LAST week’s press conference with regards to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Ambassador at Large to Europe and the Americas — Uebert Angel’s role in a gold mafia documentary raises critical legal questions under national and international law.
Linked to the unfolding events was Angel’s role in a national intelligence operation.
The national intelligence is mythical.
The intelligence service usually has no spokesperson, and may never acknowledge issues raised by Angel’s press statement, which was delivered by his lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, as true or false.
Perhaps legally, anyone cannot publish or speak about an intelligence operation, or give an impression that the intelligence carried an official operation, without committing a crime.
Angel is not an intelligence officer.
Even if the operation occurred, by commenting on the likely role of the intelligence, Angel exposed a supposedly covert operation.
What we now have is an overt operation.
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It ceases to be an intelligence operation.
This takes us to the other policy or legal challenge.There is no operation without an owner.While operational requirements may be done at policy level (I am not privy to such policies).The department of intelligence exists by presidential decree.
The question becomes: How would a president authorise his own embarrassment?
The gold mafia documentary or the decoy, let us remember, is going into the global questioning stage. I can then question grey areas.Does it mean that the president, as authorising executive officer, embarrassed himself or the national intelligence itself launched an operation against itself? If it was so, why would the intelligence, a constitutional body, use a diplomat in the first place?
The Vienna Convention on the laws governing diplomats provides that a diplomat is the prototype of the Head of State. He or she carries the honorary title of the President, His or Her Excellency, the ambassador of such and such a country.
Was Angel the right person given that, even in the most archaic world, there has not been an intelligence operation that was done by an ambassador.
This is why the Vienna Convention is clear that diplomatic immunities can be removed especially on issues of money laundering, which can be linked to crimes of financing terrorism. How could a president or intelligence participate in an operation that, if push comes to shove, would cease to be a Zimbabwean issue, but a global issue related to international crimes and international wrongs? There is the doctrine of pact servants on treaties relating to money laundering.
Money laundering across borders is a transnational crime that feeds into international crimes. We know, of course that intelligence services never respond to anything, whether factual or not.
But then what about public interest, and their accountability to the repositories of their power, the people of Zimbabwe?
The intelligence, even though it operates covertly in the interests of the nation, must operate constitutionally.
I know the constitutional challenges that arise since the constitution does not give it clear constitutional mandates like the police, defence forces and Zimbabwe prisons.
A digression to a bit of information theories therefore helps set my next question. Classificational information has an objective meaning, which is universally understandable, without reference to other pieces of information. As such, under this rubric, differences between messages must have been caused by error, and the discrepancies should be discarded as inaccurate.
Using this strand, who is telling the truth about the documentary, Angel’s lawyer, the government spokesperson or accused persons who were either arrested or had their assets frozen? This brings me to the issue of contextual information, which shows that differences or disagreements within a message or between messages convey useful information in instances where objective information is useless. Perhaps I can stretch the rhetorical inquiry to non-communication message.
In Danish culture, there is a concept of refined insult where the insulted person remains unaware. This is linked to criticality resonance. It leads to distortion of information. This takes us to the idea that lawyers perhaps work under relevance resonance, where they can create their ‘legal’ answers, which can become a ‘set of answers’ that create the illusion that theirs is a highly relevant and those listening are getting exclusive, hot information. The illusions emanate from the fallacy of metacommunication hierarchy, where certain messages enable people to insinuate or think they are receiving indirect communication in a double bind scenario.
A story is told that, in China, humility and the way to become humble are culturally institutionalised.
Therefore, no one is deceived by someone’s statement or reputation.
I will not discuss whether Madhuku’s presser must be understood as homogenistic, hierarchical or classificational epistemology.
The above reference to the analysis of Truth, Context, and Resonance produces the following insights:
The Al-Jazeera documentary and Angel's press statement have raised critical legal and policy questions regarding the intelligence operation in Zimbabwe.
The intelligence has no spokesperson, and commenting on an intelligence operation may constitute a crime. By commenting on the likely role of the intelligence, Angel may have exposed a supposedly covert operation, making it an overt one.
The ownership of the operation is also unclear, as a president would not authorise his own embarrassment.
Additionally, using a diplomat in an intelligence operation is not common practice, and the Vienna Convention on laws governing diplomats provides for diplomatic immunity, which can only be removed on specific issues, such as money laundering.
Classificational information has an objective meaning, but contextual information and resonances can provide useful insights into discrepancies and disagreements within messages or between messages.
Lawyers may create their own legal answers, which may give the illusion of exclusivity and hot information, leading to the fallacy of metacommunication hierarchy.
Cultural factors, such as humility in China, can affect how messages are received and understood.
There is need for the intelligence to operate constitutionally, with accountability to the people of Zimbabwe.
The next question becomes, where did Angel’s lawyer get the mandate to involve the intelligence in his presser?
If it was from his client, then is he part of the intelligence and all the other questions asked above? If yes, who was representing the intelligence when they involved an ambassador in their decoy operation?
How then do you represent that which you do not know? Let me deal with the claims a bit. The claim in Angel’s presser is that it was part of an operation. The second thing you know is it was an operation and you do not know who was involved — the intelligence, military intelligence or the Finance Intelligence Unit.How do you not know what you claim to know?
There is no corelation between diplomacy, which relates to foreign policy and national intelligence, which relates to domestic policy of a state. Even if we decide to avoid splitting of the two important institutions, why would the intelligence use a civilian preacher in an operation of such a magnitude. I do not understand, of course! But surely, Zimbabwe, just like other countries, has retired intelligence officers or maybe, security personnel. The president is directly elected by the people, and the intelligence is now a service, which has some form of accountability to the people who directly appoint the President.
Every ambassador has access to the president as his representative and as someone who coordinates business on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe.Would a diplomat participate in an operation where the framers of the investigations think you are investigated in money-laundering.
What is the baseline knowledge which form the link?Why is it that you have been linked to the people who launder money?
If it is an operation, then let us go to the government level. Why are people fingered in the documentary being arrested? Would a government launching an operation arrest its own people and foreign nationals helping it to unearth false investigations?
And then, why freezing the assets.
Who is telling the truth, what government said through its official mouthpiece, or what Angel, through his lawyer, is saying?
The government’s statement is an official one, and it is in government’s possession.
We can say government said ‘we have arrested gold suspects.’
And the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, weighed in on money laundering. For those arrested, what is their crime? I have not seen the charge sheets yet. But all these put Madhuku’s presser on the credibility scale, at least, using reliability and epistemological analysis. Should we be going by Angel’s presser? How sufficient will that be to a general citizen? What are the loopholes in Madhuku’s presser? Is he breaking lines?
Should we say government is lying if we are agreeing with Madhuku? Can we say there is some inexplainable collaboration between government players? Of course, Angel’s role in government is that he is having the hats of presidential envoy and ambassador-at-large to Europe and the Americas! Is government seeing the same lines with Angel? And if this is a decoy operation, it means it is government which should tell us what Madhuku, as Angel’s lawyer, did not tell the nation. If the source of his information is his client, to what extent has he been part of the knowledge that this is an operation by the intelligence service?
For starters, Angel’s expertise is in preaching, although the President said he excelled during his diplomatic training. Is he a pastor and does he understand what it means to be an ambassador? What does the Vienna Convention say to someone, ‘who is an ambassador?’ Can diplomatic immunity extend to violation of international law?
The intelligence has no spokesperson.
But someone is talking about its involvement. And there is an authorised operation.
A lawyer is like a board member. You have access to some client-lawyer privilege. I did not hear a without prejudice note in the presser. So, did Madhuku’s client see or hear more? What are the rules giving a top diplomat access to information on security operations? One of the principles relates to limited access by civilians. You cannot give a civilian a gun and expect him to point it in jest. It would be naïve.
The rule of intelligence operations seems to be like: ‘Everyone is ignorant.’ Perhaps daily, Angel’s lawyer is what the cartoonists have been trying to communicate. He is a politician, a Political Actors Dialogue member and in short, has many lives. Sometimes we have to treat his statements with caution. He is not different from any of us, we sometimes speak our mind.
At least, Madhuku is not fond of wanting to talk. But at times we do not want him to forget who he is — a lawyer. Was he talking legal language, or it was politics?
The nature of the documentary is that it is extraterritorial. How can an organisation carry out an operation which involves someone’s family? Perhaps I am linear, and someone can infer.
I sign off with some questions.
What is Madhuku trying to say about his client and the intelligence? Has the organisation, if it is from the President’s office, forgotten that the President is the primary consumer of the outcome of any operation?
The intelligence is different from other institutions, at least, theoretically, because we are talking about a department created by presidential decree. It cannot exist without the President. How can the President, who wants to go to an election, say, ‘damage me by saying I am the gold mafia king?’
Is it not that from content or factor analysis, politics is about power?
How could you do an operation that discredits you? And worse still, politics is about numbers. How can you do something that eats into your popularity? How could you play along when in the last election, you got something like 50,4%. What do you want to achieve?
- Hofisi is a lawyer, conversationalist and transdisciplinary researcher. He has interests in governance and international law. — [email protected]