Zimbabwe’s government warns against abuse of flag

Harare - The Zimbabwean government has warned its citizens against engaging in the manufacture, sale and use of the national flag against the law, saying they were liable to prosecution and imprisonment if found guilty.

The justice, legal and parliamentary affairs ministry, in a statement signed by permanent secretary Virginia Mabiza on Tuesday, said it was concerned with rising incidences of the public using the national flag in a manner prohibited by the Constitution and the relevant Act of Parliament.

An opposition supporter faces police officers during a protest in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo. Credit: REUTERS

“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 of 1987, Statutory Instrument 194 of 1987,” she said.

“The Act makes it criminal offence 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 bring the national flag into disrepute.”

Mabiza warned that the offence carried a maximum fine of US$200 or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both simultaneously.

She said it was also an offence to sell the flag or anything to which the flag had been applied or on which the flag had been used.

Sales and use of the Zimbabwean national flag have increased in the past few months, spiked by the #ThisFlag movement, which was led by self-exiled cleric, Pastor Evan Mawarire.

Mawarire used the Zimbabwean flag to register his defiance and unhappiness with the government, accusing the President Robert Mugabe-led administration of running down the economy and failing to fulfil its 2013 election promises.

Even legislators have joined in the use of the flag. In July, Parliament acting speaker Mabel Chinomona ordered two opposition MDC-T legislators to get rid of the Zimbabwean flags they had brought into the august House.

Chinomona ordered Mutasa Central MP Trevor Saruwaka and his Chitungwiza North accomplice Godfrey Sithole to leave Parliament after a ruling had been made earlier barring lawmakers from donning the national flag in Parliament.

However, the two refused and even attempts by the Sergeant at Arms to eject them failed.

MDC-T chief whip, Innocent Gonese, defended the lawmakers, saying putting on the national flag was a display of patriotism.

The flags were eventually taken out of the House of Assembly after Chinomona threatened to suspend the lawmakers.