The MDC-T Australia ambasador to Zimbabwe Ms Jacquline Zwambila who in 2010 allegedly stripped down to her undergarments in a heated argument with some embassy officials she accused of leaking information to the media is being accused of sexual harassment and violations of employment laws.MDC-T Felix Chiridza who was employed as a butler by the ambassor has written a report detailing his ordeal at the hands of the ambassador.
In an email to Felix Machiridza explained how he contacted MDC-T President and Zimbabwe Prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai to have the matter resolved without involving media but his efforts fell on deaf ears as he experienced threats from the ambassador.
“Contrary to what some analysts are thinking, this has nothing to do with politics because we are from the same political divide, that is why I approached the PM’s office first. Prior to this I had tried for a long time to engage my employer in dialogue and it had resulted in worse treatment.Here in Australia I had approached both govt and private institutions for assistance but because of ambassador Zwambila’s diplomatic immunity they could not help much.” Said Felix.
Below is the original document that he sent to the PM’s office before he approached the press and before he was fired from his position as ambassador’s butler. It chronicles the ordeal he suffered under ambassador Jacquline Zwambila, the Zimbabwean ambassador to Australia.
I Felix Machiridza am employed by Ambassador Jaqueline N. Zwambila as a Butler. I have worked in this capacity for 1 year and 3 months now. I am a music teacher with 14 years experience and I am also a Journalist and a Performing Artist. I have known Ms Zwambila since 2008 when the last harmonised elections in Zimbabwe were held. I was at that time employed as Programmes Officer at Artists for Democracy in Zimbabwe Trust (ADZT) and the Movement for Democratic Change party would ask me to do some work for them. One of our supervisors as we did this work was Ms Zwambila. I got to know her as a person of integrity and who shared the same political values with me.
When Ms. Zwambila was appointed to her present post, she asked me if I wanted to work with her in Australia in cultural cooperation and education because of my qualifications and experience. By that time I had become National Coordinator at ADZT and a Lecturer at the Christian College of Southern Africa in the Department of Journalism. I agreed and she asked me to submit my C.V. and copies of all my qualifications and transcripts, which I did. During the time before we came to Australia, Ms. Zwambila assigned me to do all the interfacing with the Australian Embassy in Zimbabwe on her behalf while she was away. She said that I and my workmate could only get the 426 visa because the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Harare could not appoint us officially due to political reasons. We went ahead and got visas after going through the process.
We then came to Australia in February 2010 and Ms. Zwambila told us that we would work at her residence and support her in every way until she got settled. She then said she would employ locally recruited staff and let us do the work she had brought us to do for the duration of the 2 year period of our visas. She promised to help us to go to school and to improve ourselves. (Little did we know at this time that under the 426 visa we are not allowed to do anything other than the work assigned by our employer). This we got to know around early March 2010 when we were invited to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (in Canberra) for orientation. Since I was already in Australia, I personally decided I would go through the 2 year period working in her household as a butler and thereafter find my own way out.
For the first few days we were like family and we accorded H.E.Ms Zwambila the respect commensurate with her position and status. It came as a surprise when the employer suddenly changed and began to shout at us and treat us like total strangers.
The following are the grievances I have against my employer H.E. Ambassador J.N. Zwambila:
1-Working extra long days without being allowed to claim overtime.
2-Working without a contract for 9 months and failure to observe the stipulations and provisions of the contract when it was finally signed.
3-Being ridiculed and insulted, including being shouted at and being called all kinds of demeaning names.
4-Behaving in a manner unbecoming her position and status by calling me to her room to serve her drink at night and deliberately exposing her half nude body to me.
5-Being removed from the cottage to live for almost a year in the garage room where conditions were damp and squalid because I refused to occupy a bedroom on the same floor as hers.
6-Being made to handle and clean up used condoms from her son’s room regularly without gloves or protective clothing and washing his underwear.
7-Being threatened with deportation and with retribution when I go back to Zimbabwe.
8-Being forced to buy food and other materials for the residence even when we were a number of months in salary arrears.
9-Working extra hours without being allowed to claim overtime
Due to the fact that we had no contract to refer to, we never knocked off at a definite time and almost daily we were made to work till late. This went on until October 2010 when we asked for our contracts and were finally given. Even then we were allocated a day each on which we could knock off at 5 otherwise it was on and on for the other days, yet the contract states that we are supposed to start at 8am and cut off at 5pm. If H.E. Ms Zwambila has a late night function, she expects me to sit and wait for her till whatever time she comes back. Sometimes I was expected to work on public holidays and if I tried to claim those days, tables would be turned against me.
Working without a contract for 9 months.
Before we came to Australia, I was hastily made to sign a contract whose purpose was explained as; to facilitate the processing of my visa. When I first asked H.E. Ms. Zwambila for my contract, she asked me to go and speak with the then EO, Mr. Moses Chikanyairo. He told me that he was trying to get H.E. Ms. Zwambila to agree to the contract before I could get to sign it. I was given a copy of the contract to peruse and when I said I was ready to sign, the EO said H.E. Ms. Zwambila needed to approve first. This went on till October 2010 when I wrote to seek audience with her so that we could resolve the issue of the contract and other related matters. H.E. Ms. Zwambila flew into a rage and quickly called me and my workmate and after listening to what we had to say, she reminded us who she was and told us that we had to do as we were told and if we did not like how she treated us there was no way she could help us. She told us that there were only two people in the household, herself and her son. She then took out copies of our contracts and gave us to sign. To this day our contracts bear the October 26 date, 9 months after we started work.
Being ridiculed and insulted, including being shouted at and being called all kinds of demeaning names.
Since Ambassador started showing openly that she despised me, she would shout at me if she felt I had not done my work to her liking and would say I lacked common sense and that I was backward and slow in thinking. Sometimes she liked to do this when there were visitors around. She would give one instruction only to change it in front of the visitor and make fun of me. For example she would say “He thinks he is still in Zimbabwe, oh he is so silly, no common sense at all”. If she rang the door bell and I did not open immediately (because the house is very large and I would be working far away from the door) she would shout at me and tell me that I am too slow. It was difficult to know and keep times that she was likely to come back to the residence as these times widely varied. The very first time was on 04/03/10, the day she presented her credentials, she shouted at me in the presence of the senior embassy staff for failing to capture her on camera as she got out of the government Rolls Royce. I was stunned as she had not assigned me to this before she left.
It is anathema to answer my phone in her presence even during my free time.
Behaving in a manner unbecoming her position and status by calling me to her room to serve her drink at night and deliberately exposing her half nude body to me.
On March 27 2010 Ms. Zwambila called me on my mobile at 10.30pm and asked me to bring her coke to her room. I was already in bed and I obediently went upstairs to the kitchen, poured the coke and took it to her room. I knocked on her door and she asked me to come in. I was shocked to see her half dressed, sitting on her bed. I was about to beat a hasty retreat when she smiled and said,
“Come and give me my coke, why do you behave as if you have never been with a woman before?”
I was too tongue-tied to answer. I handed her the drink and walked quickly out of the room. I was not only shocked but puzzled as to what her intentions had been.
The same thing was repeated a week later, but this time she was lying in bed and she said I should not be shy because I would be doing to her room often. It was on this day that she first told me that I should vacate the cottage at the back of the main house and occupy a bedroom upstairs on the same floor as hers. I felt ill at ease because of what I had experienced on those two occasions. I was so upset by such behavior from my employer and my country’s most senior representative in Australia.
I am almost certain that my abuse by Ms Zwambila was retribution for refusing to bend to her seduction.
Being removed from the cottage to live for almost a year in the garage where conditions were damp and squalid because I refused to occupy a bedroom on the same floor as hers.
At the beginning of May I was evicted from the cottage and I went to live in one of the garage rooms. The conditions were far from conducive and I often suffered from coughs, colds and flu. Some Australian friends had to help me with materials to make the place a bit more habitable. These people who helped me can bear witness to this.
I lived there until 26 March 2011 when she asked me to move back into the cottage.
This was because her nephew refused to live in the house and moved out. (Her son has since got into trouble with the law after he was caught driving the diplomatic car without a licence and without official authorization and his visa was cancelled.)
Being made to handle and clean up used condoms from her son’s room regularly without gloves or protective clothing.
The Ambassador’s 23 year old son used to bring some girls to his room regularly and the room would be littered with used condoms and food and wine would mess up the carpet. His bedroom would stink. It was then Ambassador Zwambila would order me to clean up all that mess without protective clothing (I requested for these but they were never bought).When I complained that her son should learn to dispose of his sex products because having sex meant he was grown up, Ambassador Zwambila got very angry and called me all sorts of names and reminded me not to forget my social status. She said I should never forget that this was an ambassador’s son and not someone of my level.
Being threatened with deportation and with retribution when I go back to Zimbabwe.
Each time I tried to complain to Ambassador Zwambila, she would threaten me with dismissal and possible cancellation of my visa. Of late she has started threatening me with unspecified action back at home. I live under constant fear as I had a comfortable job back at home and she persuaded me to leave it with prospects of greater things in Australia. There is no way in which I can go and claim my job back at my former organization.
Being forced to buy groceries and other materials for the residence even when we are a number of months in salary arrears.
My workmate and I bought all the groceries for the Ambassador’s residence monthly.
Each of us contributed $300 monthly and this was demanded in retrospect if we were paid any salaries arrears. We were not allowed to eat some of the food we had bought. She rarely bought any groceries herself, neither did she contribute anything.
Termination of contract.
I tried in vain to get my boss to change her attitude towards me. As our meeting with her in October 2010 had not yielded much, I sent her another e-mail on April 9 2011 to which she reacted with anger and she spent many days refusing to talk to me. If she forced herself to acknowledge my greeting of her, it was with a sarcastic “Mr. Machiridza” appended to it. On 13 April before she left for Zimbabwe she told us that we should vacate her house as she was bringing in some people to house sit. She also said she would respond to my e-mail when she came back. We told her that her we had nowhere to go therefore we would stay put at the house.
When she came back she called me and read the e-mail to me and told me how insulted she felt but the tone and language in the e-mail. She then said her niece (my workmate) was leaving, I could obviously not do her room and she was not prepared to change her attitude and treatment of me because that is ‘who she is’. In the light of this she declared that we should part ways and that she was giving me two weeks’ notice (up to the end of May) I thanked her and asked her to put it in writing.
When I went to the embassy to talk to the Finance Officer to work out my leave days that are still outstanding, she told me that Ambassador Zwambila had asked her to write my letter of notice. After calculating the days, we found out that I was supposed to stop work immediately due to the fact that any extra days are not paid by the Zimbabwean Government. I told the Finance Officer that I would collect the written notice the following day. I have not yet been given the written notice.
My employer has treated me unfairly and has grossly abused me.
I am owed 3 months’ salaries plus other dues and according the Finance Officer I can only get the owed amount by the end of June at the earliest.
My employer is busy trying to work out ways of denying me part of my dues, contrary to the provisions of the contract.
I am not sure of what my employer has been up to because she has threatened me with unspecified reprisals back at home.
Ambassador Zwambila denies things that she has done or said so much that it is easy for her to just say I am not telling the truth, yet for most of these things I have the evidence and witnesses.
I believe I have done my employer no wrong and I have always had respect for her person and for her office. Copies of the e-mails I wrote to her can bear testimony to this fact. I protected her honour and integrity when she was alleged to have stripped before male staff at the embassy on the November 6 last year by refusing to volunteer information to the press, even though I had authentic information on the build up to the incident at the office. On the fateful day she came and openly told us what she had done at the office and how the officers had run out of her office.
I no longer feel safe working for her and would like to ‘part ways’ with her as she said. This is a human rights defender who has turned into an abuser. I have been silent for too long and somehow I have to let this be known in order to protect myself and others who may fall into the same quandary as I did.
Of late she has asked the Finance Officer to put off writing the letter of termination until further notice and has engaged a lawyer friend of hers (a Zimbabwean who works here in Canberra) to talk to me. He has issued direct threats to me that if anything negative should happen to Ambassador Zwambila as regards her position, her sympathizers and friends back at home will deal with me.
My background and stance as regards my political affiliation is very clear. I joined the MDC in December 1999 and my allegiance has never been in doubt. My rural home was destroyed by militia and war veterans in 2000. I lost a cousin, Tonderai Machiridza in 2003 and my mother was brutalized as she was coming from the funeral and she later succumbed to her injuries and died. I was also beaten up and I have had so many close shaves when I could have lost my life. I have worked for this party as a member of the civic society. I hold so many party secrets which I have never compromised and I am not about to do that now because one person within my political divide has abused me. I have never and will never cross the floor to ZANU PF. I would rather be apolitical if because I have dared to tell the truth, I am rejected or I become a pariah to the MDC. I joined of my own volition and I am not about to be swayed by anyone.
The hall mark of the MDC is transparency as symbolized by the open palm. President Morgan Tsvangirai has always preached zero tolerance to corruption, human rights abuses and all kinds of under hand deals. I believe a single rotten tomato will eventually spoil the whole basket. Ambassador Zwambila is threatening the life blood and survival of the MDC and the party leadership can keep her and face the risk of losing sizeable support from people who like leaders who are on the right side of democratic and moral principles.
I kept quiet for so long because I wanted to protect not just the integrity of my boss but also the image and credibility of the party.
What are we doing if we allow some people to behave in the same manner or even worse than the system that we are trying to dislodge? I have exhausted all the means of trying to get Ambassador Zwambila to consider the public image, not just hers or of the MDC but of the whole nation of Zimbabwe. All she has shown me is, who am I to lecture to her about public image?
I have approached some senior members within the party, back in Zimbabwe and they have said to me it won’t augur well for the party if a senior member were to be exposed at this critical time, it would be tantamount to ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’ . I have realized that the only way for me is to go public, for my own safety. Some Australian government institutions I have approached have said their hands are tied, citing diplomatic immunity and I can understand that.
I have no option but to let the world know. I am a journalist but I can’t write my own story. Hopefully this account will help someone to put a stop to this rot. The party leadership should just weed out such people and stop this modern day slavery.
As I write this I don’t know what will happen to me in view of those threats I received from the lawyer engaged to talk to me by Ambassador Zwambila. I have told the truth and I have also attached the two emails I wrote to my boss and the third is a letter I wrote to the Finance Officer after I was fired, to request for the written letter of notice of termination of my contract.
I have always stood for the truth and let the truth set me free.