Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
The current diplomatic row between Zimbabwe and the United States over the SADC anti-sanctions campaign to get the embargo imposed on Harare lifted should not stand in the way of re-engagement between the two nations, analysts said yesterday. Last Friday US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols made utterances in an interview with a private radio station, claiming that economic challenges being experienced in the country were not due to sanctions, but corruption.
Government responded in a statement on Thursday, rebuking Mr Nichols for his meddlesome behaviour in the country’s internal affairs.
Commenting on the matter, analysts said despite the current tension between the two countries, there is still need for Zimbabwe and the US to engage for their mutual benefit because they need each other.
The analysts said there was need to de-escalate the tension so that it does not scupper the headway that had been made in the re-engagement efforts between the two nations.
Some of the analysts said Government acted within its remit when it rebuked Mr Nichols.
In his statement, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo said Ambassador Nichols’ utterances lacked respect, were partisan and grossly abused the hospitality of Zimbabweans.
MDC-T vice president Mr Obert Gutu yesterday defended Minister Moyo for issuing the statement admonishing Mr Nichols. “I take it that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Dr Sibusiso Moyo, was merely outlining the Government of Zimbabwe’s official response to what they perceive to be the United States ambassador’s politically intrusive behaviour regarding Zimbabwe’s internal political affairs,” Mr Gutu said.
“However, I know that Dr Moyo is a very suave diplomat himself and that behind the scenes, efforts are currently underway to reach an amicable rapport and understanding between Zimbabwe and the United States of America. I know for certain that Minister Moyo never engages in megaphone diplomacy and as such, it’s only a matter of time before we start observing the mellowing of diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and the United States. Actually, both countries need each other. The worst is over. Just watch the space.”
Political analyst Mr Goodwine Mureriwa said the minister was right in bringing the Mr Nichols to order.
“The US ambassador has for long shown his dislike of the current Government and has openly engaged with opposition elements. His behaviour in the past two weeks has brought his disdain for the Government to the fore, therefore it was only logical for the minister to issue that statement reprimanding him.
“We maybe a small country, but we enjoy the same rights and protection under international law. The Government, in the Second Republic, has been receptive of everyone including those that have imposed the illegal sanctions on us, but it is people like Ambassador Nichols that are abusing the openness and hospitality of Government and the people of Zimbabwe,” Mr Mureriwa said.
However, another political scientist, Professor Eldred Masunungure, had a contrary view.
“It was, in a way a reflex action (Minister Moyo’s statement) that could have been influenced by some people in Government, the ruling party or the ministry itself by the US ambassador’s statement and the embassy’s subsequent tweets,” he said.
“There is little doubt that the statement erodes the potential of re-engagement with the US. The situation has escalated in the past few weeks to make it difficult now in terms of understanding how it will end.
“There is need to de-escalate the situation, but I don’t know who will take the first step, but there is a big window of opportunity to de-escalate the situation.”
In his statement, Minister Moyo said the US ambassador’s behaviour was against international law as provided for under Article 3 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Article 3 states that the functions of a diplomatic mission include representing the sending State in the receiving State; protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State and of its nationals within the limits permitted by international law and negotiating with the Government of the receiving State.
The convention also provides for ascertaining, by all lawful means, conditions and developments in the receiving State and reporting thereon to the Government of the sending State, promote friendly relations between sending and receiving states and developing economic, cultural and scientific relations.