The Sunday Mail
Sunday Mail Reporter
Government is prepared to invoke penal provisions of the Vienna Convention to decisively tackle gross interference by rogue foreign missions in domestic matters including politics and the country’s legislative agenda, President Mnangagwa has said.
In his weekly column for this paper, President Mnangagwa said some missions were deliberately circumventing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and clandestinely engaging private citizens and civic groupings in violation of standing protocols.
Ahead of next year’s general elections, said the President, this “worrisome propensity is likely to get even more blatant”, adding that Government will “help these errant missions to learn to respect us as a free and independent people.”
“A number of Missions have sought to relate to our nationals, whether singly or as groups, without going through our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, or other arms of our Government, as enjoined by Article 41(2) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
“This gross violation has gone as far as hosting our nationals – all of them private individuals – on premises of Mission, thus flagrantly violating provisions of the Vienna Convention.
“Often, dirty business is transacted, which we of course end up knowing.”
The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties is an international agreement governing treaties between States that was drafted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations and adopted in May 1969, before coming into force in January 1980.
Outlining how some missions are conducting “themselves in a manner which suggests little or no regard for the State of Zimbabwe”, the President said there were attempts to weaponise cultural exchanges between States in order to meddle the country’s electoral processes.
The offending embassies, he said, were mobilising local artistes and journalists to aggressively push their partisan propaganda and influence the domestic agenda setting.
“We have had to order one Mission to drop such hideous plans,” he added, referring to one embassy that sought to recruit local influencers on social media recently.
There were also attempts to influence domestic affairs by infiltrating independent Constitutional Commissions through senior United Nations officers stationed in the country, said President Mnangagwa.
“This happened recently when a senior UN representative illegally summoned heads of all our Constitutional Commissions, before ordering them to submit monthly reports to him, in return for some funding he manages on behalf of a couple of Missions accredited to our country, said the President.
“It is as if funding waives provisions of the Vienna Convention or, worse, authorises the supplanting of rightful institutions of the State to which these Commissions are accountable, as clearly required by our Constitution.”
The State, added the President, had to respond “swiftly and decisively against such effrontery.”
The President warned foreign missions against attempting to appropriate legislative powers by dictating to the State the suitability of laws passed by Parliament.
Some Western embassies are currently on a warpath to impede passing of the Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill, currently before Parliament, ostensibly on the grounds that the proposed law will curtail operations of civic society organisations.
President Mnangagwa, however, said the Bill “seeks to straighten operations of NGOs” and restrain foreign sponsorship of local political outfits through non-governmental organisations.
“Over years, a number of sending States have set up political NGOs in Zimbabwe which abuse the notion of rights advocacy to work for political outcomes which those sponsoring States prefer,” he said.
“Needless to say, this is gross interference in our affairs using proxies established, especially to skew our politics towards goals and interests of some sending States.
These outfits, he added, have “become laundromats for washing such dirty and laundered foreign money.”
No sovereign State, he added, tolerates such gross interference.
“The PVO Bill will become law once it goes through all the stages of our lawmaking process.
“It is our law.
“All Missions accredited here are required to respect that law, as they should the rest of our laws.”
Foreign representatives, should strive to embrace Government’s policy of engagement and re-engagement, and desist from undermining Zimbabwe’s “good naturedness and constructive intent” through meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
He added: “We will not hesitate to take appropriate measures against Missions who abuse our goodwill as a host State.
“Going forward, we urge all Missions to familiarise themselves with provisions of the Vienna Convention which my Government will enforce to the letter.”
A senior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, yesterday said Government had observed heighted interference in the country’s domestic affairs by some embassies.
“We have a situation where we have embassies that are continuing on with the regime change agenda,” said the official.
“Of late some embassies have been meeting with some private Zimbabwean citizens to try and influence them and this is happening at a time we are moving into the election season.
“What His Excellency is warning these diplomatic missions is about their continued meddling in the domestic affairs.
“He is saying that he will not brook any interference into the affairs of Zimbabwe.
“You may have noticed that some diplomats have raised so many concerns about the PVO Bill, which as we all know is meant to improve transparency so that the monies that come into the country through these organisations is accounted for.”
He said some embassies continue to insist that enactment of the Bill will “shrink democratic space in the country.”
“But if they have no malicious intent, why then are they concerned about the Bill?
“In the context of their malicious machinations, some players are beginning to act up as you can see.”