7 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Recalled Envoys Await Their Fate

Photo: Herald
Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Australia, Jacqueline Zwambila.

Senior career diplomats with distinguished service records are among ambassadors recalled by Government to Harare and they now wait to know if they will be reassigned when President Mugabe returns from his annual vacation later this month.Zimbabwe is also in the process of bringing back home embassy staff from South Sudan, which has been rocked by a coup attempt.

The President appoints ambassadors to represent him abroad in his capacity as Head of State and Government. Government recalled 20 of the 47 ambassadors posted to various missions across the world, some of them seconded by MDC-T and MDC when the two partnered Zanu-PF in the inclusive Government between 2009 and 2013.

Ambassadors serve four-year terms that can be renewed depending on foreign policy considerations. Contrary to claims by some people, the recalls did not target ambassadors seconded by MDC-T and MDC.

Zimbabwe's top diplomat in Washington, Ambassador Machivenyika Mapuranga, and his counterpart in Cairo, Ambassador Aaron Mabhoyi Ncube, arrived back home last week; while former envoy to Germany Ambassador Hebson Makuvise returned yesterday morning.

Mr Makuvise was nominated by MDC-T and assigned to Germany by President Mugabe. It was believed that he had sought asylum in Germany at the expiry of his term but he has since denied the claims.

Efforts to reach him for contact were fruitless by last night and The Herald was informed that he had not yet checked into the Harare hotel room that the Foreign Affairs Ministry had booked for him. Hotel staff said Mr Makuvise had been to the establishment in the morning but had not been seen since.

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Eddie Mandaza, confirmed the return of the three diplomats yesterday, adding more were on their way.

"Three ambassadors have arrived so far and we are expecting others to return soon. Their new assignments will be sorted out in the coming weeks and we will inform them about that," he said.

Mr Mandaza, however, could not comment on Mr Makuvise's alleged request for asylum in Germany. Mr Makuvise was quoted by online media saying he never sought asylum in Germany and he would return to Zimbabwe at the end of his term.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Joey Bimha last week said recalling ambassadors was routine.

This was after former ambassador to Australia Ms Jacqueline Zwambila, who is from MDC-T, applied for asylum in that country citing unfounded threats against her life from the State if she were to return.

Ms Zwambila's antics have been condemned by Zimbabweans with her party also distancing itself from her actions. Zimbabwe's embassy in Australia also dismissed Ms Zwambila's actions saying it was a ploy by the former ambassador to remain in that country after losing her diplomatic privileges.

The embassy also disputed the alleged threats to her life saying she had regularly visited Zimbabwe during her time as ambassador with her last visit coming in July last year.

MDC-T provided two other ambassadors: Ms Hilda Suka-Mafudze (Sudan) and Ms Mabel Ngulani (Nigeria); while MDC seconded Mrs Trudy Stevenson (Senegal).

Ambassadors Mafudze, Ngulani and Stevenson have not been recalled. On South Sudan, The Herald is informed that Ambassador Kufa Chinonzva returned from Juba for the annual briefing and debriefing with Foreign Affairs headquarters and did not return to his base due to the volatile situation there.

However, three embassy staff remain in Juba and Government is working on their safe evacuation from South Sudan.

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