Australia–Zimbabwe relations

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Australia–Zimbabwe relations
Map indicating locations of Zimbabwe and Australia



Australia–Zimbabwe relations are foreign relations between Australia and Zimbabwe. Both countries have full embassy level diplomatic relations.[1] Australia currently manintains an embassy in Harare,[2] and Zimbabwe maintains an embassy in Canberra.[3]


Early history[edit]

The nations of Australia and Zimbabwe both have their origins in British colonies established as a part of the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, while Australia experienced much white settlement from Britain and Ireland, eventually becoming a settler-dominated colony, the lands which made up Zimbabwe (known then as Rhodesia) experienced less white settlement, retaining a native Bantu majority. Despite this majority, the colony of Rhodesia broke away from the United Kingdom in 1965, with the minority white government of Ian Smith issuing a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, while Australia became established as a stable parliamentary democracy.

During the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 1979, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was instrumental in convincing the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to withhold British recognition of the Smith-led government of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, prompting Britain to host the Lancaster House Agreement at which full independence and majority rule for Zimbabwe was agreed upon.[4] At the independence celebrations in Harare in 1980, Fraser's contribution to Zimbabwean independence was firmly acknowledged.[5]

21st century[edit]

Robert Mugabe, leader of Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980

Relations between the two countries began to sour when the government in Zimbabwe began its controversial land reform programme, occupying farms owned by members of Zimbabwe's white minority, sometimes by force. In an unusually blunt declaration, Australian Prime Minister John Howard described Robert Mugabe as a "grubby dictator".[6] Howard also called for other African countries to put pressure on Zimbabwe to crack down on the increasingly autocratic Zimbabwean government.[7] Sporting links between the two countries were also disrupted, with the Howard government banning the Australian cricket team from taking part in a scheduled tour of the country, citing the propaganda boost that it would provide for the Mugabe régime.[6]

Howard's successor as Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, was also critical of the Zimbabwean Government. Before the 2007 election, he criticised the People's Republic of China for providing "soft loans" to the Zimbabwean Government,[8] and later offered aid to Zimbabwe only if the 2008 elections in that country were "fair".[9] In December 2013 the Zimbabwean Ambassador to Australia, Jacqueline Zwambila, resigned and sought asylum in Australia due to fears of arrest should she return to Zimbabwe due to her links with official opposition there.[10]


Monthly value of Australian imports from Zimbabwe (A$ millions) since 1988
Monthly value of Australian merchandise exports to Zimbabwe (A$ millions) since 1988

Following Zimbabwean independence, bilateral trade between the two countries grew slowly. By 2007, this trade was valued at $12 million Australian dollars annually. By far the most valuable export from Zimbabwe to Australia was unprocessed tobacco, but construction materials and passenger motor vehicles were also exported. Australian exports to Zimbabwe included machinery, toys, games, sporting goods, and pottery. Despite the variety of goods being traded, neither country was a principal trading partner of the other, with Australia being ranked 34th in terms of merchandise exported by Zimbabwe, accounting for only 0.2% of total exports.[11]

In 2002, the Howard government in Australia imposed targeted sanctions against members of the Zimbabwean government in protest against the deteriorating political situation in Zimbabwe. The sanctions were extended and strengthened in 2007.[12] These sanctions have included restrictions on travel to and through Australia for certain members of the Zimbabwean government, suspension of all non-humanitarian aid, and prohibitions on defence links.[13] The Rudd government in 2008 considered further sanctions against Zimbabwe, with foreign minister Stephen Smith declaring that "I've made it clear that we are open to consider more sanctions ... We are currently giving active consideration to that issue."[14]

Zimbabweans living in Australia[edit]

The number of Zimbabwean settlers arriving in Australia (monthly) since 1991.

The turmoil in Zimbabwe has led to a number of Zimabweans leaving the country to seek refuge in Australia, including:

  • Henry Olonga, the first black player in the Zimbabwean cricket team, fled to Australia after being charged with treason in Zimbabwe, stemming from an incident where he wore a black armband in an international cricket match to protest the "death of democracy in Zimbabwe". Olonga later met and married an Australian woman that he met in Adelaide while attending the Australian Institute of Sport's cricket programme.[15]
  • Rumbidzai Tsvangirai, daughter of Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, studies economics at Perth's Murdoch University.[16]
  • Zimbabwean cricketer Eddo Brandes settled in Australia after his retirement from international cricket, where he now coaches a team in the Brisbane grade cricket competition.

At the 2006 Australian census, 20,158 people listed themselves as having been born in Zimbabwe. Of these, ten thousand (or roughly 50%) had arrived since 2001.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Zimbabwe - Country Brief". Archived from the original on 2007-08-06. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  2. ^ "Australian Embassy, Zimbabwe". Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  3. ^ "Zimbabwe Details". Archived from the original on 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  4. ^ Downer, Alexander. "Human Rights in Australian Foreign Policy". Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  5. ^ "Meet a PM - Fraser". National Archives of Australia. Archived from the original on August 31, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  6. ^ a b "Australian bans cricket tour to Zimbabwe, calls Mugabe 'grubby dictator'". USA Today. 2007-05-13. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  7. ^ "Howard urges more pressure on Zimbabwe". The Age. 2005-06-24. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  8. ^ "Morgan Tsvangirai and Kevin Rudd". ABC News (Sunday Profile). 2005-07-31. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  9. ^ "Rudd offers Zimbabwe 'conditional' aid package". ABC News. 2008-04-06. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  10. ^ Thomson, Phillip (28 December 2013). "Zimbabwe ambassador to Australia Jacqueline Zwambila defects". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "Zimbabwe Fact Sheet" (PDF). Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia). Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  12. ^ Yaxley, Louise (2007-07-17). "Downer to strengthen Zimbabwe sanctions". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  13. ^ "Australian Bilateral Sanctions : Zimbabwe". Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia). Archived from the original on 5 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  14. ^ "Tougher Zimbabwe sanctions considered". Sydney Morning Herald. 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  15. ^ "Exiled cricketer Olonga weds in Australia". New Zimbabwe. 2008-05-24. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  16. ^ "Tsvangirai's daughter calls for more aid". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2008-07-22. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  17. ^ "More than one in five Australians born overseas: Census". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2008-08-17.