Zimbabwean Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo has barred mayors and town clerks from five city councils from traveling to the United States on a study tour set up by the US Embassy in Harare, calling the trip a wast of taxpayers money.
Chombo also said he had not been consulted prior to the arrangement of the trip.
The US embassy was covering all expenses except air travel.
The minister threatened to fire the mayors who are all members of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Chombo is a member of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
Following a meeting with President Mugabe last year, US Ambassador Charles Ray has tried to promote better relations, in October sponsoring a Zimbabwe delegation - including members of ZANU-PF - that attended a US-Africa business summit.
The US Embassy organized similar meetings for Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, also a member of ZANU-PF.
US Embassy spokeswoman Jillian Bonnadeaux said the cancellation was "disappointing," saying the study tour would have helped the city officials in their work.
Bulawayo Mayor Patrick Thaba Moyo, who was scheduled to leave Tuesday, said that he received a message in the afternoon notifying him the trip had been “rescheduled indefinitely." He added that his council will not appeal Chombo’s decision.
Deputy Local Government Minister Cecil Zvidzai of the MDC said Chombo is abusing his executive powers.
Political analyst Trevor Maisiri commented that Chombo's move could be justified only if it were clearly in the interest of taxpayers.