Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Australia, Jacqueline Zwambila, says sordid attacks by the Mugabe regime prompted her to seek asylum from ‘the country I love’
Zimbabwe‘s ambassador to Australia, Jacqueline Zwambila, has revealed she sought asylum after a “sustained smear campaign” in which President Robert Mugabe’s regime launched sordid personal attacks on his opponents serving abroad.
Ms Zwambila, an active member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, detailed a series of sordid attacks on her since she took up the post as ambassador in 2010.
She told The Telegraph she has been accused of stripping to her underwear in front of staff, trying to seduce a cleaner at the embassy and seeking to plan an uprising with former soldiers of the Rhodesian army, whom she met during a war memorial day in Australia.
“I fear for my safety and I do not know what they will do to me if I go back,” she said.
“I can never go back as long as this government is there. It is not a light statement. I can never go visit my father’s grave. I cannot go back to the country I love.”
Ms Zwambila, 56, a mother of three, was one of several MDC figures appointed as ambassadors during a power sharing deal between Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, and Mr Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.
The power sharing began after a disputed election in 2008 and ended after Mr Mugabe, the Zanu PF leader, won a disputed election earlier this year.
Another opposition member, Hebson Makuvise, the outgoing ambassador to Germany, has also reportedly sought asylum. About 20 ambassadors have recently been recalled after Mr Mugabe’s election win.
Ms Zwambila, who ran a public relations firm in Zimbabwe and was a high-ranking party official, said the attacks against her were made online and in state-run media, mainly by “nameless, faceless people”.
“This government has orchestrated a sustained smear campaign,” she said.
“It was a strategy of the Zanu PF regime – from the head of the party down – to undermine the leadership of the MDC. I was not the only one who was attacked. There was another ambassador. It was a sustained campaign against the leadership of the MDC and the party.”
Ms Zwambila’s diplomatic visa ends at midnight on December 31 but she will be able to stay in Australia while her asylum application is processed.
She has received a chorus of support, including from former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who said in a tweet: “Zimbabwe ambassador makes a bid to stay, grant it now.”
Australia’s immigration minister, Scott Morrison, said the asylum bid was being considered but he did not want to comment because it could prejudice the case “or, worse, place people at risk”.
In Zimbabwe, Ms Zwambila has been labelled a traitor in local media and her asylum bid has been described by the Bulawayo24 website as “most bizarre”.
Ms Zwambila has a nephew and one of her sons in Australia but was reluctant to reveal the whereabouts of her family members.
“We all know what treason means in Zimbabwe – today you get hanged,” she said.
“Anything can happen at any time. It has been sustained and constant and undermining of me in the embassy with support of people back home. It has been an ordeal. What guarantees do I have going home if they can do this while I am an ambassador?”
The MDC in Zimbabwe said it was concerned about Ms Zwambila’s safety.
“What we know for sure is that relations between her and the government were frosty and it’s difficult for us to assure her security as we are not in government,” said an MDC spokesman, Nelson Chamisa.
But Zimbabwe’s home affairs minister, Kembo Mohadi, dismissed Ms Zwambila’s concerns.
“If she is threatened by anyone, she should tell us, as we are responsible for security here as central government,” he said.