Zimbabwean Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara on Wednesday defended this week's expulsion Libyan Ambassador Taher Elmagrahi saying the envoy violated the terms of his diplomatic mission and that Harare has not yet recognized the National Transitional Council taking power in Tripoli after toppling Moammar Gadhafi.
Responding to a question in Parliament from Highfield East lawmaker Simon Hove on the decision Tuesday to give Elmagrahi until Friday to leave the country, Mutambara said the envoy lost his diplomatic rights when he declared his defection to the NTC.
The Libyan Ambassador and his staff last week burned the flag of the Gadhafi government that for all intents and purposes appeared to have been driven from power, then announced their defection to the revolutionary government in Tripoli.
Mutambara said the fact that Zimbabwe has not recognized the Transitional Council means that it still recognizes the government of Moammar Gadhafi.
Yet Mutambara added that the Libyan question was complicated and that the government must collectively come to a decision whether or not to recognize the National Transitional Council as the legitimate new government of Libya.
Asked if Gadhafi has entered Zimbabwe or whether the Harare unity government would offer him political asylum, Mutambara said that the question has not yet been addressed, adding that in any case it would have to involve all the parties in government.
Deputy Minister of Justice Obert Gutu of the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai disagreed with the Foreign Ministry. He told Studio 7 reporter Violet Gonda that Harare over-reacted, as the National Transitional Council is now the de facto government and Gadhafi is no longer in control.
Gutu said that under the law diplomats are accredited by a sovereign nation to another, thus they are not sent abroad to represent a particular leader but the country.
“It would have been better, it would have been wiser, indeed cleverer, if perhaps the Zimbabwean officials would have bid their time and waited to make an observation as to see how the Libyan political scenario is unfolding," Gutu said.
But rival MDC formation leader Welshman Ncube said Elmagrahi put himself in an untenable position by publicly shifting his loyalties, noting that his diplomatic credentials were issued by the Gadhafi government. Ncube said Elmagrahi should have bided his time until Zimbabwe had recognized the new government in Libya.
Ncube said political and moral sympathies regarding the Libyan situation are neither here nor there, as the envoy cannot represent an entity Harare has not yet recognized.
“He cannot represent Libya unless he holds valid letters of accreditation to Zimbabwe and those which were valid were given to him by Colonel Gadhafi," Ncube said.
"The Transitional Council has not given him any accreditation and secondly it’s not yet recognized in Zimbabwe," he said.
Ncube said the Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi presented the facts during Tuesday's meeting of the Cabinet cabinet meeting which could not be disputed at law.
At least 20 African countries and many western nations have recognized the transitional council as the new government of Libya.