The Sunday Mail
In a February 2017 article titled “The race to the political bottom”, Evan Solomon took a swipe at what he called US President Donald J Trump’s “enthusiasm for crass personal attacks”.
He said that enthusiasm for crass personal attacks was “rivalled only by his bizarre fidelity to falsehoods”.
Whether or not that is a fair assessment of President Trump’s political style and strategy is for others to decide.
What we would like to draw attention to is Solomon’s umbrage at a political mind-set that is informed by “a bizarre fidelity to falsehoods”.
As we report in this issue of The Sunday Mail, there is a deliberate attempt to shape Western countries’ foreign policies on Zimbabwe by creating a web of half-truths, outright lies and fantastical claims.
At the centre of this bizarre fidelity to falsehoods is a network of NGOs who have taken it upon themselves to be the self-appointed altruists who know what is best for all Zimbabweans.
Less than a month ago, the majority of Zimbabweans voted for a Parliament dominated by Zanu-PF and a Government led by President Emmerson D Mnangagwa. Now these NGOs have apportioned to themselves the right to shape a discourse whose intent is to disregard the will of the people. These political NGOs have been cooking reports on the human rights and stability situation in Zimbabwe post the elections, with a view to undoing what the people voted for.
Relying on hearsay and social media gossip, they are manufacturing “facts” that they feed to Western embassies in the hope of bringing pressure to bear on the President-elect to create a coalition government with the poll losers.
We would like to believe that the diplomats involved in this are doing it out of naïveté or excitability, as the alternative would be that they are going out of their way to enmesh themselves in a sovereign nation’s internal affairs — something their own governments would not countenance.
A first year political science student can tell them that an embassy, from an international affairs perspective, exists to protect and/or grow relations between the sending and the receiving country.
It is a point of contact, a platform for formal communication and a tool for enhancing mutual understanding and co-operation, among other practicalities of international relations.
The status and workings of embassies are defined by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which entered into force back in 964 and should thus be familiar to our traipsing Western diplomats in Harare.
Article 3.1(d) of the Vienna Convention says the functions of diplomatic missions include: “Ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving state, and reporting thereon to the government of the sending state;
“(e) Promoting friendly relations between the sending state and the receiving state, and developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations.”
Can we say that the Western diplomats who have been relying on social media rumour-mongering to inform their capitals on developments in Zimbabwe have been acting in accordance with the convention that informs their presence here?
When diplomats take shoddy reports from dubious NGOs and transmit these to their capitals like they are gospel truth, does this bizarre fidelity to falsehoods stand the test of the Vienna Convention?
Surely people as elevated as diplomats must not reduce themselves into water carriers for NGOs. Gods should not stoop to serve mere mortals.
We urge these diplomats to reacquaint themselves with Article 41 of the Vienna Convention.
“1. Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that state.
“2. All official business with the receiving state entrusted to the mission by the sending State shall be conducted with or through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the receiving state or such other ministry as may be agreed.
“3. The premises of the mission must not be used in any manner incompatible with the functions of the mission as laid down in the present convention or by other rules of general international law or by any special agreements in force between the sending and the receiving state.”
When embassies act as proxies of political NGOs or — worse still — opposition political parties, it is serious cause for concern. Diplomats cannot be allowed to act like petulant children who are governed by impulses, but must instead approach their onerous responsibilities with the full weight they demand.
We are aware that some of these diplomats, including a very senior one with the European Union delegation, actually asked for Harare’s indulgence to prolong their stay in Zimbabwe so that they could observe the July 30, 2018 elections for the “sake of continuity”.
That such requests were respected should not be taken as a sign of weakness on the part of the Government of Zimbabwe. The indulgences shown by Government thus far indicate a desire and readiness by Harare to not descend into the zero-sum foreign policy of the previous administration.
This willingness to bend over backwards for the sake of engagement and re-engagement should not be abused.