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Zimbabwe diplomat heckles U.S. official

When Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson took to the podium Tuesday night, he probably didn’t expect any hecklers. Carson was speaking at the Africa Day celebration at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, a meeting of embassy officials representing countries across Africa. Carson, a soft-spoken diplomat with a professorial air, spoke on the progress of Africa from a colonial dominion to a group of independent, if struggling, states.

His remarks were going along as expected — until he started to talk critically about the downslide of human rights and good governance in Zimbabwe.

“You are talking like a good house slave!” came a shout from an audience member to Carson’s right. Your humble Cable guy nearly choked on his filet mignon as it became clear that the heckler, Zimbabwean Ambassador Machivenyika Mapuranga (pictured second from left), was determined to keep interrupting the speech by shouting at Carson.

As the crowd hissed “Boo!” and other condemnations, Mapuranga wouldn’t let it go, going on with shouts such as: “We will never be an American colony. You know that!”

But Carson silenced both the ambassador and the crowd when he started speaking again. Changing his tone, he scolded Zimbabwe by pointing out that such outbursts would have evoked vicious punishment in the southern African country, which has been ruled by revolutionary leader Robert Mugabe with an iron fist since the 1980s.

“You can sit in the audience in darkness, but the light will find you and the truth will find you,” Carson told Mapuranga, as event staff quietly tried to encourage the ambassador to leave.

Turning to the crowd, Carson said: “It seems that Robert Mugabe has some friends in the room tonight. Unlike in Zimbabwe, they are allowed to speak without oppression, because this is a democracy.”

The event staff persuaded Mapuranga to leave, but he shouted all the way. His staff filed out behind him. Washington Post

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