HARARE – Bruce Wharton, the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, has been summoned by government to explain why Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs minister, was denied diplomatic privileges at an American airport two weeks ago.
Mumbengegwi stayed behind after attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York as he had other government business to attend to.
He had travelled as part of President Robert Mugabe’s entourage.
Mumbengegwi reportedly endured “humiliation” at the John F Kennedy International Airport after he was forced to go through airport security like all other ordinary passengers.
Despite applying for the VIP service from the US Department of State, which was okayed, Mumbengegwi did not enjoy the venerated status.
Junior officers manning the airport entrance stated that they had no instructions to extend any diplomatic privileges and niceties to the minister.
He was, as a result, treated as a common traveller, according to Foreign Affairs.
Diplomatic courtesy and common practice allows ministers to be escorted straight to their aircraft without going through security procedures for ordinary passengers.
But this was not the case for Mumbengegwi as he had to be “thoroughly” searched by junior officers before he rushed to catch his flight back home.
Joey Bimha, secretary for Foreign Affairs, confirmed to the Daily News that Wharton had been summoned by government to explain what caused the “degrading experience.”
“We have called him for explanations,” Bimha said.
Karen Kelley, US embassy spokesperson, said: “I can’t confirm nor deny that because I am not briefed on daily engagements of the ambassador and the ministry. The Zimbabwe government should help you.
“On the incidence at the airport, I am yet to get a full understanding of what happened, that is all I can say at the moment.”
Earlier during the UN General Assembly, Mugabe had blasted the US and its ally Britain as “covetous and bigoted big powers whose hunger for domination and control of other nations and their resources knows no bounds.”
Mugabe also faced a bumpy landing in New York when US officials wrote to the 89-year-old leader and his delegation advising them to confine themselves within a 25 km radius of the UN headquarters.
Harare, Washington relations have been sour over the past decade after America imposed travel bans and financial restrictions on Mugabe and a number of his allies over allegations of electoral fraud and human rights violations.
In his inauguration speech on August 22, the veteran Zanu PF leader said Zimbabwe was “an open, friendly country.”
“We seek friendship across geographies, across cultures, and quite often against past wrongs,” Mugabe said.
“We seek partnerships with all nations of goodwill, but partnerships based on sovereign, equality and mutual respect.”
He added: “As of those odd Western countries who happen to hold a different, negative view of our electoral process and outcome, well, there is not much we can do about them. We dismiss them as the vile ones whose moral turpitude we must mourn.
“They are entitled to their views, for as long as they recognise the majority of our people endorsed the electoral outcome, indeed for as long as they recognise that no Zimbabwean law was offended against.
“And for us that is all that matters. After all, Zimbabwean elections are meant for Zimbabwe’s voting citizens.
At the UN, Mugabe accused the United States and Britain of trying to control his nation and its resources.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Mugabe told the West to remove their “illegal and filthy sanctions”.
The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Zimbabwean State firms and travel restrictions on Mugabe and dozens of his associates after a violent 2000 election.
Mugabe and his Zanu PF government have rejected the allegations saying Washington was pushing a regime change agenda.