The outgoing French ambassador to Zimbabwe, Laurent Delahousse, used his farewell dinner on Wednesday to mock President Robert Mugabe over the Zanu PF leader’s embarrassing “wrong speech” gaffe last year.
Delahousse also revealed that a section of President Mugabe’s fractious regime had engineered a daredevil break-in at his official residence in Harare declaring a “diplomatic line was crossed”.
“It is my pleasure to welcome you to the French residence on Bastille Day (French National Day).
“I make no excuse … Sorry, I think it’s the wrong speech, it happens to the best of us [I am] not getting any younger,” Delahousse said amid laughter from his audience.
Mugabe last year read the same speech twice at two different occasions, in an embarrassing gaffe, which saw him ploughing through his State of the Nation Address at the official opening of the National Assembly.
Government was forced to withdraw the speech, but Zanu PF legislators had actually ululated and “thanked the President for a brilliant speech”.
The French National Day falls on July 14.
Delahousse, who has had a number of run-ins with authorities in Harare, could not resist poking fun at the veteran leader.
“Friends, tonight I am sad and confused, but also proud and happy. Sad because my government didn’t grant my request to stay an additional fourth year in Zimbabwe and decided to move all French ambassadors after the normal term of three years,” he said, again mocking the tendency of leaders on the continent of extending their terms of office.
The French diplomat then claimed a section of Mugabe’s government had broken into his official residence at the height of the violent protests that rocked Zimbabwe, describing the security breach at his home as a “serious diplomatic incident”.
“On the night of July 28, intruders entered my residence, went straight to my bedroom, took my hard drives and USB sticks as well as a few personal items, then a line was crossed,” he said.
“This was no ordinary robbery, but a professional intelligence operation and a political warning to me.”
Delahousse said the intrusion was the work of a rogue section of Mugabe’s government.
“I suspect that this unacceptable intrusion in a diplomatic residence was engineered by the same people who accused me, a limited clique of individuals who are uneasy with His Excellency President Mugabe’s decision to re-engage with Europe and the West after years of tense diplomatic relations,” he said.
The French envoy later told NewsDay the authorities had promised to look into the issue.
“The police and relevant arms of government have already been here and they have done their work. I am confident that if they want to do their work, they can produce results,” he said.
“The idea is to make sure this never happens again, but the French government does not want to create a storm out of this issue.”
Delahousse said he had apprised acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the issue, but refused to reveal details of the discussion, saying: “I would rather that remains as private as it was.”
Mugabe’s government accused Delahousse and US ambassador Harry Thomas Junior of funding and supporting social movements such as #ThisFlag and Tajamuka/Sesijikile that led the demonstrations.