Harare – Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry has rebuked the French ambassador over remarks he reportedly made at Bastille Day celebrations in support of a missing opposition activist, state media said on Friday.
The government-run Herald newspaper said French ambassador Laurent Delahousse had proposed a toast to Itai Dzamara, saying he had become “a symbol and he would not let him down.”
Dzamara has been missing since he was bundled into a car as he emerged from a barber’s shop near his home in March shortly after he spoke at an opposition rally.
The newspaper added Delahousse had “paraded Dzamara’s wife, Sheffra, child and brother during celebrations of the French National Day in Harare, claiming he was abducted for his fight for freedom of expression.”
Last year Dzamara staged sit-in protests in Harare’s main public square demanding the resignation of long-ruling President Robert Mugabe, whom he accused of destroying Zimbabwe.
The government has denied any responsibility for his disappearance.
Citing unnamed sources, The Herald said acting foreign affairs secretary Jonathan Wutawunashe had summoned Delahousse to a meeting on Thursday and “protested over the French envoy’s untoward act”.
“The acting secretary said here on the African continent, European envoys think meddling in African affairs in an undiplomatic fashion is fair,” the newspaper said.
Delahousse declined to comment when reached by telephone on Friday.
“I have no comment on what you read in the paper,” he told AFP. “I am on holiday and will be away for five days.”
The European Union, the United States and Canada have all expressed concern over Dzamara’s disappearance and called for Zimbabwean authorities to do more to ensure he is found.
Activists from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party beat Dzamara up during one of his protests.
Last Saturday Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition MDC party, attended a large prayer meeting in support of Dzamara.
Mugabe, 91, has ruled since the country overthrew white minority rule in 1980.