Diplomats slammed for walk-out

2010-08-03 21:31

Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi summoned three Western ambassadors for a dressing down on Tuesday after they walked out on a speech by President Robert Mugabe at the weekend.

US ambassador Charles Ray, German ambassador Albrecht Conze and the European Union's charge d'affaires Barbara Plinkert left the funeral of Mugabe's sister, Sabina Mugabe, on Sunday after the president seized on the occasion to order the West to "go to hell".

Addressing mourners at the funeral, the 86-year-old leader accused the West of trying to dictate Zimbabwe's politics and rob the country of natural resources, such as diamonds.

"We say to hell, hell, hell with them (Europeans and Americans)," he said. "They will not decide who is going to lead the people of Zimbabwe."

Mumbengegwi on Tuesday accused the diplomats of showing "disrespect for Zimbabwe, its leaders, its fallen heroes and its people" by walking out.

"This kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," he warned them.

'Let it be'

The US ambassador retorted that Mumbengegwi was making things worse by refusing to let the matter lie.

"I regret that you have chosen to make matters worse by exacerbating a problem created by the Zimbabwean side, rather than attempting to put it behind us," Ray said in a statement addressed to Mumbengegwi.

"It became clear to me that during your president's address that I was not welcome. I had to react accordingly," he said.

Asked by reporters if he planned to apologise for the incident, German ambassador Conze said: "No. No. No."

"We need to concentrate on solving Zimbabwe's problems," he said.

Sabina Mugabe was 80 when she died. Like Mugabe, she was the subject of a Western travel ban.

Mugabe's powers have been circumscribed since he was forced into a power-sharing government last year with the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

His Zanu-PF party still controls the army however, as well as several key ministries, including foreign affairs and defence.