Zimbabwe Threatens To Expel U.S. Envoy
Ambassador's Allegations Said to Exceed Bounds
By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 8, 2005; Page A14
JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 7 -- The government of Zimbabwe
said Monday that it might expel U.S. Ambassador
Christopher W. Dell because of its displeasure over
speeches last week in which Dell accused the
government of President Robert Mugabe of "corrupt
rule" and "gross mismanagement."
A spokesman for Mugabe said the president was
"extremely unhappy" with Dell. "He's undiplomatic.
He's exceeded his bounds," said the spokesman, George
Charamba, speaking from Harare, the capital. "There's
been an attack by the U.S. ambassador on the
government of Zimbabwe."
Charamba said a decision on whether to expel Dell
would come this week. He said the action was being
considered only after "a pile of incidents" going back
to the ambassador's Senate confirmation hearings in
June 2004, when Dell blamed Zimbabwe's troubles on
"its government's misrule in pursuit of absolute
Charamba's comments followed several weeks of
escalating tension between Mugabe's government and
Dell, 48. He is a career Foreign Service officer who
was previously ambassador to Angola and has held
senior diplomatic posts in Mozambique, Serbia and
U.S. Embassy officials, reached in Harare, declined to
comment on Dell's status or on the accusations against
him. In Washington, a State Department spokesman, J.
Adam Ereli, said the U.S. government had received "no
formal communication from the government of Zimbabwe"
on the matter. He said Dell "and his comments very
fairly and accurately reflect the policy of the United
Dell, who became ambassador in August 2004, kept a low
profile until Oct. 10, when he walked into a
restricted area of a botanical garden near Mugabe's
residence. U.S. officials have said the area was
poorly marked and that Dell entered accidentally.
Guards from Mugabe's presidential compound arrested
Dell and detained him briefly. In the government-owned
Herald newspaper later that week, Charamba accused
Dell of intentionally provoking a diplomatic incident
and said that, were it not for the restraint and
professionalism of the presidential guards, Dell would
have been shot.
"Elsewhere, and definitely in America, he would have
been a dead man," Charamba said, according to the
The clash with Dell comes as Zimbabwe's domestic
problems and international isolation continue to grow.
The country is suffering from crippling shortages of
fuel, food and foreign currency.
"This state is desperately in need of international
assistance," said Brian Raftopoulos, a University of
Zimbabwe professor, speaking by phone from Harare. "I
would think an expulsion like that . . . would
definitely not favor that cause."
Two weeks after the incident in the botanical garden,
a column in the Oct. 29 issue of the Herald took an
even more personal tack, suggesting that Dell was
cruising for sex when he was arrested.
"We need to take the debate a little forward and ask
where Mrs. Dell is; why Dell loves to frequent that
part of the garden when everyone else has left," the
The byline on the column was Nathaniel Manheru, but it
is widely believed within Zimbabwe to have been
written by Charamba. The spokesman for Mugabe
acknowledged in a telephone interview Monday that
Manheru was a pseudonym, but he said he did not know
who the real author was.
Three days after the column appeared, Dell told a
university audience in the Zimbabwean city of Mutare
that Mugabe's rule, unbroken since 1980, was
responsible for the country's collapsing economy,
hyperinflation and chronic hunger.
Mugabe has blamed Western sanctions and drought for
the troubles in the landlocked southern African nation
of nearly 13 million people. In his speech in Mutare,
Dell publicly disagreed, according to a text provided
by the U.S. Embassy.
"The real answer is really quite different and simple,
as well as quite shocking," Dell said. "Neither
drought nor sanctions are at the root of Zimbabwe's
decline. The Zimbabwe government's own gross
mismanagement of the economy and its corrupt rule has
brought on the crisis."
He also called Mugabe's policies "voodoo economics."
Dell made similar remarks to an audience in Harare
On Saturday, the Herald again accused Dell of having a
"habit of wandering in strange, unseemly places." On
Monday, the paper wrote on its front page that Dell
faced the possibility of expulsion for "continued
meddling in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe."