HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s state media expressed unrestrained glee last Wednesday at the pending departure of U.S. Ambassador James McGee, who has frequently clashed with President Robert Mugabe.
“Thank heavens, McGee is going!” was the headline in the Herald newspaper, which also ran a vitriolic commentary about McGee’s two-year tenure in Harare.
The newspaper, a mouthpiece for Mugabe’s party, offered pity “to whatever country next has the misfortune of hosting” McGee next.
It alleged that McGee, who is African American, campaigned for the ouster of Mugabe and was leaving Zimbabwe “bruised and battered” because Washington was unable to stop the formation of a power-sharing government between Mugabe and the longtime opposition movement.
“He never wanted it to happen for the simple reason that his brief was to ensure that the ‘monster’ called Robert Mugabe was booted out of office at all costs,” the newspaper said. “On the whole, [he] treated Zimbabweans as a bunch of kindergarten kids who do not know what is best for them.”
McGee’s office said there were no plans to respond to the article. The ambassador leaves Zimbabwe in June.
In Washington last Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said, “Ambassador McGee continues to do an outstanding job promoting U.S. interests in Zimbabwe, and has been a true friend of Zimbabweans by speaking out about the injustices, violence and economic ruin that have been put upon them by the Mugabe regime.”
The United States and other Western nations have viewed Zimbabwe’s power-sharing coalition with caution and insist that any resumption of aid and investment depends on democratic and economic reforms and the restoration of the rule of law and human rights.
Little headway has been made on those conditions since the coalition was sworn in Feb. 16. Mugabe’s party is frequently at odds with his former rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and Tsvangirai’s former opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.
Violent seizures of white-owned farms, a policy began by Mugabe in 2000, have continued. The farmers support group Justice for Agriculture reported Wednesday that police opened fire on two white farmers attempting to visit their seized land southwest of Harare, injuring two workers, one seriously.
McGee, a harsh critic of Mugabe’s human rights record, was among those voicing concerns that the new coalition left Mugabe with too much power.
The Herald said McGee, a Vietnam veteran and former pilot, fought “white America’s war” in Vietnam.
“This is a black man who, after bombing innocent villagers … can turn around today and talk self righteously about political violence in Zimbabwe without any shame,” it said.
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