Zim diplomat’s asylum bid ‘fully justified’

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IOL Jacqueline Zwambila


Jacqueline Zwambila, Harares outgoing ambassador to Australia who is seeking asylum to remain there.


Harare - Jacqueline Zwambila, Harare’s outgoing ambassador to Australia who is seeking asylum to remain there, would have “no life” if she returned home, says prominent Zimbabwe politician and human rights activist Sekai Holland.

Holland, 71, a former anti-apartheid activist in Australia, who struggled against white rule in Rhodesia and against President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party after independence, said Zwambila was “extremely vulnerable” because she had won a court case in Australia last week against a pro Zanu-PF journalist.

Zwambila was appointed ambassador to Australia to represent the inclusive government after it came to power in 2009 at a time when she was close to Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) president Morgan Tsvangirai.

She was accused in the pro-Zanu-PF press in Harare of losing her temper and stripping naked in front of staff at the Zimbabwe Embassy in Canberra. The claims were proved false in the Australian High Court last week when a Canberra judge struck out the defence of pro-Zanu-PF freelance journalist Panganai Reason Wafawarova.

Zimbabwean state-run newspaper The Herald had published his false claims about the ambassador, and The Australian newspaper also ran Wafawarova’s claims days later.

Zwambila launched a lawsuit against The Australian’s publisher, News Ltd, and Wafawarova in 2011. Court papers say Wafawarova was motivated out of malice as an “agent of the Mugabe regime”. Zwambila reached a confidential settlement with The Australian in March 2011.

Zwambila told Australian journalists last week that she feared for her safety if she returned to Harare since Zanu-PF “stole” the elections in July. She branded the current Zanu-PF government “illegitimate” in a video posted on the Canberra Times website, saying she had been subject to “smear campaigns and threats”.

“There is no way I feel safe being in Zimbabwe or going back to Zimbabwe,” she said.

Holland, who studied in Australia in the 1960s and married an Australian, is a founding member of the MDC and a former MP and senator. Holland was grossly tortured in detention in March 2007.

Speaking from Harare on Sunday, Holland said: “Even though Jackie Zwambila won her case in a court in Australia, the original untrue story remains a political slur in Zimbabwe which was meant to destroy her politically, and her social standing, her ability to get a job, to survive in this politically charged country… she would be hounded and humiliated and there is no way she could be protected by the MDC.

“Her victory in court in Australia will offend Zanu-PF, but it was important. This case is going to have consequences for men who want to use sexual slurs against women in politics.”

Zimbabwe’s home Affairs Minister, Kembo Mohadi, brushed off Zwambila’s fears, saying she had nothing to fear as the MDC had MPs in parliament. “Why does she feel threatened? What is so special about her? If she is threatened by anyone, she should tell us as we are responsible for security here as central government.”

Tens of thousands of political activists, human rights workers and civilians were killed, tortured, detained without trial or kicked out of their homes by Zanu-PF since independence, including many from the MDC since it nearly beat Zanu-PF in 2000.

Independent Foreign Service

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