POLICE yesterday briefly detained about 12 British and United States diplomats and slashed their vehicle tyres in Mazowe, Mashonaland Central, after they visited victims of political violence in Bindura.
They were subsequently released yesterday evening after the intervention of Foreign Affairs minister Samuel Mumbengegwi.
The alleged harassment of the diplomats was last night expected to be debated at the United Nations Security Council meeting.
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed the incident, but said there was no sinister motive behind their arrest because the police wanted to get “clarity on the identity of the occupants of the three diplomatic vehicles”.
However, US ambassador James McGee said the diplomats were stopped and detained on their way from a fact-finding mission on the violence situation in Bindura.
“I had a team of diplomats who went out to look at the violence and political situation ahead of the run-off. They spoke to some people who told them what was happening on the ground,” McGee said.
“As they were talking to the people, police came and threatened to take them to the station and they refused to be taken there because there was no crime they had committed.”
He said the diplomats managed to drive away from the scene but said the police gave chase and tried to “physically” force one of the US vehicles off the road.
“Fortunately, we had a good driver and he managed to evade the effort. About 40 kilometres outside Harare, the police intercepted the convoy at a roadblock and blocked it from behind using the other cars that were giving chase. They put spikes on the road and that is when the tyres of one of the vehicles were slashed.
“My staffers and the other diplomats remained in the car and that is when the military, riot police, and war veterans arrived at the roadblock.
“They threatened to burn the vehicles and the occupants alive,” McGee said.
McGee said one of his drivers was assaulted by the police for having sped off and “wasting time”.
By Nkululeko Sibanda