Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor—
Strange, how geopolitics work. Australia has just become the first developed country to pass a Bill that outlaws “foreign interference”.
This week Australia tabled a battery of laws and legislative measures, including the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill, which requires the registration of lobbyists working for foreign governments.
According to reports, another amended law expands potential crimes to include meddling by these agents.
BBC says the laws criminalise covert, deceptive or threatening actions that are intended to interfere with democratic processes or provide intelligence to overseas governments.
It adds that industrial espionage -the theft of trade secrets – is among new criminal offences, while people who leak classified information will face tougher penalties.
Australia also plans to ban foreign political donations through a separate Bill later this year. They are designed to include actions that may have fallen short of previous definitions of es- 0pionage.
The measures have largely been interpreted to be targeting China, with which Australia has been having frosty relations in recent year.
Coincidentally, similar measures are being considered in the US where laws are needed ostensibly to curtail Chinese attempts to influence US politics, “including efforts to corrupt United States governmental or non-governmental institutions or individuals”.
Let’s flip the script.
When it comes to Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular, the West, including the United States of America and Australia, are guilty of interfering and meddling in the affairs of independent countries.
They have been seeking regime change and have been involved in sponsoring political parties, activists, lobbyists and civil society.
These actions have been both overt and covert.
In their largely shameless moments – the overt moments – the West has bragged that it would be promoting democracy and spreading human rights.
In the cover of darkness, they have been seeking clients and stooges to use to plunder the continent.
The case of the US warrants discussion.
The US imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe dubbed Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act in 2001.
It was followed by Executive Orders that claim that Zimbabwe poses an extraordinary and continuing threat to the US.
These laws have provided for the US meddling in the internal affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe. They have been responsible for the suffering of poor people and the deterioration and de-industrialiasation of the economy.
After years of open Western hostility, there has been a significant shift of attitudes.
The West is seeking re-engagement with Zimbabwe.
The US appears as keen – but there is something to worry about.
This week a Bill was tabled to amend Zidera.
However, it would appear that the US – or whoever is pushing the revised law – are not too ready to let go of interference that would actually be deemed criminal according to the new laws in Australia and the US.
What is good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander!
The conditions outlined by proponents of Zidera amendment shamelessly poke their noses in internal issues of Zimbabwe including administrative functions and composition of an independent body like the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
They also call for currency reform, including reform of Zimbabwe’s Central Bank.
By and large, the demands of the US lawmakers read like a script by the opposition in Zimbabwe, not surprisingly because an opposition delegation earlier in the year went and lobbied for extension of sanctions.
Which, of course, would be illegal in both Australia and the US.
There is a genuine reservation to be made about how the US, and in particular this team that has put itself on the forefront of amending Zidera, is conducting itself.
A reasoned fear is that, with members of the previous Obama administration, the team is being misled by cynical individuals belonging to the Democratic Party.
President Donald J. Trump is wary about Democrats and calls them obstructionists.
Perhaps for a good reason.