Zanu threatens to expel diplomats

HARARE Zanu (PF) has threatened to expel interfering Western diplomats as the former ruling party rolls out a campaign to crush opposition to its quest to wrestle power lost in the last elections held in 2008.

In a move targeted at envoys from the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and Australia, President Robert Mugabes party said it would not countenance any further interference by the West in Zimbabwes internal politics.

The party resolves that foreign envoys who promote the Wests regime change agenda and interfere in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe be expelled, ZANU PF said in a communiqu issued at the end of its annual conference held in the eastern border city of Mutare on Saturday. This is not the first time Mugabe has threatened to kick out the ambassadors of hostile Western countries.

He issued the same threat in March 2007 after accusing Western diplomats of supporting the opposition MDC-T party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. The veteran leader said at the time that diplomats who wanted to represent their countries in Zimbabwe had to “behave properly” or they would be thrown out.

He again made a similar threat in August this year when, through Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, he read the riot act to the ambassadors of the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union for walking out during his speech at the burial of his late sister in Harare. The diplomats were also warned against their continued interaction

with MDC-T officials.

They were ordered to stop visiting opposition officials and attending their court appearances and those breaking the order would face imminent expulsions. Mugabe is particularly keen on expelling British ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mark Canning, and his American counterpart, Charles Ray, as an example of what he can do to the rest of the Western diplomats. The two have been outspoken in their criticism of the Mugabe regime.

Observers however say the expulsion threats may be just that mere rantings of a cornered despot who wants to portray a Macho image among bewildered supporters. These will remain just threats because Mugabe himself knows that such action would attract similar measures from the West, something that he is not prepared to do at the moment, said political analyst Donald Porusingazi.

Cutting off ties with the rich Western nations would be suicidal for Mugabe who is desperate to win back voters who deserted his party at the height of an unprecedented economic crisis in 2008. After all the political grandstanding normally associated with Zanu (PF) meetings, even Mugabe himself knows that completely shutting out the money-totting West would be like signing his own death certificate. Without Western backing, there wont be any recovery of agriculture, health and education sectors to talk of, added Porusingazi.

Western nations have always bankrolled Zimbabwes social sectors and the effects of their support were seen when they withdrew assistance at the height of the countrys political crisis in the mid-2000s. The Western pullout triggered a collapse of the education sector, with an unprecedented exodus of qualified teachers and children not going to school for more than a year.

Most health facilities also closed due to lack of staff and drugs while those that remained open demanded extortionist prices before offering services. The timing of the expulsion threats is particularly interesting as it comes at a time when Zanu (PF) is pushing for elections next year. Mugabe wants to silence the envoys so that they would not comment on

the cases of violence that his party is expected to unleash in the run-up to the polls.

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