via Zim, US diplomatic tiff deepens – NewsDay Zimbabwe by Moses Matenga October 8, 2013
GOVERNMENT has summoned United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton over the “embarrassment” Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi went through in Washington after attending the United Nations General Assembly last month.
Foreign Affairs secretary Joey Bimha confirmed to NewsDay that Wharton was summoned over the incident in Washington in which Mumbengegwi was subjected to intense body search not normally associated with VIPs.
“We have summoned the Ambassador over that on Monday (yesterday),” Bimha said without giving details.
But, officials at the US Embassy could neither confirm nor deny that Wharton had been summoned, saying it was a diplomatic issue.
“You can call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a rule, diplomatic missions do not divulge the contents of any diplomatic discussions,” an official from the Embassy’s Public Affairs section said.
Government sources yesterday, however, said there was need to treat Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Shannon Smith, who is set to visit Zimbabwe in a few weeks’ time, in the same manner Mumbengegwi was treated.
“Their Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs is coming, so we will give him the same treatment given to the minister,” a senior government official said.
Mumbengegwi was denied diplomatic privileges that exempt VIPs from rigorous searching procedures stipulated by the US.
Under diplomatic etiquette and common practice, there is a provision that ministers should be escorted straight to their aircraft without going through ordinary procedures for other passengers.
The Mumbengegwi issue came just after the US government warned President Robert Mugabe and his delegation that they should be confined to the UN General Assembly during the course of their stay.
Those restricted were Mugabe, First Lady Grace, their children Bona and Bellarmine, Mumbengegwi, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba and Central Intelligence Organisation director-general Happyton Bonyongwe.
In his reminder notice, US Under-Secretary for Management Patrick F Kennedy said: “Pursuant to the authority vested in me under the Foreign Missions Act, 22 USC, and Department of State delegation of authority number 38 of September 16, 1992, I hereby determine it to be reasonably necessary to USC 4304 (B) to restrict the domestic travel of the representatives of Zimbabwe named below, as well as the named family members to a radius of 25 miles from the Columbus Circle in New York when such persons travel to New York for the 68th session United Nations General Assembly.”