PARLIAMENT has called on the financially-strapped government to reduce the number of its embassies to avoid embarrassing situations where embassy staff are served with eviction notices over unpaid rentals, as the economy continues to shrink.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
The call was made by Kindness Paradza, chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs.
“Remove or downgrade ambassadors where they are not necessary. While high-ranking diplomats, such as ambassadors are vital for Zimbabwe to promote its foreign policy, in many cases, having such high-ranking officials in every diplomatic mission may not be necessary,” he said last week.
“A lower-ranking diplomat, assisted by local staff, may be adequate to save on costs such as rentals, which is the biggest expense at our missions.”
Zimbabwe is sitting on a rental arears of $7 million accrued over years and some diplomats have been served with eviction notices.
In his 2017 National Budget statement, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated $32,4 million to the Foreign Affairs ministry, which represents about 0,8% of the total national budget.
The Foreign Affairs committee also noted that the government was spending more money on large and expensive villas for ambassadors, which it later fails to pay rentals for.
“The (Foreign Affairs) ministry should direct its limited resources specifically, to countries that are of economic value or benefit to Zimbabwe,” Paradza said, adding that most Zimbabwean ambassadors were living miserable lives because of underfunding by government.
“The first incident involved our ambassador in Paris (France), whose official car could not start when she had visited the Namibian ambassador and was forced, under humiliating circumstances, to use the Namibian ambassador’s car. This is because the car she is using has already outlived its life span.
“Another embarrassing story involves one of our top diplomats, who was being driven in an official car with the national flag and was stopped by the police and asked to identify himself, as the car he was driving was not fit to be a diplomatic car.
“In yet another embarrassing episode, this one involves our ambassador, who is currently the dean of the diplomatic corps in West Africa. Courtesy requires that as dean, when they have official meetings and gatherings, our diplomat is supposed to leave the event first, but because of the dilapidated car, a Peugeot, which has seen better days, our diplomat, in most cases, is the last one to leave the venue as a way of avoiding embarrassment,” Paradza said.