THE United States has reportedly warned Zimbabwe about its growing economic dealings with Russia after Harare recently sealed an agreement with Moscow for a US$3billion platinum mine.
According to Herald columnist Nathaniel Manheru, who is thought to be President Robert Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba, the Obama administration threatened further sanctions against Zimbabwe over its ties with Russia.
Manheru's claims could not be verified with the US embassy in Harare late Friday night.
The US has imposed sanctions against Moscow, tightening restrictions on major Russian state banks and corporations, after accusing the Kremlin of providing military backing to Ukrainian separatists and generally destabilising the region.
Zimbabwe's Pen East Investments has teamed up with Afronet, a consortium of three Russian partners, to form Great Dyke Investments, which is developing the US$3 billion Darwendale platinum project.
At full development in 2024, the mine will produce 800,000 platinum ounces, pushing Zimbabwe's output over one million ounces, and create 8,000 jobs.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov visited Zimbabwe last month to conclude the deal with President Robert Mugabe.
However, according to Manheru, the deal could see Washington hit Harare with further sanctions.
Wrote Manheru in the Saturday Herald: "A week or two ago, the US government, through its local embassy, sent an official communication to the Zimbabwean Government, listing the full measure of sanctions the West, led by America, have slapped on Russia.
"The communication went further.
"It spelt out American expectations on Zimbabwe, namely that Zimbabwe was expected (read required) to support those sanctions by avoiding any association with companies sanctioned by the Americans and their Western allies.
"Or their subsidiaries or affiliates.
"And . . . yes you guess right, that targets the new US$3bn-plus platinum investment by the Russians at Darwendale! It (Zimbabwe) should not proceed or else we are under sanctions."
The US imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe in 2003, accusing Mugabe of human rights abuses and electoral fraud. Harare denies the allegations, insisting the sanctions were meant to punish the country's land reforms.
Obama's administration has ignored calls by Mugabe to remove the sanctions which the veteran leader blames for bringing Zimbabwe's economy to its knees.
Manheru said it was ridiculous for the US to refuse to lift sanctions against Harare and then demand support for its measures against Moscow.
He wrote: "America then invites sanctioned Zimbabwe to support sanctions against Russia, itself a bird of the same feather!
"This is where I am tempted to tell the American government to go and hang, hang on a banana tree, bums up."
On the threat of further punishment from Washington, Manheru quipped: "What sanctions can come from the Americans to us? I thought those on the ground cannot fall?"
The Zanu PF government says Western countries have been flummoxed by Harare's growing economic ties with China and Russia.
Zanu PF chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo, last week said support from Beijing and Moscow had helped crush the West attempts to force regime change in Zimbabwe.
"We understand their (West) fear when China and Russia are pouring in billions of dollars to partner with Zimbabwe in infrastructure, mining and beneficiation of minerals within Zimbabwe," Khaya Moyo said during a visit to Cuba.