GOVERNMENT has invoked Statutory Instrument 184 of 1987 to ban the commercial production, sale or any abuse of the national flag, as it clamps down on protesters, who of late, had resorted to draping themselves with replica copies of the flag to register their displeasure against President Robert Mugabe’s alleged misrule.In a statement yesterday, Justice ministry permanent secretary Virginia Mabiza said the offence attracted a fine of $200 or a jail term not exceeding one year or both.
“The manufacture, sale and use of the national flag is governed by the Flag of Zimbabwe Act (Chapter 10:10) and the regulations made in terms of the Act, namely the Flag of Zimbabwe (Use and Application of Flag) Regulations, 1987, Statutory Instrument 194 of 1987,” Mabiza said.
“The Act makes it a criminal offence for any person to burn, mutilate or otherwise insult the national flag or any reproduction thereof, in circumstances which are calculated or likely to show disrespect for the national flag or to bring the national flag into disrepute.
“The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, as the administrative authority in charge of the national flag, is concerned with the increasing incidents whereby members of the public have been using the national flag in a manner that is prohibited by the Constitution and the relevant Act of Parliament and regulations. As such, the ministry wishes to draw the attention of the public to the existence of legislation governing the use of the national flag.”
The latest move by the Zanu PF government comes at a time anti-government protesters have rallied behind exiled cleric Evan Mawarire’s #ThisFlag campaign for good governance.
Mawarire launched the campaign in July this year, leading to his arrest after he led a national shutdown. He was subsequently charged with seeking to subvert a constitutionally-elected government.
Mawarire has since fled and sought refuge in the United States, but the momentum has not died down as opposition parties and civil society organisations have kept government on its toes with popcorn protests breaking out in various parts of the country each week.
The move is likely to hit vendors who had found a ready market for the flag among protesters and soccer fans.