Zimbabwe's envoy to Australia defects, asks for asylum

Zimbabwe's ambassador to Australia has defected and asked Canberra for asylum, saying she fears for her safety if she returns home when her term ends next week, reports said early Saturday.

Jacqueline Zwambila lashed out at the "illegitimate" regime of President Robert Mugabe, saying she has moved out of her official residence with only four days remaining in her tenure as ambassador, but she has no intention of using her business class ticket to return home, the Canberra Times reported.

"I don't feel safe about returning to Zimbabwe at all," said Zwambila who is aligned with Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

"Once the elections of 31 July were stolen by the current government -- which is illegitimate -- I knew that this was the end of the line," Zwambila said in a video posted on the Canberra Times website.

"End of the line for the people of Zimbabwe... and for people like me, who were appointed by the ex-prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai."

Zimbabwean opposition leader Tsvangirai shared power with Mugabe until elections at the end of July.

Tsvangirai's MDC party controlled the finance ministry after he formed a unity government with Mugabe in 2009 following violent disputed polls.

The power-sharing deal ended when the veteran president won the July 31 polls with 61 percent against his rival's 34 percent, in a vote questioned by some international observers.

"So many things have been done to me since I've been here in Australia, the smear campaigns and threats... There is no way I feel safe being in Zimbambwe or going back to Zimbabwe," said Zwambila, whose term as ambassador expires on Tuesday.

"My key mandate as ambassador here was to reengage the Australian government because... there have been 10 years of hostility between the two governments."