President Emmerson Mnangagwa has claimed he refused to go to the British Embassy in Harare to sign the book of condolence following the death of Queen Elizabeth 11 earlier this month.
According to The Herald newspaper, Mnangagwa made the comments while addressing Zanu PF supporters in the United States, where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly.
The Zimbabwean leader said he had cited sanctions that Britain and its western allies had imposed on Zimbabwe. The sanctions include travel bans against those affected.
According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, embassies and consulates are legally considered sovereign territories of the countries they represent.
“I said Zimbabwe can never walk to the UK or the embassy … I cannot violate UK territory; at the time we were in Angola,” Mnangagwa said.
Queen Elizabeth 11 died on September 8 at the age of 96 after reigning for 70 years, making her the UK’s longest-serving monarch.
Mnangagwa told supporters in New York he initially refused to go to the British embassy in Harare to sign the book of condolences.
“When the Queen (Elizabeth II) recently died, I was invited to offer my condolences to the British Embassy in Harare. So my foreign minister (and international trade minister) (Ambassador Frederick Shava) went there and he told me that the Australian and Canadian ambassadors were waiting for me there,” he explained.
“I then sent a message to the Secretary of State to come back because I’m not going there.
“The reason is that the UK has sanctions against us and we can’t go to the UK because of the sanctions, so I said in terms of international conventions, the embassy is a territory of the UK and I didn’t want to break those sanctions.
Zanu PF leader said he only relented after receiving formal confirmation from Britain’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Melaine Robinson, that he was banned from entering the UK.
“We insisted until we got a formal invitation saying I can go to the embassy and I won’t break it. He (Ambassador Shava) persuaded me to leave, I then went to the embassy to sign the condolence book.”
Mnangagwa also confirmed that he was formally invited to attend the funeral but chose to send his foreign minister.
“After that, I received a formal invitation to the funeral. I said I had asked my ambassador (in the UK, Colonel Christian Katsande) to represent Zimbabwe at the funeral,” he said.
“Then I sent word through him that I was upgrading my representation from ambassador to minister, so I sent the minister. I say that because we shouldn’t be moved around like little boys.”
Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF regime accuse Britain of leading its Western allies to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe more than two decades ago to punish the country for its controversial land reforms.
The government blames the sanctions for the country’s economic woes, but criticizes the targeted sanctions as a convenient scapegoat for a regime that has ruined the country through economic mismanagement, corruption and electoral fraud, and human rights abuses.