There is a time when I envied foreign nationals in Zimbabwe, not for what they had or for what they were doing then but for what their embassies were doing for them.
Because some members of our family are naturalized citizens of foreign countries or were born in countries like Britain, Australia, US, South Africa and Germany, I remember with envy when British, American and other embassies dispatched their officers to our families’ homes during turbulent times to ensure that “their citizens” were safe where they resided.
This included what we should do if or when “their citizens” were in danger, what number to call or where to take “their citizens” for temporal safety until the embassy sent their people to collect “their citizens” to a safer place.
In me was, then, born a revered and respectful attitude towards embassies having witnessed that an embassy’s primary purpose is to assist citizens of its country in any way to get them back home or to ensure their safety wherever they were.
It was engrossing to see representatives of different countries responsibly monitoring and caring for their citizens in different countries. There is something glaringly astounding when a foreign government goes out of its way to ensure the safety of its citizens wherever they might be.
Decades ago, when I and two others from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation travelled to China on one of those “government-to-government” exchanges, I felt so comforted and protected when ambassadors of Zimbabwe in Ethiopia, Kenya and China welcomed us well as Zimbabwean citizens and ensured that we faced no problems at all.
I also remember the moment on live TV when Algerian diplomats, who facilitated the release of American hostages in Iran, handed over the hostages to the American diplomats. Neutrality is a necessity in serving citizens.
Outside spying, there are so many instances when embassies play a very important role and actually avert confrontations or disasters.
That must be taken into consideration because the good intentions between nations have to be protected and that is the way it has always been.
An Embassy is home when one is away from home. That is where we go for protection and advice.
That is where we seek refuge when under whatever type of pressure, threat or even when under criminal duress in foreign countries.
I know this because this is something I, as an individual, have never had the privilege to enjoy in my life yet embassies are centers of comfort and protection.
Except for the Zimbabwe Embassies in Ethiopia and Beijing who were obligated to receive and host us as we were on “official government business” to China, I have never received assistance from the embassy of my country in any country that I visited or resided in.
The reason is simple, embassies are under ruling party governments and will seek to avoid or embarrass those from opposition ranks or those not in agreement with the governments travelling abroad.
Batswana will remember much too well the time when then opposition leader, Otsweletse Moupo, was reportedly stranded in London and the Botswana High Commission in Britain intervened and assisted him to get back home.
Regardless of the ensuing political noise cultivated by the government, seemingly to embarrass the opposition, the High Commission performed its expected functions.
When in trouble away from home, the embassy is the first port of call to see what assistance can be offered. No one should ever be afraid to seek refuge or assistance from their embassy or consulate when out of their countries.
I am still to understand not only why and how Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, died but why and how he was tortured, beheaded and dismembered when he walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to get official documents from his government’s representative in that country.
It is more chilling when one considers that the American government knew of the danger Khashoggi was in while the Turkish government allegedly recorded his torture and subsequent killing by what is now said to have been a team of 18 Saudi suspects who were filmed by the Turks at various stages of arrival in Istanbul.
I have known many journalists killed by agents of their former countries while on foreign soil but being killed in the embassy, a place of refugee and protection while away from home is the worst of betrayals.
And it was not just a killing.
According to the Turkish government, there was the cutting off of Khashoggi’s fingers, his beheading then his dismemberment, all in the Consulate building.
The news came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded Saudi officials to reveal the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s remains, after the Saudi government admitted Khashoggi had been murdered, albeit in a “fist fight” with officials inside the consulate in Istanbul.
And, to add an evil touch to it all, SkyNews reported last Tuesday that “body parts belonging to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi have been recovered from a well in the Saudi consul’s garden”.
Later that day, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Turkish parliament that “the evidence we have so far collected indicate that Jamal Khashoggi was slain in a vicious, violent murder, planned in advance by the Saudi government”.
The involvement of three governments in the death of a journalist is an alarming development. One government (Saudi Arabia) appears to have planned the killing in advance, one (the United Sates, of which Khashoggi was resident) knew the danger the journalist was in while the other (Turkey) not only knew but was more concerned with recording the act than stopping it.
Khashoggi’s demise is a ten-alarm warning to the entire citizenry of the world. No person should be afraid to seek help or protection from their government.
Both Otsweletse Moupo and Jamal Khashoggi walked into their countries’ Embassies for help but only one came out alive.
No government should harm its own citizens at home and abroad.
And, as for America, it is disappointing to see how much Americans have changed their values because of fear.
The inspiration I absorbed in this country decades ago has been battered into a deplorable state.
Gone is the grace in winning, replaced by abuse of political opponents.
Even the Supreme Court burdens itself with political allegiances.
Racism has become daring enough to publicly show its face without shame.
The sanctity of a vote is under constant battering.
The gospels that the United States once preached against Third World dictators are needed more at home than in the developing countries.
Polarization is crippling America.
America has very strong institutions; were it not for that, I would have given up on this country.
Meanwhile, the ride is rough and is getting rougher for both citizens and visitors.