by The Canberra Times
WHEN Jacqueline Zwambila made the decision as Zimbabwe ambassador not to return to her country out of fear for her safety, she was surprised by the magnitude of the Canberra community’s support.
Her decision a year ago to apply for a protection visa in Australia was a public slap in the face for Robert Mugabe, because it drew global attention to what Ms Zwambila labelled his illegitimate election victory in July 2013.
At the time she predicted waves of vitriol from her political enemies in Zimbabwe, similar to what she had received during her three years as envoy to Australia, but was shocked by the level of support she received in Australia.
“People stopped me in the street and said, ‘You’re the lady on the news, You should stay here. You’re brave,'” Ms Zwambila said.
“I was being accepted by Australians I didn’t know. And Zimbabweans in Australia invited me to weddings and christenings.”
Ms Zwambila is still living in Canberra and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection would not comment on her application.
The former envoy now works as a consultant for a company called Onako Global, mostly in the field of international development relating to Africa.
She has also taken on a political lobbying role by becoming Asia-Pacific region representative for the Movement for Democratic Change, which has Morgan Tsvangirai as its president.
“There appears to be fatigue about the Zimbabwe situation,” she said.
In December, Mr Mugabe purged a number of people from his ministerial team.
“Zimbabwe at the moment is beholden to one person (Mr Mugabe) and right now we’re in the midst of his succession planning,” Ms Zwambila said.
“Whatever is going to be happening, we must be ready.”
Despite winning a defamation case in December against journalist Reason Wafawarova – after the journalist’s defence as to why he made serious claims about her were struck out – the same claims published by the reporter were still published on Zimbabwe’s Australian embassy website.
An Immigration Department spokesperson said it was not appropriate to comment on Ms Zwambila’s protection visa application.
“Any application for protection is assessed upon its merits, and the individual circumstances of the case will determine the length of processing,” the spokesperson said.
“Any applicant who has arrived lawfully and seeks protection will be eligible for a permanent protection visa, if it is found that Australia’s protection obligations are engaged, and all other visa criteria are satisfied.”