'Assassins' Judy and Colin Smith.
'Assassins' Judy and Colin Smith. Nick Falconer

Aussies accused of Mugabe kill plot

AN Australian couple's visit to Zimbabwe turned into a nightmare after they were accused of plotting to assassinate president Robert Mugabe.

Colin and Judy Smith from the Sunshine Coast were driving to Harare airport in late January when they pulled over to the side of the road to make way for Mr Mugabe's fast-moving motorcade.

But the couple returned to the road before the motorcade had passed, and when they pulled over again, a policeman jumped out of bushes and said they were under arrest and facing charges of attempted assassination.

"I tried to explain. 'What am I going to assassinate him with? I have nothing to assassinate him with'," Mr Smith said.

"We made a mistake, we didn't realise the convoy was in two separate parts."

The officer took the couple's passports, and demanded they all drive to Harare police station where they would be charged.

But on the way, the officer asked Mr Smith what he could do to help the situation.

"I have lived in Africa. I knew that meant how much are you going to pay us to let you go," he said.

"I wasn't going to pay a bribe. I said I'm phoning the Australian Embassy."

The couple were told there was no Australian Embassy in Zimbabwe to which Mr Smith replied, "I know there is one and I know where it is."

The officer then asked the couple to pull over and said he was going to caution them.

"He didn't have any paper, so I had to tear my itinerary and he wrote up a caution which I signed and gave it to him."

The couple had been in Zimbabwe visiting family and say the incident lasted about an hour.

"For 30 mins we were very nervous, it didn't matter what we said. They weren't interested."

The couple were eventually given permission to return to the airport and flew home on January 26.

Zimbabwe-born Mr Smith, who runs an artificial flower business and migrated to Australia from South Africa four years ago, says he is no hurry to return to his country of birth.

"I don't have any intention of going there at the moment," he said. "It will be a while."

-The Age