Zimbabwe envoy to Australia emphasises on the positives

Zimbabwean ambassador Jacqueline Zwambila is about to celebrate her first Christmas in Australia with her family and grandchildren after a turbulent few months.

Ms Zwambila became ambassador to Australia early this year but in recent months has been caught up in a bizarre incident involving allegations from three embassy staff that she stripped off her clothes during a heated argument.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the incident yesterday, Ms Zwambila said the allegations were false.

”I totally deny those allegations,” she said.

Ms Zwambila returned abruptly to Harare to meet foreign affairs secretary Joey Bimha late last month but said she had not been recalled as ambassador.

”I was never recalled. I went to Harare because this thing with the papers was happening and as ambassador and head of mission I had to explain what’s going on,” she said.

”I went back to report on an administrative matter, in which a letter was submitted … and any head of embassy would go back and explain what was going on, which I did.”

Ms Zwambila spent 10 years as a political activist for the Movement for Democratic Change, the opposition party led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

She is one of five Zimbabwean ambassadors appointed by the Movement for Democratic Change under a power-sharing deal with President Robert Mugabe.

Ms Zwambila declined to comment on suggestions that she was the victim of a smear campaign by supporters of Mr Mugabe and said she was unaware of allegations that illegally mined ”blood diamonds” were being smuggled into Australia through the Zimbabwean diplomatic bag.

The three embassy staffers who sparked the incident are on recall to Harare, including charge d’affaires Felix Nyamupinga, whose wife Biata is an MP from Mr Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.

”All I do know is that in any new team which is formed, there is a process of getting to understand each other, a process of forming as a team,” she said.

”There are different management styles, I definitely have a different management style. Getting people together as one team I think that takes time and some people are able to and others are not.”

 

Ms Zwambila said the embassy had been working to re-establish a close relationship with the Australian and New Zealand governments.

”That [work] is continuing. We have development aid from Australia, when I first came it was quite negligible, but now Zimbabwe is getting, I believe, 25 per cent of the total Africa aid from the Australian Government,” she said.

For more on this story, including Ms Zwambila’s comments on the impact the new inclusive government is having on society there, see the print edition of today’s Canberra Times.