Friday, October 30, 2009
Fri, 30 Oct 2009 13:47:00 +0000
FOREIGN Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi has defended the deportation this week of the UN's Special Rapporteur on torture by the government of Zimbabwe, saying his visit was an "unwarranted, provocative act" and that the subsequent invitation by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was “a nullity”.
"This was a provocation of the highest order and a calculated move to create a diplomatic incident," Mr. Mumbengegwi said of Nowak's visit at a news conference in Harare.
"What he did is unprecedented in the history of UN protocol by forcing himself on a country.
"The government however still stands by the decision to invite professor Nowak to Zimbabwe at a mutually agreed time in spite of this unwarranted, provocative act by the special rapporteur."
Two days before Mr. Nowak's arrival, the government of Zimbabwe had rescinded the invitation to him, because of a visit by the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defense and Security (the Troika) to assess the progress made by the inclusive Government.
Mr. Nowak was formally invited by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Oct. 1 to investigate torture allegations— before Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party “disengaged” from the Cabinet.
He would have been in the country from October 28 to November 4, 2009.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry had written to the UN in Geneva and in Harare postponing the visit to a later date. The two offices confirmed the postponement.
But Prime Minister Tsvangirai circumvented the postponement and invited Mr. Nowak to meet with him in Harare anyway, despite the fact that the original invitation was not extended by him.
Minister Mumbengegwi said he was not aware of the invitation by Prime Minister Tsvangirai, but insisted the envoy should have followed diplomatic protocol and postponed his visit until it was mutually possible to do so.
"In spite of the government's advice, the special rapporteur decided to visit Zimbabwe without an invitation from the government. This was an unprecedented deliberate violation of well-known (diplomatic) procedures," he said.
Mr. Mumbengegwi dismissed Prime Minister Tsvangirai's invitation as meaningless.
"The invitation by the Prime Minister was a nullity," he said.
Mr. Nowak spent the night at Harare international airport before being sent back to South Africa.
On Thursday, he called his treatment a "serious diplomatic incident" echoing Minister Mumbengegwi’s assertion that the trip, and Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s invitation, was meant to create “a diplomatic incident”.
Joey Bimha, the foreign ministry permanent secretary, said Mr. Nowak had been told he could not come because officials were engaged with Prime Minister Tsvangirai's temporary withdrawal from the Cabinet.
The Troika is holding talks with both Zanu PF and the two formations of the MDC Thursday and Friday to assess the progress of the Global Political Agreement, the basis for the formation of the inclusive Government.
"We had no option but to send (Mr. Nowak) back because we had informed him that his services were no longer needed here," Mr. Bimha said in a statement on Friday.