We warn foreign missions meddling in our internal affairs

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has warned foreign missions against meddling in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe saying his government will not hesitate to take appropriate action against such mission.

Writing in his weekly column in the Sunday Mail, Mnangagwa said while Zimbabwe was committed to the policy of engagement and re-engagement, its good-naturedness and constructive intent should not be abused to meddle in the country’s internal affairs, thus undermining its sovereignty.

He said that this meddling was likely to get worse as the country heads for elections next year.

He cited a number of examples of how foreign missions had meddled in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs:

  • Meeting individuals or groups without going through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, or other arms of government,
  • Summoning individuals and groups to meetings without caring to inform Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, let alone portfolio ministries under which such individuals or interest groups fall. Even Churches had not been spared,
  • Mobilising artists and communicators for partisan political ends,
  • Using offices, agencies and personnel of the United Nations to further illegal foreign policy objectives, and
  • Usurping or challenging law-making functions of Zimbabwe as a sovereign State.

Full article:

Article 41(1) of the same Convention clearly states that: “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.”

Section 2 of the same Article further states:

“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.”

In respect of Mission compounds, Section 3 of the same Article reads: “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.”

With such eminently clear and unambiguous provisions in the Vienna Convention, and given that in our situation most of the offending States are not just old States, but are founder members of the United Nations, it is hard to resist the conclusion that the gross interference in our domestic affairs is wilful, and certainly spurred by a gross disdain for our sovereignty.

One, too, cannot resist the feeling that these brazen acts of interference stem from a mindset formed back in history when our respective destinies intersected through colonial conquest. That era and historical experience may have created attitudes and reflexes of racist condescension, pre-eminence and immunity which have become so deeply ingrained that provisions of the Vienna Convention seem non-binding to them anymore.

We thus have to help these errant Missions to learn to respect us as a free and independent people; indeed, to respect our Sovereignty as a receiving State which is equal to any other, including their own, under the United Nations Charter.

Diplomatic relations are established on a reciprocal basis. So, too, should the conduct of Missions representing any two State Parties enjoying diplomatic relations. On our part, our Missions in all countries with which we enjoy relations are well behaved and act strictly in accordance with provisions of the Vienna Convention. We thus expect no less from sending States with which we have relations. Any departure from provisions of the Vienna Convention are sure to offend, and certainly will not promote friendly relations between us, the concerned Mission and the State which sends it to, and sets it up in, our country.

Some Missions accredited to this country tend to conduct themselves in a manner which suggests little or no regard for the State of Zimbabwe. Yet they will have presented letters of credence to our Government, and to me as the Head of State, plainly stating they are here as agents of a State Party wishing to relate to us as a fully constituted State, and for purposes of building friendly relations between us. This disdainful and reprehensible conduct has taken many forms, a few of which I will now spell out.

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.

We have also come across instances where some missions have gone as far as summoning individuals and groups from our society to meetings they convene without caring to inform Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International

Trade, let alone portfolio ministries under which such individuals or interest groups fall. Even Churches have not been spared. I cannot imagine my Ambassador accredited to the United Kingdom summoning the head of the Anglican Church to a meeting without going through the relevant arm of Her Majesty’s government, to which he will have presented letters of credence in the first place. That would be utterly unheard of and sure to attract sharp rebuke from Her Majesty’s government. Yet such sacrilegious acts are being attempted here in our country.

While the Vienna Convention provides for Foreign Missions to further economic, scientific and cultural relations in the receiving State, the Convention does not sanction Missions to weaponise these key areas in order to meddle in electoral processes, or to undermine political stability in the receiving State. Again, we have seen some Missions mobilising our artists and communicators for partisan political ends. We have had to order one Mission to drop such hideous plans.

In yet other instances, offending Missions have sought to hide behind Offices, Agencies and personnel of the United Nations to further their illegal foreign policy objectives. That way, international civil servants of our United Nations have been reduced to doing the bidding of certain State Parties which do not employ them. 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. 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 has had to act swiftly and decisively against such effrontery.

In terms of our national legislative agenda, we have witnessed with absolute consternation attempts to usurp or challenge law-making functions of Zimbabwe as a sovereign State. I am not even referring to obnoxious pieces of legislation passed against us by foreign Legislatures with no jurisdiction over us, and outside of the United Nations Charter. That type of outrage and gross interference is now a matter of international record. Rather, I am referring to pieces of legislations under consideration by our sovereign Parliament which some Missions have found fit and proper to criticise and even organise against. It is as if such errant Missions are lawmakers or judicial officers in our country. Much worse, it is as if the Vienna Convention places their Missions and diplomatic agents under our municipal laws. As it turns out, similar laws in even more severe form, are operational in their own countries. They do not challenge them in their jurisdictions, yet want to do so here. This takes away any ounce of sincerity in their conduct.

Like any other State Party of the United Nations, the Zimbabwean State runs on three arms: the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The Executive proposes laws which the Legislature then passes after intense lobbying and scrutiny.

Once passed, these laws come under the eagle eye of the Judiciary which, over and above interpreting them, also test them for compliance with our Constitution and other international precepts which Zimbabwe has ratified.

It is plainly clear Zimbabwe has within its domain all the arms and instruments for testing laws for compliance with its own Constitution, and with other international protocols.

It thus boggles the mind why some foreign Missions arrogate to themselves legislative or judicial powers in our country. Such acts of meddlesome misconduct undermine the exercise by the receiving State of its sovereign rights as apportioned and assigned on its territory. Such acts mean the receiving State can no longer claim monopoly on the design, development and choice of its legislative, economic, social and cultural policies. Much worse, it makes Foreign Missions little “States” within the sovereign State of Zimbabwe.

One piece of legislation which has drawn the unlawful involvement of such meddlesome Missions is our PVO Bill, which is under debate in our Parliament. The Bill seeks to straighten operations of NGOs whose mission must, at the very least, respect our sovereignty and national interest. 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. 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.

What raised our alarm is how the same NGOs are used, especially during election periods, as conduits for foreign funding to preferred political parties. Such NGOs thus become laundromats for washing such dirty and laundered foreign money. No State, least of all those offending States, can ever tolerate such illegalities whether under their national laws, the Vienna Convention or under several international protocols. 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.

My Government remains committed to the policy of engagement and re-engagement. That policy which should be welcomed and embraced as positive by all Foreign Missions, makes us a constructive member of the United Nations to the extent that we seek genuine friendship and good relations with all peoples of the world.

However, our good naturedness and constructive intent should not be abused to meddle in our internal affairs, thus undermining our sovereignty. 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.

All communication and interaction with our citizens or group of citizens should be conducted through our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which we set up precisely for that purpose.

Activities of all diplomatic missions in our country must be lawful and, in any case, help towards deepening cooperation and friendly relations with us.

By President Emmerson Mnangagwa for the Sunday Mail