Michael Hartnack, AP, Nov. 8
HARARE, Zimbabwe — President Robert Mugabe said a U.S. diplomat who said government policies were to blame for Zimbabwe’s crisis could “go to hell.”
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Dell last week blamed Mugabe’s policies, rather than the drought and Western-imposed sanctions and boycotts Zimbabwe officials often blame, for 80 percent unemployment, 359 percent inflation, and an escalating humanitarian crisis.
“Mr. Dell, go to hell,” state radio quoted Mugabe as saying Tuesday.
Harare: President Robert Mugabe’s newspapers have accused the American ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, of being a sexual pervert visiting “unseemly” areas and have threatened his diplomatic immunity.
The unprecedented personal attack on Dell follows a speech he made last week to a United States-funded university in Mutare, in eastern Zimbabwe, criticising Mugabe’s “voodoo economics”, corruption and gross mismanagement, which he said had wrecked the economy.
In addition to personal insults and threats to his physical safety, the government’s Sunday Mail warned yesterday that Mugabe would summon the veteran US diplomat to his office this week to protest about his “undiplomatic” speech.
The Sunday Mail, quoting unnamed sources from the Foreign Ministry, said Mugabe was angry at the American’s 16-page address, in which he detailed how, in only six years, Zimbabweans had become poorer than they had been in 1953.
“Zimbabwe is experiencing perhaps the largest peace-time economic decline in history,” Dell told academic staff and students. He blamed the economic collapse on agricultural chaos following seizure of about 4 000 white-owned commercial farms which had, for decades, provided most of Zimbabwe’s foreign exchange.
The first retaliation against Dell’s speech — arguably the best-researched of any diplomat in the past few years — came in the government-controlled Herald newspaper on Saturday through a columnist, Nathaniel Manheru.
It referred to an incident last month when Dell was held at gunpoint for 90 minutes by trigger-happy members of Mugabe’s personal soldiers, the Presidential Guard, after he was apprehended walking his dog in a poorly marked security area in the National Botanical Gardens.
Manheru’s largely incomprehensible weekly column is often written by, or its content is directed by, Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba: “He (Mr Dell) . . . is in the habit of wo(a)ndering in strange, unseemly places one never associates with characters of the beau monde that ambassadors are supposed to inhabit. We all know what happens by the margins of the Botanical Garden as night falls.
So many of our youthful citizens have been deflowered there, lured by the greenback from generous and flaunting foreigners not given (to) enjoying sex the conventional way.”
Nathaniel Manheru also threatened Dell’s diplomatic immunity, which is guaranteed by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticised Mugabe last week for failing to admit that a humanitarian crisis persisted, after the government’s demolitions of hundreds of thousands of homes and small businesses in May and June. Western donor nations have issued a statement supporting Annan’s plea to Mugabe to acknowledge the crisis.