Underfunded Zimbabwean ambassadors this week met Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and painted a very grim picture of their living conditions while serving in foreign countries.
By Phyllis Mbanje
Over 30 ambassadors based in Africa, Europe and the Middle East convened at the Zimbabwe Institute of Public Administration and Management (Zipam) in Darwendale for a strategic meeting, which they turned into a platform to air out their grievances.
Sources who attended the six-day workshop which ended yesterday, said the situation faced by most of the diplomatic heads was quite dire.
“The ambassadors aired their grievances and those overtook the workshop which was aimed at inducting the ambassadors on the integrated results-based management system being implemented by the government,” said one source.
The situation was said to be disastrous in London where embassy staff are said to have gone for several months without pay.
“Some have resorted to cooking and selling food to patrons at the embassy bar to survive. This is terrible,” said another source.
Legislators were recently shown pictures by Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs chairperson Kindness Paradza (Zanu PF) of dilapidated buildings at Zimbabwean embassies in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Gaborone, Botswana.
This infuriated opposition MPs, who accused Mumbengegwi of running down the ministry and being a disservice to the country’s foreign diplomatic missions.
The pictures of the embassy in Ethiopia showed a leaking roof, naked electrical cables in some rooms, broken window panes, paint on walls peeling off, very obsolete equipment and vehicles.
However, at a press conference yesterday, Mumbengegwi played down the situation and instead focused on how the ambassadors had been briefed on the successes that Zimbabwe scored during her concurrent chairmanship of Sadc and the African Union.
He said there had been discussions on the challenges that the ministry was facing in discharging its mandate.
“The workshop offered the ambassadors an opportunity to update the ministry on concerns that it should address to achieve mutually beneficial relationships,” Mumbengegwi said.
He said the country was faced with a myriad of challenges, including an El Niño-induced drought and food shortages as well as a tight fiscal space.
The Foreign ministry has of late received a lot of negative publicity, especially after the breaking of news that some Zimbabwean women were stranded in Kuwait after being lured there for slavery and prostitution.
Mumbengegwi has been lambasted for not acting with the urgency that the matter deserved.