THE government yesterday summoned French ambassador Laurent Delahousse after he pulled a shocker on Tuesday by proposing a toast to missing Zimbabwe national, Itai Dzamara, accusing officials of abducting him.
Sources close to the meeting said the Foreign Affairs Ministry, led by acting secretary Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe, protested over the French envoy’s conduct.
Delahousse said in his disappearance, the former journalist had become a “symbol and he would not let him down”.
He paraded Dzamara’s wife, Sheffra, child and brother during celebrations of the French National Day in Harare, claiming he was abducted for his fight for freedom of expression.
Delahousse last night refused to confirm whether or not he had met Ambassador Wutawunashe.
“I’ve meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the details of the meetings are not public and not for the press,” he said. “I don’t have a comment on that particular issue.”
Sources said Ambassador Wutawunashe reminded Delahousse of the conventions and standards in diplomacy.
“Ambassador Wutawunashe said if he were a diplomat accredited to France and resident in Paris, he would first of all recognise the principle of sovereignty of the French government and secondly, he would be extremely circumspect in dabbling in matters strictly French, more so a matter to do with a missing French national,” said the source.
“The acting secretary said here on the African continent, European envoys think meddling in African affairs in an undiplomatic fashion is fair.”
The source added: “Ambassador Wutawunashe asked Delahousse if by raising the issue of a missing Zimbabwean on the French National Day, he wanted Zimbabweans to reflect on the day with a sense of honour.”
The source said Ambassador Wutawunashe pointed out that the actions and statements by Delahousse and his European counterparts suggested the Zimbabwe government was culpable in the Dzamara matter. “Ambassador Wutawunashe asked why Delahousse and his European counterparts were narrowing the catchment area for potential criminals in this matter to the State only,” said the source.
“The acting secretary said it could have been criminals or robbers; it could have been local political actors or it could have been foreigners trying to stir trouble in the country. Ambassador Wutawunashe made reference to actions which were sponsored by foreign interests during the land reform programme where ‘attacks’ on farm houses were enacted in full view of foreign cameras.”
Police have launched extensive investigations into the disappearance of Dzamara and have to date interviewed several people although nothing concrete has come out.
Delahousse said the position he had taken was that of the French government.
“He said he personally had an even stronger position on the matter than his government,” said the source. “Delahousse said he did not mention the government by name and that he had been the most positive French ambassador working towards normalising relations between the two countries. He was aggressive in the beginning, but in the end he was conciliatory.”
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services secretary George Charamba last night said the summoning of Delahousse was “not surprising”.
“This was uncharacteristic of him and I’m sure the Foreign Ministry sought to understand this departure.”
Dzamara went missing on March 9 and the MDC-T, together with political non-governmental organisations, have tried to prop up their waning fortunes ahead of the next general elections in 2018 by blaming the government for his disappearance.