President Robert Mugabe lost the plot last week when he chose the occasion of his sister Sabina’s burial to chide key Western countries he is desperately seeking to re-engage to resuscitate the country’s comatose economy, Indonesia’s new ambassador to Zimbabwe, Eddy Poerwana, has said.
Although Poerwana was of the view that the diplomats who walked out on President Mugabe may have overreacted, he said the President said the wrong things at the wrong time.
“It is the right of every President to express his or her views, but at the same time when you look at the time, and considering that it was done at the Heroes’ Acre, I feel the timing was wrong,” Poerwana said.
“If you come to the funeral of my family member, I can’t say bad things about you.”
Other diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity said President Mugabe has lost the plot and that his statement had caused almost irreparable damage to relations between Zimbabwe and the international community.
“The President is not doing any good to Zimbabweans by shouting at countries he seeks to re-engage,” a diplomatic source said.
“If at all, he is worsening the situation. Relations between Zimbabwe and the West had begun to warm up, but such statements by the President do not help things at all. It’s regrettable. It really is.”
Poerwana said the subsequent walkout by ambassadors from the United States, Greece and Germany was “regrettable”.
“I was there and I saw it and I have also had the opportunity to discuss with other diplomats. We feel the action (walkout) was very much regrettable.
“It is not in the norms of diplomatic behaviour. Whatever inconvenience, we still have to say they should have just sat,” he said.
The Indonesian diplomat was speaking to journalists at a luncheon at his Harare home on Wednesday.
He said he had spoken to members of the diplomatic community and they had told him they felt the President and the diplomats’ action could not be justified.
“But the behaviour (walk-out) was not consistent with diplomatic norms,” Poerwana said. “If I do that, it reflects badly on the people of Indonesia and I don’t think their behaviour reflects the will of the people from their countries.”
US Ambassador Charles Ray, Germany envoy Albrecht Conze and the Greek and European Union chargé d’affaires Stephanos Ioannides and Barbara Plinket respectively, walked out on the President after he told the West to “go to hell” several times for allegedly interfering in the affairs of the country.
“They think they can dictate the pace here, remove so-and-so, Mugabe first – to hell with them, to hell, hell, hell with them,” President Mugabe seethed.
“They cannot be good for us today when they could not be good to us yesterday. They detained us, jailed us, shot at us, bombed us and slaughtered us in our hundreds.”
The diplomats were summoned for a tongue-lashing by Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi the following day, but they stuck to their guns and insisted they did nothing wrong.
They snubbed the Heroes’ and Defence Forces’ Day commemorations this week.
Their defence attachés attended the ceremonies in their stead.
Poerwana presented his credentials to President Mugabe last month.
The latest diplomatic tiff between Zimbabwe and the West comes at a time when President Mugabe’s government is desperately seeking to normalise tattered relations between them.
Envoys have been sent to the European Union from Zimbabwe but have returned empty-handed. The President complained on Heroes’ Day, observed on Monday, that the EU was not being sincere over re-engaging Zimbabwe.
“We have sought to re-engage the EU on the issue of the immediate removal of the evil sanctions that are hurting our people,” he said.
“We seek friendship not enmity, togetherness not apartness, good understanding not division.
But no sooner had we started the re-engagement than we realised that the EU is far from being sincere, as the bloc keeps shifting goal posts. . .
We appeal to them: ‘Please think again. Think again Europe, think again America, you are wrong’.”
Political analysts have said President Mugabe was losing the plot by insulting the same people from whom he appeared to be begging for friendship.