FOREIGN Affairs deputy minister Chris Mutsvangwa yesterday threw down the gauntlet and diplomatic etiquette to the wind and launched a scathing attack on Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi claiming that he was out to frustrate him.

Mutsvangwa also claimed that Mumbengegwi had for a long time sidelined him on important national duties despite his wide experience on diplomatic issues.

The two Zanu PF ministers have had an uneasy working relationship since their appointment by President Robert Mugabe last September.

Impeccable sources in government yesterday said it was likely that Mutsvangwa would petition Mugabe over the perceived continued persecution at the hands of his minister, who directs the country’s foreign policy.

In April, Mutsvangwa went ballistic and labelled Mumbengegwi and Foreign Affairs secretary Joey Bimha "political novices" saying the two never consulted him on ministerial matters although their offices were close to each other.

Mutsvangwa accused Mumbengegwi of failing a diplomatic test when he applied for Belgian travel visa for First Lady Grace Mugabe to enable her to escort President Mugabe to the European Union-African Union summit, knowing well that the application would be rejected.

Predictably, the application was turned down, forcing Mugabe to boycott the summit in protest.

Mutsvangwa, Zimbabwe’s former ambassador to China, told NewsDay that he felt offended last week after he received reports that Mumbengegwi had assigned support staff at the ministry to accompany Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa on a high-powered business trip to China.

The Zimbabwe delegation, which comprises several government officials including Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, is expected to leave Harare this week on a mission to scout for investors.

Yesterday, impeccable sources at the Foreign Affairs ministry confirmed that Mutsvangwa would not be part of the team.

Mutsvangwa said it would have made more sense for him to be part of the team given the wide network he had created with the Chinese community when he represented Zimbabwe as ambassador to the Asian country.

"Zimbabwean diplomacy and national economic goals are best attained when we make full play of the best talent, capabilities and exposure and experience in addressing opportunities and challenges of pressing national tasks," Mutsvangwa said.

"I sincerely believe that was guiding rationale for President Mugabe in his Cabinet and ministerial appointments from elected deputies."

He added that China, as an economic giant, should be handled carefully by experienced people.

Efforts to contact Mumbengegwi were fruitless as he was reportedly on Mugabe’s entourage to Malawi on Saturday for that southern African country’s golden jubilee independence anniversary.

Bimha could also not be reached for comment. Chinamasa has been in China previously to source money and investments, but returned home with his begging bowl empty as the Asian tigers remained skeptical over Zimbabwe’s investment policies.

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