HARARE - An asylum application by outgoing Zimbabwean ambassador to Australia Jacqueline Zwambila has brought back President Robert Mugabe’s 33-year rule into spotlight, after she labelled the government “illegitimate”.
Zwambila is a member of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC and was appointed an ambassador during the country’s four years of unity government.
However, the unity government was dissolved following Zanu PF’s victory in the July 31 heavily contested harmonised elections.
The Zanu PF-led government has recalled some of the MDC officials that were appointed as envoys in different parts of the world.
Only two non-Zanu PF ambassadors Trudy Stevenson, who is posted in Dakar, Senegal, and Hilda Mafudze, Zimbabwe’s top diplomat in Khartoum, Sudan survived the purge by the new government.
Three more envoys including Zwambila, Hebson Makuvise (Germany) and Mabhedi Ngulane (Nigeria) failed to survive the chop.
Zwambila has since applied for asylum in Australia, claiming her life will not be safe if she returns to Zimbabwe.
“I am not going to be returning to Zimbabwe. Once elections of 31 July were stolen by the current government, which is illegitimate, I knew that this is the end of the line for a lot of things, end of the life for the people of Zimbabwe, because their will has not been done, once more again, the end of the life for people like me, who were appointed or rather nominated by the ex-prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, as I belong to his party,” Zwambila said.
Over the past 10 years, millions of Zimbabweans have travelled to Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa and other neighbouring countries, where they sought asylum, claiming human rights abuses by the Mugabe government.
According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, over the years, several human rights abuse cases were recorded in the country.
“Since 2004, the number of total abuses has increased, from 2 656 in 2004, to 4 170 in 2005 and 5 063 in 2006,” reads part of a survey on the forum’s website.
However, a number of Zimbabweans came back to the country between 2009 and 2013, during the subsistence of the unity government, which brought about substantial economic stability.
“Although in 2013, cases of politically-motivated murders, abductions, disappearances, torture and intimidation had been lower than in previous years, the overall situation was still far from perfect.
There were on-going serious human rights abuses, including the selective application of the law, massive corruption and tight control of electronic media. The military loomed large and constantly threatened that they would not accept any transfer of power away from Mugabe’s party, Zanu PF,” the forum said.
However, the Zwambila case has brought back into spotlight Mugabe’s rule, as the country’s economy continues shrinking, four months after his re-election.
Zwambila said she feared for her life, and would rather stay in Australia.
“Basically, for me to return after so many things have been done to me, since I have been here in Australia, the smear campaigns and the threats about my being, there is no way I will feel safe to be in Zimbabwe,” she said.
Zwambila came into spotlight after she was embroiled in an alleged sex scandal involving another party member.
MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora, yesterday told the Daily News that he was not able to tell if Zwambila’s fears that she will be persecuted were founded or not.
“This is because she has been subjected to a lot bad treatment by the State, including false allegations of indecorous behaviour in respect of which she has now won a court case against the State agent in question,” Mwonzora said.
He said Zwambila had been accused of flirting with former Rhodesians in Australia, adding that it was only the State, which knew whether it was going to persecute her or not.
“It is up to the State to give her assurance that she will not be persecuted,” Mwonzora said.
He further said if government could give assurance to Ghanaians, who were allegedly involved in a $6 million diamond deal that they will not be persecuted, it can do the same to Zwambila.
Zwambila has reportedly moved out of her residence in the Canberra suburb of Red Hill and was expected back in the country on Tuesday.
Her claims that the election was stolen might further stretch relations between Zimbabwe and Australia at a time when affairs between the two countries had significantly improved.
Zwambila said she worked hard to improve relations between the two countries, following a decade of hostility.