Relations between Harare and Washington remained chilly following the issuance of a diplomatic warning to U.S. Ambassador James McGee by the Foreign Ministry over his visits to hospitals where victims of political violence were under care, including in rural areas where such violence has been rife since the country's March 29 elections.
McGee on Monday rejected the Foreign Ministry's charge that he violated regulations governing foreign envoys, and said he would not stop speaking out on violence.
McGee and several other diplomats had faceoffs with police and security officials at a hospital in Mvurwe, Mashonaland Central Province, and at a roadblock on the road to Harare. On both occasions McGee refused to accompany police to a local station.
The state-run Herald newspaper quoted Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi as saying McGee was "dressed down" over actions which "constituted violations of diplomatic protocols and procedures." Among these were "politically charged and inflammatory remarks" made during a May 9 visit to a Harare hospital.
The newspaper said the Foreign Ministry summoned McGee Wednesday for what Mumbengegwi described as a "first warning."
It was not the first clash between Harare and a U.S. envoy. McGee's predecessor, Christopher Dell, was similarly summoned in 2005 and warned against "meddling" in the country's internal affairs after accusing the government of corruption.
Mcgee told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that papers issued to him earlier by the Foreign Ministry made clear he was not obliged to ask permission to travel more than 40 kilometers outside the capital, as the ministry now maintains, and said he will not back away from highlighting human rights violations.