Abuse of domestic workers in Embassies; the case of Ambassador Joyce Chembe Musenge

Zambia's ambassador to China, Joyce Musenge

Joyce Mwaka Chembe Musenge was transferred from Sweden to China as Ambassador in 2010. People close to her say she likes quick things and loves money.

While in Sweden she had a Zambian valet (maid) “Maggie” working at the residence. Zambia Diplomats are paid very well. Most of their utility bills are paid for by the Government of Zambia. Education fees for their offspring are paid for by the Government. One ambassador rakes in between 8,000.00 and 9,000.00 US$ per month.

But Ambassador Joyce Chembe Musenge, despite all these financial privileges still demands money from her domestic workers.

Her valet in Sweden was ordered to contribute to the ambassador’s utility bills per month.

When she was transferred to China, she went with yet another Zambian maid (valet) called “Mwape”.

She told her that she, Mwape, was being employed by the Government.

 Mwape told her she couldn’t afford to accompany her to China because she could not afford the air ticket. The ambassador simply told Mwape that it was going to be taken care of.

Upon arrival in China, Mwape was paid $450.00 US per month the rate for locals in China.

 Ambassador Musenge decided to cut $150 us Dollars from Mwape every month as contribution to utility bills.

The Ambassador was not yet done with her maid. She asked Mwape to pay her back the money she bought her a ticket.

Mwape protested she could not afford to pay her back with that salary considering that she had to send money for school and accommodation for her children in Zambia.

The ambassador considered this argument and came up with a solution. She ordered the accountant to increase the salary for Mwape saying that Zambian locally engaged staff are paid very low and can not be compared to the locals for there up keep.

It seems salaries for the Local staff including Zambian are decided by the ambassador and not Foreign Affairs ministry. Ambassadors are resident gods in these embassies.

So, Ambassador Musenge worked out an increment for Mwape with the Accountant to $750.00 US.

But this was not for the welfare of Mwape. The ambassador had to recover the ticket money she paid for Mwape though it is not clear if the ambassador used her money or the ticket was paid by government.

So the ambassador started receiving her cut from Mwape’s salary every month on the pretext that she was recovering the money she paid for the ticket. On the other hand she was also getting the $150 FROM Mwape as contribution to food and other utilities.

In September, 2010, Mwape started developing migraine headaches especially at night.

She went to the hospital and did some tests including CT but the doctors said she had no big problem.

Through interaction with other African ambassadors accredited to China or their wives, ambassador Musenge realized that her colleagues had Chinese English speaking maids. It seems the ambassador decided to have a Chinese maid for fashion.

 Just about thbis period, the cook lost his job and Mwape started doing both cooking and cleaning.

The Embassy had two cleaners who had worked there for more that seven years. The ambassador then asked one of the cleaners who could speak some English to go and start work at her Residence. This cleaner didn’t want to go and work as a maid at the residence because she knew that the ambassador was a mean employer.

Ambassador Musenge told the cleaner that “I am giving you two options, it’s either you work for me at the residence or you stop work.’

The maid lost her job after working for seven years at the Zambian Embassy in Beijing.

She then went to some maid company and found a maid who could speak some English. Now it was time to get rid of Mwape, because for her Chinese maid to start working there must not be another maid.

One evening she told Mwape that “I am scared of your illness that you will die in this house. So I want you to go back home because I also think that like you are missing your children. This is not my home and I don’t want you to die here”

It must be remembered that this was the period when one of ambassador Musenge’s daughters was impregnated by a Nigerian based in China. The ambassador used Mwape to hurriedly prepare her daughter for the wedding before the pregnancy could become visible. Local staff were shocked that it was the woman marrying the Nigerian man as the ambassador paid for everything while the groom was just invited to say the wedding vows.

Mwape pleaded and tried to explain that she was not missing her children and her migraine headache would not kill her. To prove that she was healthy, she went to the hospital again but was told nothing was wrong with her. She was given some pain killers and told to rest.

But the ambassador ordered the accountant to work out Mwape’s money so that she would leave for Zambia immediately. The money was to come from Mwape’s meager earnings.

She said to Mwape” I need you to go back home immediately because as long as you are here I can’t get another person.

The ambassador then organized Mwape’s ticket and then just told Mwape that she was leaving on such a date and her ticket will be paid for with the money the accountant was going to work out.

Four days before Mwape’s departure, she was still working everyday (full time six days a week, 24 hours a day), she asked for a day or 2 off so that she could prepare her departure.

She was told go ahead but that her money for those two days will be deducted.  I will hire a temporal maid but then who will pay for her?

The day before Mwape’s departure, ambassador Musenge gave Mwape some remaining money from the ticket from the accountant.

The ambassador also deducted $50 US from Mwape’s change and told her that “I have cut the two days you didn’t work while preparing yourself to leave to pay for the temporal maid’.

Mwape is now in Zambia and does not know how she can get justice.

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