Zimbabwe

Zim dismisses ambassador's safety fears

2013-12-29 14:33

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Harare - Zimbabwe's government on Sunday dismissed concerns raised by Harare's ambassador to Australia who has asked Canberra for asylum citing fears for her safety back home, local media reported.

Ambassador Jacqueline Zwambila, aligned to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, made the request for asylum ahead of the end of her posting on Tuesday.

She told Australian media that a July vote had been "stolen" by President Robert Mugabe's government and that she did not feel safe returning to Zimbabwe.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion but her remarks are surprising because all the leaders of the MDC-T are here," said Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, referring to Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party.

Some were members of parliament, he was quoted as saying by the state news agency New Ziana.

"So, 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."

Power-sharing government

Zwambila was appointed in 2009 after Zimbabwe's power-sharing government was set up between Tsvangirai as prime minister and Mugabe as president.

The shaky deal ended after elections in July this year, slammed as fraudulent by Tsvangirai, with the MDC losing its ministerial posts.

Zwambila said she was seeking a protection visa so she can stay on in Australia with her family once her diplomatic status expires. It was not immediately clear whether Canberra would approve her request.

Zwambila branded the current 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.

Zwambila voiced fears of indefinite detention if she went back, saying she had been threatened with arrest after a court found that she owed several hundred US dollars to a tradesman, a charge she denied.

In 2010, Zimbabwe's state-owned Herald newspaper published an article claiming that Zwambila had undressed in protest during a quarrel with three embassy staffers.

Despite refuting the claims, she was brought before a disciplinary committee to answer charges of public indecency. Zwambila was cleared by the probe.

This month, she won a defamation case against the journalist who wrote the article, with damages still to be decided. This followed a 2011 confidential settlement with an Australian newspaper that also published the claims.

Ambassadors recalled

The MDC on Saturday said that the government had decided to recall MDC-aligned ambassadors without reassigning them.

The party said it was "concerned" by Zwambila's safety concerns, saying that her relations with Mugabe's government were "frosty."

The July polls handed 89-year-old Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader who has been in power for 33 years, a new five-year term.

Australia joined the United States and Britain in questioning the credibility of the polls and called for a re-run.

- AFP

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  australia
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