BULAWAYO – Explosive WikiLeaks diplomatic leaks which exposed how the likes of political flip-flopper Jonathan Moyo advised Americans on best ways to topple President Robert Mugabe are haunting new US envoy to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton.
The leaked cables shook both Zanu PF and the MDC to the core after they exposed how senior ministers and officials from both parties told different US envoys how they distasted Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s leadership qualities.
Some, like Moyo were so dutiful in their cooperation with the Americans that the US envoys referred to him as a “useful messenger”, according to leaked cables.
It should have been a stroll in the park for Wharton to gain the confidence of locals behind closed doors since he is a sort of a “local boy”.
Wharton ingratiated himself well with the local fraternity during his stay in Zimbabwe as an embassy public affairs officer and spokesperson between 1999- 2003.
But the WikiLeaks saga is making Wharton’s job difficult, at a time he desperately needs to feel the pulse in Zanu PF and the MDC — not from kowtowing NGO leaders telling him what they know he wants to hear.
Fresh from being snubbed by Bulawayo provincial governor Cain Mathema for a courtesy call, Wharton readily admitted the disclosed cables are hurting his efforts.
“WikiLeaks has come up in my conversations. People are concerned,” said the 58-year-old diplomat.
“Officially I can’t confirm nor deny that those supposed telegrams were genuine. So what I said was that a lot of diplomacy is done on the basis of trust,” said Wharton.
As part of the new office duties, Wharton visited Bulawayo Province last week where he met a wide range from politicians, civic society leaders, artists and HIV activists.
But he could not meet the top man in the province.
Mathema refused to meet with the new ambassador the same way he spurned Wharton’s predecessor, Charles Ray. Mathema muted something to do with sanctions, although observes noted meeting a US envoy now would not carry much favour with Mugabe.
Speaking to journalists at the Bulawayo Press Club later, Wharton admitted that some of his hosts were concerned and wary about the WikiLeaks issue.
He said one of his early jobs in Zimbabwe is to develop relationships.
“If I tell somebody that they can speak to me in confidence, I am trying to establish those relationships with people from all of the political parties in Zimbabwe,” he said.