A belch from a priest has greater value
For a shiny trinket / Give not away your country / The foreigner is a trafficker / To mind him is no bargain / If you were skilled and artful / You’d stay away from all concoctions: / The stranger always gains. / Your goods are worth the world / A belch from your parish priest has greater value / Than America and her conceit: / Behind the least Italian / There’s ten thousand years of history / […] / Oh Italian, return to your country dance / […] / Make sure you eat your bread and onions / And you’ll set your tummy in order.
When a poet speaks…
The above lines are culled from an Italian poet, Mino Maccari, born in 1898; he died in 1989. He wrote satirical poems, and painted. He had little affection for America and France, both countries he viewed as threats to Italian national identity and interests.
But he also opposed Fascism, a disposition which made him a worthwhile poet for Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist I fondly cite in my pieces. Of course I know poetry is opaque; not many like it. Still I cite these few lines from that genre, because I am convinced Maccari is fairly prosaic, and thus easy to penetrate.
Besides, he is making an important, timeless point so relevant to us.
America’s shiny trinkets
Two days ago, The Herald carried an anchor story which revealed an American-led initiative to subvert our forthcoming electoral processes. All told, some US$37m has been set aside, with slightly over US$1 million already disbursed to two so-called NGOs: the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, ZESN, and Election Resource Centre, ERC.
The monies disbursed to these two organisations came through USAID, itself an arm of the American Government.
To name beguilingly
This in itself presents an immediate problem of name, definition and identity: a formation set up and funded by an arm of a foreign government, cannot be a “NON” Governmental Organisation. This makes the term NGO sit oddly on both ZESN and ERC, as indeed it does on all such organisations similarly founded, funded and run.
They do not derive their name from where they stand in relation to the forced host Government of Zimbabwe, but in their provenance, funding and agenda. I hope that clears the air in respect of this inexact nomenclature which is deployed and used beguilingly.
Foreign Governmental Organisations
We can go even further. A formation created by a foreign State or Government — in all ways — which is launched against another State for purposes of securing a political outcome hospitable to the aims and interests of the founding foreign State, plays and aims for governmental outcomes in the targeted country.
It seeks to use all means available to sway processes that found a government in a certain country, to get its foreign sponsor secure a satellite administration which serves foreign interests. This is as serious as it gets; which means as worrisome as it should be to all right-thinking nationals inhabiting targeted countries, which Zimbabwe is one such.
One has to be a beneficiary or a willing participant in such a sinister scheme to condone, excuse or be complicit in the same. We thus need to be categoric: all so-called NGOs founded and driven by above outlined circumstances and ideals, are better termed FOGO, Foreign Governmental Organisations.
Under Vienna Convention
They have to be assessed alongside foreign missions, to which they are an integral part. Above all, they have to be assessed in terms of the Vienna Convention, itself the appropriate international bundle of statutes. That they may employ local Zimbabweans, in whatever number, under whatever guise or capacity, takes away not an iota from the verity.
Those Zimbabweans so employed, simply and straightforwardly become agents of foreign organisations domiciled here; local staff, to use UN nomenclature. Back to The Herald.
Not my brother’s keeper?
The daily also implicated some unnamed neighbouring State in the transfer of this hefty sum of USD37m, which is meant to favour the opposition and its disguised mobilisation ecosystem in the forthcoming harmonised Elections. I could add that as I write, several American Senators have been visiting that complicit neighbouring State, with a view to being within proximity of Zimbabwe, both physically and operationally.
So thronged an ecosystem
Additionally, the daily paper boldly gave a list of foreign-funded organisations which are set to benefit from this American largesse, and which make part of the opposition ecosystem from which American goals seek direct benefits. These include Heal Zimbabwe Trust, Accountability Lab, Crisis Coalition, Carter Centre, Veritas, East-West Management Institute, National Democratic Institute, Centre for Natural Resources Management and Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association.
Of course The Herald only itemised organisations immediately linked to its story. The list is much longer and pervasive.
Surprisingly, not a single of these named organisations, including USAID itself, have challenged The Herald story. Quite the opposite! One such named organisation – Accountability Lab – even had the temerity to invite The Herald to one of its meetings!
One would have expected howls of protests, flying writs even, considering that the article was very specific in its claims, including citing meetings, names and venues.
Consistent with the above observation, one meeting known to The Herald, took place at the American Embassy compound here on Zimbabwean soil. The combined silence thus far, vindicates The Herald story as on point. We thank the paper for this excellent expose and piece of investigative journalism.
When USA launders
USD37m is no small beer. It is a huge amount to come into any jurisdiction from foreign governments; and to do so through twilight routes which seem designed to evade the notice of State authorities, financial surveillance and accountability.
International law has a name for such irregular and arcane financial inflows: it is called laundering. Laundering is unlawful, and has been linked to illicit activities, principally terrorism. Interestingly, America — the offending State in this case — has an institution which monitors movement of money worldwide, as part of its anti-money laundering measures. It is called OFAC, the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
OFAC the offender
Zimbabwe knows OFAC as a notorious, buccaneering arm of the US Government. Zimbabwe has been a repeated victim of OFAC’s operations, which daily confound all its working definitions, its mission and purpose of existence. Zimbabwe does not launder money, in fact cannot and need not.
What OFAC has repeatedly impounded as repeated acts of financial terrorism, are Zimbabwe’s lawful export earnings, gotten through Zimbabwe’s lawfully registered economic entities. OFAC has even gone further in this outrage: it recently impounded from the Zimbabwean Catholic Church a sum of USD48m donation meant for the poor in Zimbabwe, and wheeled through a reputable British bank!
Which bears out my point, namely that American founded and funded FOGOs are not and should never be equated to bona fide NGOs, whose assets the American Administration will not hesitate to impound through OFAC! We have lost millions as a country, through this daylight, American robbery which seems to rest on impunity of American might.
But that’s another story. The real issue is why a State — a superpower at that — which is at the forefront of fighting money laundering and illicit financial flows around the world, would itself be a source and purveyor of monies it launders into weaker, hapless jurisdictions. Why would America offend against the very rules it professes to uphold and enforce globally?
Laundering proceeds from narcotics
Of course we know what successive American Administrations have been in history. American Administrations have had no compunction in using dirty money for criminal foreign policy goals. That includes money laundered from South American narcotic trade, which has been used to fund insurgency against marked states in the same hemisphere and beyond.
The story of the Contras in Nicaragua is well known, as are the scandalous escapades of Oliver North, himself a criminal whom America almost had for a President. I don’t need to repeat the story of American Administration and the poppies trade in Afghanistan during that country’s war against the then Soviet Union, a war which America funded and fought through the proxy Mujaheddin movement.
That way the late Osama bin Laden was born: every inch a creature of America’s wars abroad. A creature later to turn Frankensteinian, before falling under the bullet of America’s gun. This is how America operates: in the pale of international law it pretends to conceive, champion and enforce.
Gods have no commandments
Except all that is to go too far back in history. There is an example in recent history. Among the slew and litany of charges the Biden Administration is throwing up against Donald Trump, is the allegation that his race against Hilary Clinton for the White House, attracted illicit funding and technical support from Putin’s Russia.
Which is to say that America knows fully well that foreign involvement in its electoral processes is wrong and undermines and injures both its sovereignty and the integrity of its key democratic process, namely that of elections. Yet the same America has no compunction to do exactly that here in Zimbabwe!
As I write, and just a day ahead of general elections in Nigeria, the United States of America has just released a video clip on the same elections. It seems innocuous when its literal message is naively assessed. But it is pernicious, very pernicious in import and connotation.
It subliminally says: watch out Nigeria and the lesser world; we are a declared stakeholder and policeman to your democracy, willy-nilly. And we are both in ways you or any other power on this earth should never be, when we hold our own elections. We are Americans, and the gods are not governed by any commandments, all of which are written for lesser, mortal beings on creation day!
There is no Thou Shalt Not, for mighty America.
Boundless American conceit
What The Herald did not publish, possibly out of ignorance, is that the Zimbabwe Government last year deported several Americans and American-sponsored individuals who had inserted themselves into our country, uninvited, for purposes of laying groundwork for American interference in our forthcoming polls. Worse, Robert Scott, America’s Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of African Affairs, who is scheduled to visit Zimbabwe early next month, is demanding to meet with our Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZEC, chairperson.
Why a whole senior member of American Government finds it worth his while to meet with an official of a lower tier of a Government which his Administration does not recognise, remains quite a source of bafflement. Anyway, diplomacy proceeds on reciprocity: there has to be in place a reciprocal agreement between USA and Zimbabwe authorising mutual interference in each other’s electoral processes before this condescending American superman can be granted such favours reserved for mighty gods!
American conceit knows no bounds, I tell you.
Preparing for proxy’s defeat
But there is something gladdening about this whole saga related to American disbursements to its pawns domiciled here. The money is meant for data-gathering through voter tabulation and tallying. America wants to help Triple C build evidence for litigation it anticipates after the 2023 harmonised elections.
This, in essence, means America knows its political proxy is set to lose the forthcoming elections, and will attempt an upset via statutes. America is preparing to play spoiler in a plebiscite it now knows its protege — Triple C — will lose. And lose, Triple C will, as is increasingly being acknowledged by its panicky supporters, here at home and abroad.
And by Chamisa himself, who now hopes and prays for tricks of Providence. In place of structures, processes and manifestos, he delivers verses and sermons, hoping the God Almighty above, will descend from the high Heavens, to cast a deciding vote here in Zimbabwe. Of course we all know Our Father who art in Heaven, is busily elsewhere – in Eastern Europe mostly, where His divine services are sorely needed!
Bullies write virtues
Lest I am misunderstood, I am not appealing for a virtuous America. For an America which plays shy when it comes to its interests abroad, however illegitimate. Bullies write rules of virtue; bullies act brazenly. Nothing new. As Zimbabwe, we must know that to be a global minion is a crime and a curse; it invites meddlesome torments.
We have to up our defences; play tough, and assert our sovereign authority, boldly. I have no doubt we will, including confounding those interests in pursuit of which America thinks it has God-given right to interfere in our internal affairs.
An American law called FARA!
What I cannot get, let alone suffer, are the hundreds, possibly thousands, of fairly literate Zimbabweans who need PVO Act and/or Chikurubi to know and realise conspiracy with a hostile foreign power against their motherland amounts to sedition.
Hundreds possibly thousands of Zimbabweans who need to be persuaded that electoral processes define the sovereignty of a Nation, making those processes off-limits for foreigners. Hundreds and possibly thousands of Zimbabweans funded by America who need to be reminded that America will not allow their equivalents on American soil.
That America has a law which controls foreign NGOs, a law called FARA, or Foreign Agents Registration Act, which has been gathering dust for centuries simply because Americans have fully internalised dictates of that law, which their Government uses to deny what it pretends to offer to its citizens. It’s a big, mentally visible whip next to Lady Liberty!
Why are we so blest?
FARA is a disclosure statute requiring four tough things: registration of foreign agents with the US Department of Justice; disclosure of the foreign principal which the agent serves; disclosure of all activities held on US soil and, finally, full disclosure of finances got from foreign principal!
Here you mildly ask for half of those stringent conditions, all hell breaks loose, with Zimbabweans who should defend their sovereign right not to be subverted, leading the charge for that very subversion! Why are we so blest?
When Naboth cedes his father’s vineyard!
Of course they are shiny trinkets to be got. Filthy lucre which a whole generation of well-educated yet impressionable Zimbabweans, fully deracinated from the ethos of the Liberation Struggle, does not hesitate to get in return for giving away their heritage “worth the world”!
This is where Mino Maccari, the Italian poet, speaks presciently to this lost generation which thinks there is “a bargain” in minding American interests, against their own. They forget such a shameful, treacherous role is worse than “a belch from their parish priest”, or more appropriately, a sweet, sumptuous fart from our Mlimo, escaping through crevices of Mathobo/Matombo, the home of gods of this our only Holy Land!
What I can’t get is why this generation fails to realise that behind the least from their number, “there is [more] than ten thousand years of history, all of it written in hard stone, and emblazoned in blood of long, costly struggles! Even those of us in donkey kingdom know that if you swop our masese for the whiteman’s oats, your tummy is sure to be in riotous disorder.
You will never know sleep.