In 1914, police officers, lawyers and magistrates from 14 countries gathered in Monaco to discuss police procedures, identification techniques, centralised international criminal records and extradition proceedings and subsequently in 1923 at the Second International Police Congress in Vienna, the International Criminal Police (ICP) was founded.
As we look back, we are forced to pause and reflect what led minds to meet and think beyond the confines of their boarders to establish Interpol.
They were ordinary people who understood the challenges of the time and felt that it was in the interests of mankind that institutional arrangements be put in place to facilitate the genuine enforcement of domestic laws in foreign states as well as provide a platform for uniformed police officers to exchange knowledge and ideas that support the transparent enforcement of the law.
The importance of the rule of law at domestic and international levels cannot be understated.
Today, the membership of Interpol is 190 countries confirming that seed of 1914 was a good one and has borne fruit. It is the largest inter-governmental organisation in terms of member states after the United Nations.
Like any member organisation, Interpol can only be as good and credible as the member organisations allow it to be.
So when in country X, a warrant of arrest is issued in respect of an individual and notification for his or her arrest is issued by Interpol, one must expect that care has been exercised in the applicant country as to whether jurisdictional facts exist for apprehending the accused. Water, for example, is pure to the extent that no poison has been added to it.
However, history has shown us that not all member states adhere to the principles, values and traditions that informed the decision to establish Interpol.
Having authored an article last week that sought to unpack issues around the application by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) for the extradition of Frank Buyanga Sadiqi on allegations of fraud and the responses that I received, I feel it is just and equitable that I continue to add my voice and face to the general concern that extradition applications that are founded on suspect grounds only serve to undermine the spirit and integrity of institutions like Interpol.
If Sadiqi was the first victim of a unique habit that has now taken root in Zimbabwe whereby alleged commercial injuries are cured with the assistance and complicity of State actors, then one would be expected to treat his circumstances as an aberration, but when the habit is institutionalised and externalised with the silence of Interpol one is forced to question that validity and relevance of Interpol.
It must be accepted that when the only difference between a criminal and a police officer is the badge then we all must be worried.
I can only add my voice from personal experience. Only eight years ago, on a Saturday morning minds met in Harare representing various organs of the State including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney-General, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the ZRP to discuss me and what best course of action to take in respect of allegations that I played a part in the externalisation of funds that the State of Zimbabwe played no part in creating.
After deliberations, it was resolved that the best course of action was to apply for my extradition notwithstanding that the state of minds that made the decision must have been fixed with knowledge that I was a resident of South Africa and that the sole purpose of the construction and performance of the decision was to keep me away from visiting Zimbabwe while giving time to the architects of the plan to devise ways of taking over all assets deemed to be under my control.
History will record that a warrant of arrest was issued on Saturday, May 22 2004, and the following Tuesday, Interpol was already at work giving life at the international level to the decision made in Zimbabwe to internationalise the warped and absurd logic that a new crime called externalisation now existed requiring the international community to be involved in its enforcement.
The silence of Interpol for the last eight years must be a source of concern about the integrity not of the ZRP, but the international community.
Interpol has been used not only by Zimbabwe to extend the borders of abuse of the State. I was arrested in South Africa on May 25 2005 on the basis of an application framed along the following lines: “Mawere as shareholder of a group of companies including SMM Holdings Private Limited (SMM) was culpable for allegedly allowing export proceeds due to SMM not to be remitted to Zimbabwe. ”
All that SMM exported was asbestos fibre and not the cash. The failure by SMM’s customers to pay, therefore, could not conceivably be a crime in Zimbabwe. To the extent that funds due to SMM were diverted that action could only take place outside the borders of Zimbabwe meaning that Zimbabwe had no jurisdiction to claim that fraud had occurred. Notwithstanding, Interpol came to the assistance of Zimbabwean authorities.
Now coming back to the Sadiqi matter, it is now common cause that properties were involved in various money transactions whereby Hamilton Property purchased properties as a mechanism of providing cash to the seller who undertook to repurchase the property at an agreed price after a defined period.
The genius of the arrangement was that it was an innovative non-bank financial intermediation that was designed to facilitate access to credit by individuals who were in possession of illiquid assets.
This practice is not unique to Zimbabwe and is not illegal. All that it means is that, for example, an individual who wishes to access funds and is confident that after a defined period would be able to generate a profit in excess of the cost of funds would find the arrangement beneficial only to the extent that good faith exists between the parties. However, good faith is always expensive in dysfunctional societies.
In countries where the rule of law is respected, the law enforcement agencies would have been compelled to come to the assistance of the purchaser, but the mere fact that the assistance of Interpol is sought goes a long way towards exposing the fact that the authors of the sanctions regime are the people who expose through reckless extradition application that all is not well in Zimbabwe.
The fact that no statement has been issued by the inclusive government about the externalisation of abusive State behaviour speaks volumes about the nature and character of the State.
In the case of Sadiqi as was the case with James Makamba, Nicholas Vingirai, Gilbert Muponda and others, Interpol was reduced to a post office box. By enforcing unjust practices outside the borders of Zimbabwe, Interpol has effectively been reduced to a puppet.
After almost 32 years of independence, there is no better time to reflect on the true meaning of justice and equity than now when a number of case studies have been revealed, but regrettably an unfortunate approach has been taken that if it is not me then who cares.
We must and should not only care, but have the courage to add our voices to the debate about what kind of leadership is required not only in the ZRP but in Interpol.
When we established African Heritage Society, we were clear that Africa’s future and brand equity would only be secure if a few of us changed the way we think about issues and use our knowledge and experiences to expose that which undermines the promise.
I have no doubt that Chihuri, under whose watch many of us were subjected to unjust treatment, would agree that change must come to Zimbabwe. If the extension of his contract means that we will see more victims then we ought to broaden the space for a frank and open discussion on what kind of CEO is needed for a progressive Zimbabwe.
Courage to make the right decision for not only one’s life but for the country is important. It is a commodity that is increasingly becoming scare in Zimbabwe to the extent that the moral centre no longer exists.
By adding my voice to this important matter, I fully subscribe to the observations made by the author Sidney Smith: “A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them for making a first effort.”
When we all make our first effort even the giants of injustice will know that the time for change is now.
Mutumwa Mawere is a businessman based in South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.