RECENT remarks by EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Government was crafting what he said was ‘repressive legislation that undermines political liberties and freedom of speech’ cannot go unchallenged.
Time and again, Zimbabwe has been subjected to this kind of undue interference in its processes by successive Western envoys without making its voice heard.
The pattern has been the same.
Zimbabwe comes up with a policy, programme or legislation, the so-called civic and the opposition cry foul and their Western handlers wail more than the bereaved and lay siege to the Government for defending its sovereignty.
They openly attack the Government for improving the livelihoods of its citizens and the time has come to put an end to that madness.
Zimbabwe is not an extension of Western countries.
It is not their property or their colony.
Those days of colonialism are long gone.
Zimbabwe, like any other country, has been coming up with legislation that protects its citizens, while at the same time ensuring that its national interests and territorial integrity are guided by the law.
The legislation includes the long-awaited Patriotic Act, which we will tell Olkkonen and his opposition apparatchiks here and now that it is coming and nothing, not even their deafeningly hollow protestations, will stop its enactment.
Zimbabweans have to take matters into their own hands and this is exactly what the Government is doing.
But the rebuke from the West, while expected, carries with it now too familiar traits of arrogance and unwarranted interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.
That has to stop.
If anything, it is Zimbabwe that should be complaining over blatant attempts by Western countries to topple a legitimate Government through their now nauseating interference and illegal economic sanctions which are being endorsed by their pathetic local cohorts in the opposition and civil society.
How does a bloc that imposes economic sanctions on another country in order to tilt scales in favour of the opposition have the courage to accuse the sanctioned of suppressing rights and freedoms of the masses?
Let us hear what Olkkonen said in his belated address in commemoration of the 2021 Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe World Press Freedom Day held in Harare:
“Besides the progress on the legal framework, the reform agenda should adopt a holistic approach than a fragmented approach so that the gains made under one law might not be eroded under another.
MISA has referred to this as clawback laws and indeed it is important that progress in other areas is not undermined by underdevelopment in other areas.”
On the whole, the amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which form the basis of the Patriotic Act, punish Zimbabweans outside and inside the country who campaign for sanctions with the intention of causing harm to the country.
The proposed law will also punish those who plan demonstrations that coincide with major international and regional events or visits by dignitaries.
This is what the opposition, using funding from the EU and the US, has been doing under the guise of ‘strengthening democracy’.
Said Olkkonen: “We have made reference to other laws having seen progress in access to information and freedom of association, it is important that other laws do not undermine this progress.
The EU has been concerned about the proposals of the Patriotic Bill.
There is a need for a holistic approach, of looking at all the legislation together and see what are the effects on political liberties and on freedom of speech.”
The irony is lost on him that while he is harping about freedom of association, his associates, in particular the MDC, are on a trailblazing campaign across the country under their six million voters drive.
If campaigning freely is not freedom of association, then we wonder what this man is smoking.
The answer though lies in a June 24 2008 article by Steve Gowans titled, ‘Zimbabwe at war’.
Part of the article reads: “This is a war between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries; between nationalists and quislings; between Zimbabwean patriots and the US and Britain.
Should an election be carried out when a country is under sanctions and it has been made clear to the electorate that the sanctions will be lifted only if the opposition party is elected? Should a political party which is the creation of, and is funded by, hostile foreign forces, and whose programme is to unlatch the door from within to provide free entry to foreign powers to establish neo-colonial rule, be allowed to freely operate?
Should the leaders of an opposition movement that takes money from hostile foreign powers and who have made plain their intention to unseat the Government by any means available, be charged with treason?
These are the questions that now face (have long faced) the embattled Government of Zimbabwe, and which it has answered in its own way, and which other governments, at other times, have answered in theirs.
The American revolutionaries, Thomas Jefferson among them, answered similar questions through harsh repression of the monarchists who threatened to reverse the gains of the American Revolution.
There were 600 000 to 700 000 Tories, loyal to the king and hostile to the revolutionaries, who stood as a threat to the revolution.
To neutralise the threat, the new Government denied the Tories any platform from which to organise a counter-revolution.
They were forbidden to own a press, to teach, to mount a pulpit.
The professions were closed to them.
They were denied the right to vote and hold political office. The property of wealthy Tories was confiscated.
Many loyalists were beaten, others jailed without trial.
Some were summarily executed.
And 100 000 were driven into exile.
Hundreds of thousands of people were denied advocacy rights, rights to property, and suffrage rights, in order to enlarge the liberties of a larger number of people who had been oppressed.”
We will also draw from a February 1 2021 New Atlanticist article titled, ‘Free speech and online content: What can the US learn from Europe’ by Frances Burwell, which gives an insight into the EU’s proposed Digital Services Act.
“Central to European regulation is the idea of illegal hate speech, defined in EU law as ‘the public incitement to violence or hatred directed to groups or individuals on the basis of certain characteristics, including race, colour, religion, descent, and national or ethnic origin’.
While this rule does not prohibit racist caricatures of specific groups or individuals, it does ban calls for violence or other injury.
Prohibitions on such hate speech have been enforced not only online, but in magazines, on television and even in nightclub acts.
The EU’s definition of illegal hate speech does not address the spread of conspiracy theories and fake news, for example, both of which are detrimental to US and European democracies and which can be found not only online but also in traditional media outlets.”
Indeed Zimbabwe cannot be told how to conduct its business by countries which are not relenting on their hostility towards Harare.
If their demands for re-engagement constitute brazen interference into our domestic affairs, then we might as well continue going it alone.
After all, Zimbabwe is diverse but one.
Our national interests come first.