By Leopold Munhende
ZIMBABWE’s relations with America could take a further knock after Foreign Affairs Minister, Sibusiso Moyo labelled the superpower’s ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, “an opposition citadel”.
This follows recent comments by the outspoken diplomat rubbishing last Friday’s Sadc backed anti-sanctions march by Zimbabweans.
A strongly worded statement released by the former army general warned of unspecified action.
Moyo said Zimbabwe was ready to “ignore” the US if need be, adding, Nichols should stop “conducting himself like an opposition member”.
Mnangagwa, since coming to power two years ago, through a military coup that toppled long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, has sought to take back Zimbabwe “to the family of nations” under a re-engagement policy code named “Zimbabwe is open for business”.
Moyo however said this could well come to an end.
“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 Moyo.
An angry Moyo said Nichols had conducted himself in a partisan manner.
“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,” said Moyo.
He said the inclusion on the US sanctions list, of Zimbabwe’s Intelligence Minister Owen Ncube was unjustified.
.”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.”
Zimbabwe has been at loggerheads with the world’s most powerful state since its imposition of travel and business restrictions on several Zanu PF politicians, business people and companies aligned to it, aiding or financing its “human rights” abuses in the country.
The sanctions were triggered by then President Mugabe’s decision to sponsor the compulsory acquisition of land owned by white commercial farmers at the turn of the century.
The programme, according to Zimbabwean authorities, sought to redress colonial land imbalances. Mugabe was accused of human rights abuses and electoral fraud after he visited brutalities on former white land owners who resisted their eviction and MDC supporters..
Mnangagwa was part of Mugabe’s inner circle and was not spared the restrictions.
Nichols indicated the US was not moved by Sadc’s stance to march against the sanctions as a region and maintained Washington still expected reforms before considerations of whether the measures could be lifted.
In a direct slap on Mnangagwa, the Zanu PF leader had one of his closest lieutenants Ncube added to the sanctions list on the same day.
Added Moyo: “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.
“Persistent behaviour of this nature will test the patience of even the most tolerant among us.”
America, Britain and the whole of the European Union bloc has over the past decade been accused of pushing a regime change agenda by funding MDC activities and those of NGOs Zimbabwe accused of spreading propaganda against the the Zanu PF government.
Mnangagwa is struggling to sell his “New Dispensation” mantra on the international stage with several countries demanding reforms first.