Mkhululi Ncube, Chronicle Reporter
CABINET yesterday resolved to reopen the country’s borders in a phased manner for pedestrians and private vehicles starting from December 1.

The country’s borders were closed in March to all human traffic except for returning residents and cargo when government-initiated measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Briefing the media after a Cabinet session yesterday, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Cde Monica Mutsvangwa said borders will be first opened for private vehicles.

“Cabinet resolved that the opening of border posts be phased, beginning with Beitbridge, Plumtree, Victoria Falls, Chirundu, Nyamapanda and Forbes. The borders will open first to private passenger vehicles and pedestrian traffic as from 1st December 2020, while further assessment is being undertaken with regard to preparations for handling public passenger transport,” she said.

The Minister also said Cabinet also resolved to relax curfew hours.

“Curfew hours are being relaxed beyond the current 2000 hours to 2200 hours for the convenience of those who are cleared late at ports of entry. This will be subject to gazetting,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

The move to open the country’s borders will likely please many Zimbabweans working in neighbouring countries who were not able to come home during the course of the year because of the lockdown.

The move is set to see them returning especially for the festive holiday.

Minister Mutsvangwa said Cabinet had also considered and approved amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9 :23] which was presented by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi which seeks to punish those who collaborate with foreign governments to harm the country.

Some elements in the opposition MDC-Alliance urged Western countries to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe after Government implemented agrarian reforms and the effects on the economy and other sectors are being felt up to today.

The minister said such unpatriotic acts will no longer go unpunished.

“Cabinet noted that the current law does not criminalise the unauthorised communication or negotiation by private citizens with foreign governments. Such communication or negotiation has a direct or indirect implication on Zimbabwe’s foreign relations and policy. According to the Constitution, the foreign policy of Zimbabwe must be based on the promotion and protection of the national interests of Zimbabwe; respect for international law; peaceful co-existence with other nations; and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means,” she said.

“The amendments will criminalise the conduct of isolated citizens or groups who, for self-gain co-operate or connive with hostile foreign governments to inflict suffering on Zimbabwean citizens and to cause damage to national interests. The individuals or groups involve themselves in issues of foreign relations without verifying facts or engaging domestic authorities. Such willful misinformation of foreign governments will therefore make the individuals or groups liable for prosecution.”

Other actions that will become punishable under the law include planned and timed protests deliberately designed to coincide with major international, continental or regional events or visits.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the new law also seeks to address issues of those who make false torture and abduction claims.

“There are also various unsubstantiated claims of torture and abductions that are concocted to tarnish the image of government, and amendments will criminalise such conduct,” she said.

Minister Mutsvangwa said Cabinet was appraised of the progress made under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa climate-proofing programme.

She said the programme is making remarkable progress, as 1 243 058 farmers have prepared planting holes and 1 844 agricultural extension workers have established demonstration plots for the coming summer season. The motorcycle riding training programme is on course after 500 motorcycles were availed.

Turning to the energy sector, she said Cabinet was informed that the Hwange Thermal Power Station 7 and 8 Expansion Project has reached 49 percent completion.

“A total of thirty-four transformers were manufactured, and efforts to procure the materials required for the rest of the project are being pursued,” said the Minister.