Former Zambian Ambassador to Ethiopia, Emmanuel Mwamba, has spoken out about the ill-treatment of diplomats by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations in Zambia. In particular, he highlighted the case of Prince Imasiku Mutangelwa, who served as Zambia’s Deputy Ambassador to Russia. Imasiku was left stranded in Russia after his legitimate request for a short extension to attend to a medical crisis was unfairly rejected without good reason. In a bid to force him to return home immediately, his foreign service allowances, including those for accommodation and medicals, were immediately withdrawn. Mwamba has argued that the case of Imasiku is not unique, and that many other diplomats have faced similar treatment.
Imasiku was first appointed as Zambia’s Ambassador and Plenipotentiary to Angola in 2011, but he was unable to take up his post, and his case remained unresolved until 2015. In 2015, President Edgar Lungu appointed him as Deputy Ambassador to Zambia’s Embassy in Moscow, where he served until 2020 when he was suddenly recalled from Foreign Service. There was speculation that this was due to his fiery and political views on national matters he frequently expressed on WhatsApp Groups back home. A letter of recall was written, and he returned home in 2021. However, when the new Government of President Hakainde Hichilema assumed office, Imasiku was one of those deemed to have been unfairly treated by the previous government and was reinstated. He reported back to his station in Moscow in December 2021.
The recent recall letter of 2020 was strangely actioned upon, and repatriation funds were sent for his immediate return home. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs authorities claim that the letter of recall from 2020 has never been rescinded. Imasiku’s repeated request that a fresh letter of recall be written to him was declined. Furthermore, his request for a short extension was declined, and his foreign service allowances were withdrawn, despite his medical condition and the fact that he had already undergone eye surgeries.
Mwamba argues that the case of Imasiku is similar to the circumstances faced by most diplomats recalled recently. Diplomats were refused and denied a chance to wind up their affairs as provided for by law and return home in a decent and civil manner. For Ambassadors, it was even worse, as most of them failed to bid farewell to the host Heads of States, as is required by diplomatic etiquette and practice. Others were placed in financial ruin as salary advances were recovered at once, despite the provisions that this can be recovered back home. Some lost property or cars in a bid to settle the commitments before their departure due to the sudden recalls and the unrealistic demands made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for them to return home immediately.
Mwamba is aware of many Ambassadors and diplomats that wrote request letters to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a short extension or demanded that they stay the three months to wind up affairs as provided for in foreign service regulations, but were treated like criminals and ordered to return home immediately, as the letters of recall “was with immediate effect”! Furthermore, when diplomats arrived in Zambia, most were civil servants who were employed on permanent and pensionable terms but were removed from the payroll. For both civil servants and those on fixed-term contracts, they were expected to remain on the payroll until their full benefits were paid as provided for under Article 187 & 189 (2) of the Republican Constitution. Article 189(2) reads: “Where a pension benefit is not paid on a person’s last working day, that person shall stop work, but the person’s name shall be retained on the payroll until payment of the pension benefit based on the last salary received