PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was embarrassed last week in Chicago after top United States government officials declined to entertain him or to acknowledge his presence as he had travelled to the American city at the invitation of a bogus business networking organisation.
On arrival in Chicago, Mr Tsvangirai and his aides discovered that there were no American government officials to welcome them as the purpose of their visit was apparently unknown to Washington.
The PM and his entourage later learnt that an organisation run by exiled Zimbabweans had invited them for a dubious event dubbed the Zimbabwe Trade and Cultural Expo, which the Americans did not recognise.
Mr Tsvangirai, who had hoped to meet top US officials including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, had to change his itinerary after it became evident that he had been snubbed.
Mr Tsvangirai travelled to Chicago last Wednesday accompanied by, among others, Harare Mayor Mr Muchadeyi Masunda and the Minister of State in his office, Mr Jameson Timba.
The trip followed an invitation by one Martin Munangatire for the MDC-T leader to attend the so-called Zimbabwe Trade and Cultural Expo (ZTCE) where he was supposed to meet some businesspeople.
It is understood that Mr Tsvangirai intended to meet the Governor of Illinois and Mayor of Chicago to arrange some twinning arrangements between Harare and Chicago before travelling to Washington to meet
Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton. Sources in Chicago said Mr Tsvangirai’s trip turned out to be an unmitigated failure after US government officials indicated that they would not meet him as Washington put in motion efforts to dump the MDC-T leader.
He later entertained some businesspeople at a meeting organised to denounce Zimbabwe’s indigenisation exercise.
A number of residents in Chicago were reportedly angered by the PM’s failure to instead denounce the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West.
According to Mr Nate Clay, a journalist and the head of a US pressure group called the Coalition to End Sanctions on Zimbabwe, the PM’s visit was an embarrassment from the outset as no US government official turned up at the airport in Chicago to welcome him.
A spokesperson for the US embassy in Harare, Mrs Sharon Hudson-Dean, could not comment on the issue as she was still waiting to get information from officials in Washington.
Mr Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Mr Luke Tamborinyoka, yesterday issued a statement confirming that the PM was in Chicago to meet businesspeople.
“The Prime Minister, who arrived here on Wednesday, addressed several business forums and toured business premises.
“He said the indigenisation laws were negatively affecting investment at a time the country needed massive investment in order to create jobs and expand the economy.
“PM Tsvangirai has been urging everyone to support the regional effort for a free and fair election in Zimbabwe, adding that only credible polls would lead to a legitimate government that would signal an end to the uneasy coalition that has neither shared values nor a common vision,” said Mr Tamborinyoka in a statement.
However, Mr Tamborinyoka’s statement did not mention the aborted meetings with US top officials despite a Press statement that was issued by ZTCE that stated that the PM was travelling to Chicago on a “state” visit.
Mr Masunda also told a full council meeting a fortnight ago that he was travelling to the US to meet the Chicago mayor with the PM.
The Sunday Mail is reliably informed that Mr Tsvangirai failed to meet with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel as the two officials said they could not meet his delegation because the organisers of the trip had not followed proper procedures.
Mr Tsvangirai had to hold a Press conference with US Public Broadcast Company (PBC) on Thursday where he said he failed to meet Governor Quinn because the US official had travelled out of the country.
But official reports indicated that Governor Quinn only left the US on Friday for China and was in Chicago during the two days Mr Tsvangirai was making frantic efforts to meet him.
“The governor (Mr Quinn) told some of his political friends that he had no intention of meeting the PM because the people originating the trip did not handle themselves correctly,” said the source.
It is understood that the PM cancelled his trip to Washington because Mrs Clinton and President Obama indicated that they were too busy to meet Mr Tsvangirai.
The PM was expected to hold another meeting in Chicago with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who heads a pressure group called Operation Push, which is believed to be making efforts to get Mr Tsvangirai to hold a Press conference denouncing sanctions.
ZTCE is an organisation formed by self-exiled Zimbabweans living in the US.
Munangatire reportedly applied for political asylum, claiming that he would be persecuted in Zimbabwe because he was married to a white American. He is believed to hold both Zimbabwean and American citizenship. The organisation invited Mr Tsvangirai on the pretext that it was a state visit.
Said a source: “One does not make state visits to America with Chicago being their first point of entry. State visits are done through Washington DC.”