Great Britain is understood to have taken the unusual step of blocking the senior civil servant chosen by President Robert Mugabe to become Zimbabwe’s new ambassador in London.
Ray Ndhlukula, who currently serves as deputy chief secretary in Mr Mugabe’s office, has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Zimbabwe’s land seizure programme.
After gaining two farms, Mr Ndhlukula took possession of a third by occupying Centenary farm in Matabeleland South province. He did so by evicting the legal owner, David Connolly, and all 75 of the farm’s workers and their dependants.
Last year, the High Court in Bulawayo ordered Mr Ndhlukula off Centenary farm and gave him a suspended prison sentence of 90 days. But Mr Ndhlukula has stayed on the property in defiance of this order.
Judges are now considering a contempt of court case brought against him by Mr Connolly.
“I went and had a look at the farm a few days ago as I had to attend the funeral of one of my workers who was chased off,” said Mr Connolly. “Nothing is happening there. Mr Ndhlukula has a few workers there and three tractors, but nothing is going on at the farm. It is very sad.”
Mr Mugabe is understood to have nominated Mr Ndhlukula, 56, to be Zimbabwe’s new ambassador in London. The previous envoy, Gabriel Machinga, has left Britain and the latest version of the London Diplomatic List shows that the position of Zimbabwean ambassador is vacant.
But the Foreign Office is understood to have objected to Mr Ndhlukula. An unnamed source told a Harare newspaper that Britain had “rejected the president’s nomination likely because of the farm seizures”.
A Foreign Office spokesman declined to confirm or deny whether Britain had blocked Mr Ndhlukula’s arrival, saying: “We do not comment on individual diplomatic appointments.”
Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, countries are allowed to reject ambassadors proposed by other states. Article 4 requires that a “sending State must make certain that the agreement of the receiving State has been given for the person it proposes to accredit as head of the mission”.
The Convention adds that a “receiving State is not obliged to give reasons to the sending State for a refusal of agreement”.
However, disputes of this kind are unusual and Britain rarely objects to the choice of foreign ambassadors.