15 September 2011

Zimbabwe: 'Libyan Ambassador Not Expelled'

DEPUTY Foreign Affairs minister Robert Makhula has claimed that the government did not expel Libyan ambassador Taher Elmagrahi and his staff after they defected to the National Transitional Council following the fall of long-time eccentric leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Makhula said the envoys "were simply asked to go back to Libya and receive credentials from the new authority since the NTC had no diplomatic mandate at this stage to assign ambassadors to other countries".

Zimbabwe's rushed deportation of the Libyan embassy staff raised eyebrows over the country's foreign policy since Zimbabwe has very close and personal relations with Gaddafi.

Makhhula said no firm decision had been taken on the country's trade agreements entered into with the Gaddafi regime "as we cannot pinpoint where Gaddafi is at the moment".

However, the expelled envoy Elmagrahi recommended that all business deals entered into between Gaddafi and the then Zanu PF-led government be cancelled.

There are few known Libyan investments in Zimbabwe. However, the largest known investment, a 14% stake in a local bank through the Libyan central bank, would remain unaffected by the power shift in Tripoli.

Libya provided millions of dollars in direct aid and vast quantities in subsidised fuel to Harare as part of Mugabe and Gaddafi's enduring friendship.

Meanwhile, Makhhula said his boss Simbarashe Mumbengegwi had shut him out of most of the functions and operations of the department since he was appointed to the post last year.

Makhula said he was treated like a total stranger in the ministry and was completely bypassed by officials in his office who report directly to Mumbengegwi.

"After carrying out assignments and producing reports, staff members bypass me and hand the reports directly to the minister without my knowledge," said Makhula.

"When I try to retrieve the reports from the minister's office, it becomes a struggle. I am doing nothing in the ministry," he said.

He said Mumbengegwi merely assigned certain tasks and gave him no feedback at all.

The Nkayi senator said this probably stemmed from the frosty working relations Mumbengegwi had with his former deputy Moses Mzila-Ndlovu.

"The two were not on good terms but I have been working toward closing ranks," said Makhula.

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