Patriotic Act: The Govt listened

23 Jul, 2023 - 00:07 0 Views
Patriotic Act: The Govt listened Nick Mangwana

The Sunday Mail

SOCIAL VALUES are basically motives that direct and influence the behaviour of an individual.

The Pulse of the Nation

Nick Mangwana

They motivate the consciousness of that individual to act in certain ways or desist from others.

From this, one can argue that “patriotism” — widely defined as love for one’s country — is a value. The question is whether patriotism should be engendered during the nurturing or growth of an individual or should be legislated.

What is of little debate, though, is that through one way or another, society sets binding social boundaries within which an individual is expected to act.

Some prefer to call these “social norms”, which, simply put, are defined as shared standards of behaviour for a certain group.

In this piece, we discuss the issue of whether it is an acceptable standard of behaviour for an individual to be allowed to go and invite foreigners to visit harm upon his/her motherland?

If the consensus is that this behaviour is not acceptable, then, the next question is whether it should be considered too draconian to have legislation in place to punish those who transgress in this manner.

In Zimbabwe, there was an overwhelming push by the general population for there to be a law to legislate against those who invite hostile forces to interfere in the affairs of the country.

Citizens wanted what they were calling a “Patriotic Act” to be part of national jurisprudence and legislation. Both the Executive and Parliament obliged, albeit not with a fresh piece of legislation, but a couple of clauses in an already existing law to cure this malady.

So, just recently, Parliament passed the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Act, 2023. However, the reaction from the usual quarters were swift, co-ordinated, blackmailing and as intrusive as ever.

These quarters, one could well guess, coalesce around what is now referred as the “Collective West”.

Veiled threats were made to exclude Zimbabwe from certain international organisations it has expressed an intention to join.

A number of local and international organisations known to sup with the “Collective West” made damning pronouncements, in expected shrill cacophony.

What all this noise ignored was the cardinal principle in sovereignty that the choice of national laws falls under the strict ambit of a nation’s internal affairs.

This is what judicial sovereignty means and why some countries have a death penalty for capital crimes and some are revolted by the mere idea of revenge killing of civilians by a state.

The clauses

Anyway, let us look at what this whole kerfuffle was all about.

The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Act, 2023, has the following clauses that speak to the issues under discussion:

“Any citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe (hereinafter in this section called ‘the accused’) who, within or outside Zimbabwe actively partakes (whether himself or herself or through an agent, and whether on his or her own initiative or at the invitation of the foreign government concerned or any of its agents, proxies or entities) in any meeting whose object the accused knows or has reasonable grounds for believing involves the consideration of or the planning for — (a) military or other armed intervention in Zimbabwe by the foreign government concerned or another foreign government, or by any of their agents, proxies or entities; or (b) subverting, upsetting, overthrowing or overturning the constitutional government in Zimbabwe; shall be guilty of wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe and liable to — (i) the same penalties as for treason, in a case referred to in paragraph (a); or (ii) the same penalties as for subverting constitutional government . . .”

It further says: “Any citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe who, within or outside Zimbabwe, intentionally partakes in any meeting whose object or one of whose objects the accused knows or has reasonable grounds for believing involves the consideration of or the planning for the implementation or enlargement of sanctions or a trade boycott against Zimbabwe (whether those sanctions or that boycott is untargeted, or targets any individual or official or class of individuals or officials, but whose effects indiscriminately affect the people of Zimbabwe as a whole or any substantial section thereof) shall be guilty of wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe and liable to — (i) a fine not exceeding level 12 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years, or both.”

No doubt, what has raised the alarm within the “Collective West” section of the diplomatic community and its proxies is that if a Zimbabwean plots with foreigners to overthrow the Government, it would be considered treason.

Of course, it is treason!

Where else would this kind of subversive act be allowed?

The law states that Zimbabweans should not meet foreign agents to plot the overthrow of their Government and they should not knowingly participate in joint enterprise where such evil schemes to overthrow a constitutional order are being plotted.

Dear reader, what is wrong with this clause?

Who does this clause offend, except the person who wishes ill on Zimbabwe and her interests?

The other clause criminalises the calling for sanctions to be illegally imposed, retained or expanded against Zimbabwe.

Any normal thinking Zimbabwean would never do such an evil thing. Only those serving selfish personal or foreign interests would be grossly offended by this law.

This takes us back to the introduction of this discussion about patriotism as a value, and the concept of social norms.

Should we not consider acts that offend national sovereignty and exhibit hate against one’s country to be unpatriotic and against social norms?

Let us chew on that for a bit.

Arguments and lessons

from the Logan Act

In Zimbabwe, the chief diplomat of the country’s national foreign policy is the President.

It is also a trite principle of public international law that foreign relations with other sovereign nations involve the exercise of state power and are not issues to be dealt with by self-appointed individuals, particularly those working against their homeland’s national interest.

Some argue there is something called a “non-state actor” in international relations.

This is an accepted reality, but if someone chooses to be one, they should never participate in a joint enterprise to bring harm upon Zimbabwe, its people or interests.

This clause is based on a very normal social value and it should be defended to the hilt.

It has often been pointed out that in the United States, there is the Logan Act, which proponents of the Patriotic Act use to defend the need for that legislation. However, the counterargument has always been that the Logan Act has not been used in a while and it is a centuries-old piece of legislation.

However, this latter postulation fails to answer the question: Why is the Logan Act still in America’s statute books?

One would argue that many countries have had nuclear weapons for over 70 years but have never used them and yet they cost so much to maintain and keep safe.

So, why keep them?

This is the same reason the United States keeps the Logan Act alive.

It is a deterrent!

Perhaps it is worthwhile to revisit how the law came into being, so we may understand why Americans are not removing it from legislation.

Now, back to Dr Logan. He was a US citizen who, on his own volition, had travelled to France at the height of the French Revolution, where he proceeded to initiate private discussions and negotiations that had an impact on US foreign relations and going against the position of government to remain neutral.

The intention of the US legislature was to prohibit American citizens from interfering in relations between their government and foreign states. It was justified on the basis that the US should have one voice or stance on issues of foreign affairs and diplomacy.

This appears like a sensible position, to date, and perfectly applicable to Zimbabwe.

So, before anyone lectures us on this one, let them repeal theirs.

We repealed our Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). We also repealed our Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

So, clearly any legislation that we feel is no longer fit for purpose has to be repealed.

Drawing lessons from how the Logan Act has existed, Zimbabwe may never use this legislation (the so-called Patriotic Act) or may use it, yet it remains the country’s deterrent against those who think it is an acceptable behaviour to invite suffering or death upon the Zimbabwean people.

For argument’s sake, let us compare the US’ Logan Act and the clauses in our law.

Chapter 45 of the US Code Title 18 relates to Crimes Under Foreign Relations.

The two relevant provisions read as follows:

“953. Private correspondence with foreign governments

“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

“This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.”

“954. False statements influencing foreign government

“Whoever, in relation to any dispute or controversy between a foreign government and the United States, willfully and knowingly makes any untrue statement, either orally or in writing, under oath before any person authorised and empowered to administer oaths, which the affiant has knowledge or reason to believe will, or may be used to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government, or of any officer or agent of any foreign government, to the injury of the United States, or with a view or intent to influence any measure of or action by the United States or any department or agency thereof, to the injury of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

The reader is called upon to look closely at and compare the Zimbabwean law and the American legislation.

Anyone who is not offended by the moral hypocrisy of our Western critics needs their moral compass recalibrated.

We live in a world where increasingly — due to ease of communications, transportation and social interactions — private citizens are taking matters into their own hands, travelling to other countries as self-appointed ambassadors, meeting foreign officials and undermining national foreign policies and interests.

Such conduct by self-serving citizens inevitably harms the national interests of governments of sovereign countries by undermining their foreign policy agenda.

Those individuals or groups who engage in unsanctioned self-serving citizen or private diplomacy and negotiations with foreign sovereign governments not only offend the Constitution but also violate customary international law, which forms part and parcel of our law by virtue of Section 326(1) of the Constitution.

Sometimes we should quote these people back to themselves.

Charles de Gaulle once said: “Patriotism is when love for your own people comes first . . .”

No one who loves their country would want suffering to befall people through illegal sanctions or foreign interventions, all for the cause of seeking a change of government, which can be achieved through democratic and patriotic means.

I rest my case.

Nick Mangwana is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services.


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