UNITED States President Barack Obama has nominated a career diplomat David Bruce Wharton as Washington’s top man in Harare.
Swiss-born Wharton, currently Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy in the State Department, replaces Charles Ray whose three-year tour of duty ends in July.
A member of the Foreign Service since 1985, Wharton has previously worked in Zimbabwe as well as in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and South Africa.
Ray’s departure concludes a typically tumultuous tour for US Ambassadors in Zimbabwe.
Like those before him, Ray has faced criticism from Zanu PF officials for alleged interference in the country’s internal affairs – but attacks on him were not as belligerent as those directed at his immediate predecessors Christopher Dell and James McGee.
Relations between the two countries remain frosty after Washington imposed sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and several of his key lieutenants for alleged human rights abuses and electoral fraud.
Still, Ray secured a rare private audience with Mugabe last September where they discussed the socio-political situation in the country as well as the United States’ commitment in Zimbabwe.
A month earlier, he had also reached out to Zanu PF chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo, who warned him against meddling in the country's affairs through “reckless public statements which criticise the party’s officials” in government.
And earlier this year, Ray urged dialogue to address the differences between Harare and Washington.
“I strongly believe that U.S. interests and Zimbabwean interests largely overlap. To advance those common interests, we need to talk,” he told a meeting with local editors.
“We need to brainstorm. We need to share ideas, explain what elements of them can work and what cannot. We need to be willing to take the risk of being honest with ourselves and each other if we are going to do something together jointly to benefit both of our people.”
Ray struck a unique connection with Zimbabweans by openly engaging them on Twitter [@charlieray45
] and Facebook on a range of subjects.