WE welcome Government’s stance that it will brook no interference in the internal affairs of the country by accredited diplomatic personnel, particularly from the West, as such interference is an assault on the sovereignty of Zimbabwe. Of late there has been a flurry of activity on the diplomatic front, with Ambassadors from the West taking sides on Zimbabwe’s domestic political affairs.
Following a decision by some members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to proceed with a demonstration in Harare on August 16 despite police issuing a Prohibition Order, which was upheld by the High Court, after establishing grounds for probable violence, danger to life and probable destruction of property, Ambassadors from the European Union, the United States and other Western governments issued a strongly worded statement condemning the Government of Zimbabwe.
The Heads of the Mission of the delegation of the EU, France, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, the UK, Australia, Canada and the US last week issued a joint statement condemning the alleged abuse of human rights of citizens of Zimbabwe by the government. The countries said they were concerned by the “crackdown on opposition members and trade unions”.
Their statement followed a provocative visit by the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Brian Nichols, his deputy and other senior embassy staff to the home of MDC-A deputy chairman Mr Job Sikhala at his home in St Mary’s, Chitungwiza where they reportedly urged the party to press ahead with demonstrations aimed at unseating the Government of Zimbabwe.
In light of these developments and the intransigence being exhibited by the opposition and its civil society allies who are clearly angling for a confrontation with authorities, the Government has taken exception with the conduct of some diplomats and last Thursday summoned them to a meeting in Harare where the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Dr Sibusiso Moyo, read the riot Act.
Minister Moyo told the envoys that Government duly takes exception and offence in instances where accredited diplomatic personnel dabble in “opposition politics in Zimbabwe”. In a no-holds-barred meeting, the Minister said although the new administration was not averse to criticism, it was deeply concerned with the “one-sided character of the brickbats” following the August 16 “illegal demonstrations”.
Zimbabwe’s top diplomat said although ambassadors had the right to associate with whomsoever they want, this did not translate to interfering in the affairs of a sovereign State.
“You may all have your personal likes or dislikes: you may have friends and acquaintances across the broad spectrum of Zimbabwean politics – indeed, as diplomats, it is to be expected and it is perfectly acceptable that you should engage all players across that spectrum and gain as full as possible an understanding of this country and its robust socio-political and economic dynamic. Nothing is wrong with that,” said Minister Moyo.
“But when any accredited representative allows themselves to become actively engaged in or associated with that political dynamic; and is sucked into the crude machinations which, today, constitute opposition politics in Zimbabwe, then, Excellences, we do take offence and we do take exception”.
We totally agree with the Government and wonder why there has been a deafening silence from the Western embassies despite continuing incendiary rhetoric from the opposition calling for the removal of a democratically-elected Government. The MDC-A has been blatantly disregarding the law, defying the High Court and repeatedly threatening to unleash violence, chaos and mayhem but we have not heard a whiff of condemnation or rebuke from the envoys. Government has a clear mandate to govern and maintain law and order so that the people of Zimbabwe can live in peace.
While the Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly and expression, it also protects the rights of other innocent citizens whose peace and freedom can be infringed upon by those engaged in violent protests. For instance, the business community has been vocal in its disapproval of incessant protests and demonstrations which disrupt their operations and threaten the security of their properties.
This is why they made an application at the High Court of Bulawayo seeking to stop the MDC-A from proceeding with its protests in the city last week on Monday. Western envoys would do Zimbabweans a world of good were they to exhort the opposition to make a meaningful contribution to the country by engaging the Government through the right platform – the Political Actors’ Dialogue.
They should not encourage the MDC-A to embark on street protests which invariably always turn violent but should lean on Mr Nelson Chamisa and his cohorts to realise the futility of always questioning President Mnangagwa’s legitimacy because that is an issue which was resolved by the Constitutional Court. Minister Moyo made it clear to the ambassadors that they should counsel the opposition. “Going forward, Excellences, we count on you, in your engagement with opposition formations and civil society, to impress upon them to put the nation ahead of narrow, partisan interests; to operate strictly within the law; and, with regard to the opposition formations, to desist from the reckless, provocative threats of insurrection and insurgency which, on a daily basis, characterise their rhetoric and actions,” he said.
We urge them to take his advice.