate possession and use of the national flag through a 1987 statutory instrument was likely to be challenged in court, as the Act supporting it was vague.
On Tuesday, Justice ministry permanent secretary, Virginia Mabhiza invoked Statutory Instrument 184 of 1987 to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of replicas of the national flag.
The move came at a time anti-government protesters were using replicas of the national flag as a symbol of national resistance against the Zanu PF regime’s alleged misrule .
But, constitutional lawyer Alex Magaisa said it was unconstitutional to limit the rights of citizens through subsidiary legislation.
“Section 134(b) of the Constitution prohibits subsidiary legislation from limiting or infringing upon rights set out in the Declaration of Rights. Since the regulations under which the government is acting limit the right to dignity, freedom of expression, right to liberty and right to protection of the law, they go beyond section 134(b) and are, therefore, unconstitutional,” he said.
“The legislation imposes more restrictions on freedom of expression than necessary to achieve the purpose of protecting the national flag. This is evident in the vagueness and ambiguity of the offences and penalties imposed under the legislation.”
Opposition People’s Democratic Party leader and lawyer, Tendai Biti concurred, saying: “I think everything must be challenged. The Attorney General’s Office is dazed at the moment.”
Biti said Mabhiza should have consulted before announcing the ban.
“Virginia ought to consult the AG’s Office before publicly making a fool of herself. For one so young, it’s a mistake to nail your mast to this regime,” he said.