HARARE – Zimbabwe on Thursday threatened to expel the United States ambassador to Harare in a new low in diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Zimbabwe accuses the United States of imposing “illegal sanctions” on the country since 2001 and wrecking its economy.
Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo, in a statement, railed at Ambassador Brian Nichols accusing him of “behaving and conducting himself like some kind of opposition member, with complete disregard for all norms of permissible diplomatic protocol.”
The row follows last week’s anti-sanctions marches organised by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime which attracted a forceful response from United States diplomats who accused the regime of using “propaganda” and attempting to distract from their ruinous policies which have hampered investment and collapsed the economy.
The United States also announced it had imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on State Security Minister Owen Ncube for human rights abuses and shutting down the internet as government forces launched a deadly crackdown on opposition activists in January this year. Ncube name was added onto a list of over 140 individuals and entities accused of undermining democracy in Zimbabwe.
Moyo accused Nichols of a “constant portrayal as fact of what are mostly largely unsubstantiated allegations or even rumours, often still being investigated or processed by law enforcement or other agencies of government.”
The comment appeared to be a response to Ambassador Nichols’ comments during an interview last week in which he suggested that the Zimbabwe government was captured by a fuel cartel led by Trafigura’s Zimbabwe partner, Sakunda Holdings.
“Persistent behaviour of this nature will test the patience of even the most tolerant amongst us… We have the means to bring all of this to an end, should we deem it necessary or should we be pushed too far,” Moyo said in a thinly-veiled threat to expel America’s top diplomat in Harare.
The United States embassy had not responded to Moyo’s threats.
Political analyst Alex Magaisa said the row was unprecedented in Zimbabwe’s troubled relationship with the United States.
“We’re in uncharted territory under Mnangagwa’s rule. Not even at the height of hostilities under former president Robert Mugabe did we reach these threat levels,” Magaisa said.
The United States maintains that despite the “targeted individual sanctions” imposed on Zimbabwe, it remains the country’s largest humanitarian donor, with over US$3,2 billion spent on the country since 1980. It rejects accusations that the sanctions hurt ordinary people.-zimlive