ZIMBABWE’s cash-strapped government has paid off its staff at foreign missions across the globe after a six-month delay, NewsDay has learnt.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
According to highly-placed government sources, staff at all diplomatic missions received their outstanding salaries two weeks ago.
“Some of the diplomats had resorted to requesting mealie-meal to be sent to them through the diplomatic bag because they could not afford to buy food in the countries in which they are posted. It had become an embarrassing situation, but they have since been paid most of the money they are owed. It was over six months’ pay dating back to February this year,” a source at the Foreign Affairs ministry told NewsDay yesterday .
Finance ministry secretary Willard Manungo could neither confirm nor deny the development.
“Let me get you the latest details, call me later,” was all Manungo said yesterday.
Last month, Manungo told a parliamentary portfolio committee that staff at the country’s diplomatic missions had not been paid for some time.
“We have 43 foreign missions and we are not able to pay their salaries on time as we are doing with other civil servants. We are now proposing that we transfer their salaries to Salary Service Bureau through which we pay all the other civil servants rather than putting it through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Manungo said then.
Foreign Affairs secretary Joey Bimha confirmed his ministry was processing the payments.
“Government is working on releasing the funds. It is not all of it, but we are working on releasing it in tranches as and when it becomes available,” Bimha said.
Bimha last month also told the same committee that government owed $10 million in salaries and allowance to its diplomats.
Zimbabwe has about 43 embassies and five consulates around the globe.
Bimha informed the committee at the time led by the late Epworth lawmaker Amos Midzi that his ministry was facing a myriad of financial challenges because of inadequate budgetary support from Treasury.
Other cost drivers, according to Bimha, included contractual obligations, rentals, utilities, vehicles, equipment and buildings maintenance.
He said Treasury had not provided funds to cater for the critical expenditure items for the past 20 months stretching from May 2013 to December 2014 — a situation he said did not reflect well on the country at a time Zimbabwe was chairing both the African Union and Sadc.
Bimha said operations at the country’s missions around the globe could grind to a halt due to non-provision of a monthly budgetary support of about $4,1 million.
The committee heard the ministry was in school fees arrears for diplomats’ children amounting to $376 900.
Officials also told the committee that as at March 6, 2015, Treasury had provided the January 2015 monthly salary allocation of $2,7 million without factoring in the operations budget of $543 750 which had been requested.