Government has rebuked United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Brian Nichols for his utterances on the recent SADC anti-sanctions march to press for the removal of the embargo against Harare.
In a statement yesterday, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo said Ambassador Nichols’ sentiments lacked respect for diplomatic etiquette, were grossly partisan and constituted abuse of the hospitality of the people of Zimbabwe.
“While we are a welcoming, extremely tolerant and friendly people, this should not be misinterpreted by any diplomat to mean that we are weak and can tolerate all forms of abuse,” said Dr Moyo.
Ambassador Nichols last Friday had an interview with the private media, when the anti-sanctions march was held, where he claimed current economic challenges facing the country were a result of corruption and not sanctions, before going on a Twitter rampage where he criticised the Zimbabwe Govern- ment.
International law, Dr Moyo said, clearly defines the functions of a diplomatic mission and establishes that as sovereign nations, all countries in the world enjoy equal rights and protection.
These legal provisions, as provided for in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (Article 3), state 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.
“Clearly, the convention does not permit embassies to conduct themselves like opposition citadels, preoccupying themselves with regularly hurling insults at their host Government,” said Dr Moyo.
He said, in fact, the convention (Article 41) placed a two-fold duty on diplomats in that they have to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State and should not interfere in the internal affairs of that State.
“It follows, therefore, that the behaviour of an ambassador which is inimical to the promotion of friendly relations cannot be further from the objectives of the convention.
“Any conduct which violates the generally accepted and legally recognised functions of diplomats, constitutes an abuse of diplomatic privilege.
“Moreover, an ambassador is not permitted to conduct himself like a political opposition member, in total disregard of all norms of permissible diplomatic conduct,” said Dr Moyo.
He said persistent behaviour of that nature was likely to make the patience of “even the most tolerant ones” run out, impacting on ongoing dialogue between the US and Zimbabwe.
“It would be a very sad day if dialogue between the US embassy and this ministry were to collapse completely under Ambassador Nichols’ tenure, such that we would end up just tolerating each other.
“We want dialogue with all well-meaning countries as part of our re-engagement efforts. But our magnanimity should not be abused.
“We have the means to bring all of this to an end, should we deem it necessary,” said Dr Moyo.
The US State Department last week announced that it was adding Minister of State Security Owen Ncube to the list of Zimbabwean officials under sanctions with the department claiming it had credible information of his involvement in “gross violations of human rights”.
The move flew in the face of growing rancour against the US sanctions policy on Zimbabwe, which is seen to be largely driven by political hatred of the ruling party, Zanu-PF, with Sadc observing a day of solidarity against the stance last Friday.