US envoy in line of fire as Harare goes on warpath

 US envoy in line of fire as Harare goes on warpath

US ambassador Brian Nichols stands accused of fronting opposition politics

By Hope Sarara FOREIGN Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo on Thursday came within a whisker of announcing Zimbabwe’s breaking of all diplomatic ties with the US in an angry statement over American envoy Brian Nichols activities in the country.

Moyo a retired military general famed for announcing the coup that toppled former President Robert Mugabe before he was appointed to head the country’s diplomats by current Zanu PF leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa told Nichols that he had stretched Zimbabwe’s patience.

“Persistent behaviour of this nature will test the patience of even the most tolerant among us. It would be a very sad day if dialogue between the US embassy and this Ministry and the government more broadly were to collapse completely under its present leadership such that we would end up just ignoring or even avoiding each other,” said Moyo.

Nichols seemed to have stirred a hornet’s nest after a string of twitter rants on the day Mnangagwa presided over what was dubbed the anti-sanctions march last week. The new Zanu PF leader the biggest beneficiary of the coup has projected himself as a reformer but skeptical Western countries argue he has done little to back his public posturing.

Moyo said Mnangagwa was genuine but this should not be misinterpreted as a weakness. “We genuinely seek dialogue with all well-meaning countries as part of our re-engagement efforts but our openness and innate generosity of spirit of all Zimbabweans should not be taken for granted and should certainly not be abused.

“We have the means to bring all this to an end, should we deem it necessary or should we be pushed too far,” said an angry Moyo. He added: “The unfortunate statement made by the US Ambassador on the occasion of the Sadc anti-sanctions day on 25 October exhibited a clear contravention of acceptable diplomatic etiquette, was grossly partisan in nature and reflected not only a worrying lack of respect for the host government but was also abusive of the hospitality of the people of Zimbabwe as a whole.”

Moyo said Nichols had broken protocol and the dictates of international law relating to diplomatic privileges. “No diplomat should allow themselves to behave or to conduct themselves like some kind of opposition member, with complete disregard for all norms of permissible diplomatic protocol.

“Whilst we are a welcoming, extremely tolerant and friendly people, it would be a mistake for these qualities to be misinterpreted by any diplomat to mean that we are weak or that we will simply ignore or tolerate any form of insult or abuse,” the Foreign Minister ranted.

The US along with the European Union slapped Zimbabwean leaders with travel restrictions as well as an asset freeze at the turn of the century over what Harare argues was a “racists” reaction to the land reform programme undertaken by Mugabe that the then Zanu PF leader claimed was aimed at redressing skewed colonial land ownership patterns. The West argued the sanctions were for human rights violations as well as electoral theft.

After a year of what seemed to be a thawing of relations following Mnangagwa’s power seizure, the US seemed back to its old ways and has opposed the Zanu PF leader at every turn demanding that he reforms. The US embassy’s twitter handle last week was turned into a campaign tool against Mnangagwa’s anti-sanctions mantra to the extent of posting messages in local languages as the fight for control of the narrative on Zimbabwe reached fever pitch.

Intelligence Minister Owen Ncube was also slapped with sanctions on the same day as the anti-sanctions march and Moyo said this was “unjustified.” Moyo said Nichols has taken to casting aspersions on Mnangagwa and his administration using unverified information.

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