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Zimbabwe, US Clash Over Deportation of USAID Team

In a growing diplomatic rift, Zimbabwe and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) find themselves at odds following the detention and subsequent deportation of U.S. officials.

Panashe Makufa
These individuals were in Zimbabwe on a mission focused on democracy and human rights assessment. Zimbabwe accuses the team of sneaking into the country illegally and meddling in politics,  an accusation that USAID disputes insisting their mission was conducted through appropriate diplomatic channels and focused on legitimate development objectives.

George Charamba, Deputy Secretary in the President's Office of Zimbabwe, justified the deportations by claiming the U.S. team did not properly notify Zimbabwe's Foreign Affairs Ministry upon their arrival and only declared two members in a diplomatic note, which he referred to as "consular infractions." Charamba argued, “The team’s mission was purely political, aiming to interfere in our domestic politics, a matter in which Americans have no stake.”

He further accused the undeclared team members of actively engaging with opposition figures and collecting political intelligence across Zimbabwe, asserting the nation's right to expel anyone who infringes upon its laws or sovereignty.

Countering these allegations, USAID spokesperson Jessica Jennings clarified that the U.S. had indeed informed the Zimbabwean government about the assessment mission through an official diplomatic note and had sought meetings with government officials. 

"Before the assessment began, USAID notified the Government of Zimbabwe through an official diplomatic note and requested meetings with the government," she said.

She described the detained U.S. officials and contractors as development professionals who were legally admitted into Zimbabwe and faced aggressive treatment leading to their deportation about ten days after their arrival.

“The team of U.S. government officials and contractors are development professionals who were legally and openly admitted to Zimbabwe on February 5 and February 7. Approximately ten days after arrival, the assessment team faced inappropriate and aggressive treatment in the lead-up to their deportation”

Jennings condemned Zimbabwe's treatment of the team, calling it "inappropriate and aggressive." The US government has condemned the actions as "egregious, unjustified, unacceptable, and in violation of accepted diplomatic norms."

Charamba in a local press revealed that the Zimbabwean government monitored the officials to determine their activities, discovering interactions with various individuals including journalists and NGO representatives, which he claimed warranted their deportation for not fully disclosing their presence and activities within Zimbabwe.

“Unknown to them the government of Zimbabwe knew that in fact persons who had entered surreptitiously into the territory of Zimbabwe were four not two as declared.” 

“Incidentally, the other two had been very active on the ground, meeting interest groups, meeting leading opposition members, and NGOs and travelling around the country with the express purpose of gathering information and information of a political nature” said Charamba

Despite these tensions, USAID maintains that it had communicated its intentions well in advance and expressed surprise at the harsh treatment received. Jennings reiterated that the incident has been communicated to the Zimbabwean government as a violation of diplomatic norms, challenging Zimbabwe's stated commitment to democratic reforms and engagement with the international community.

USAID remains the Southern African country’s largest development partner contributing 4.5 billion US dollars through its initiatives to enhance food security, support economic resilience, improve health outcomes, and promote democratic governance.


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