The US envoy to Zimbabwe Mr David Bruce Wharton was yesterday reportedly forced to abandon his tour of Sangano Dairy Farm in Makoni District after villagers demonstrated against his Government's continued imposition of sanctions on the country.
The ambassador and his team allegedly left the farm in a huff after addressing the dairy project managers just for about two minutes, sources told The Herald yesterday.
Sangano Dairy Farm is owned by locals and is sponsored by a local non governmental organisation, Land 'O' Lake, that receives funding from USAID. "The ambassador in the company of a Land 'O' Lake director based in Harare and some officials from his office were on a tour of some projects funded by the US Government through USAID. When he was addressing the managers, some villagers wielding some placards then started demonstrating.
Some of the cards had the message 'Remove sanctions', 'Food shortage is a result of sanctions', and 'Financial aid to Zimbabwe not material aid'. He (Ambassador Wharton) had to leave for security reasons," said the source.
Sangano Dairy Farm is situated about 20 kilometres east of Rusape town and is in Makoni Central parliamentary constituency under the MDC-T. Mr Wharton posted a message on Twitter yesterday confirming the demonstration.
"Peaceful demo against targeted sanctions near Rusape. Good that right of peaceful protest honoured for this group. Hope others enjoy same," he said. The US Embassy assistant public affairs officer, Ms Jilian Bonnardeaux, confirmed yesterday that the ambassador visited Sangano Dairy Farm in Makoni and that a group people, mainly women, demonstrated at the venue. Foreign Affairs secretary Ambassador Joey Bimha yesterday said envoys were supposed to inform the ministry when travelling 40 kilometres outside Harare.
"I was not in the office to confirm whether he informed the ministry or not but these days most of them just travel without informing us," he said.
The embassy said the ambassador was touring Mutare where he was expected to visit US funded projects as well as meet local government officials and representatives of civil society organisations. This is Ambassador Wharton's first official visit to Mutare and some parts of Manicaland province.
Ambassador Wharton presented his credentials to President Robert Mugabe in November last year and pledged to continue building strong and respectful relations between Zimbabwe and the United States.
The US government has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe that are backed by the Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act.