Thursday, 2 July 2020

OUR DIPLOMATS ARE LIVING IN SQUALOR, SAYS S B MOYO


 ZIMBABWEAN embassies are in dire straits with diplomats not being paid for several months, while living in squalid conditions as the government owes close to US$30 million for services rendered and rentals.

This was revealed yesterday by Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo when he told the Kindness Paradza-chaired parliamentary portfolio committee on Foreign Affairs that when President Emmerson Mnangagwa came into power in November 2017, “what we found was that our diplomats were in salary arrears of over 15 months, and they had no vehicles”. 

“The cost of our embassies is about US$$4 million per month and as of now, we owe ambassadors US$16 million in salary arrears that are of a legacy nature.

“Government is making sure that the legacy issues are sorted. When we send in money for their salaries, it is being recorded as if they are eight months in arrears, but our thinking is that we will be paying the current. Legacy issues will be addressed gradually,” Moyo said. 

In terms of rentals, Moyo said the government owed US$7 million, while staffers from host nations are owed US$2 million in salary arrears, with school fees and other operational costs accounting for another US$$5 million. 

Asked by MPs to update on time frames the government was working on to address the challenges, Moyo said it depended on the availability of funds.

“You cannot concretely come up with a time frame as to when we will clear these issues because it depends on the financial support that we get. We are trying to make sure that we ameliorate the legacy issue gradually while at the same time we keep up to date with current salary payments.

“Furniture at our embassies has not been changed for many years. The renovations going on are like starting afresh. In terms of accommodation; the challenge has been that most of our embassies have not been maintained for many years. 

“In South Africa, if it is raining, they will have to cover up because roofs are leaking, while in New York, the accommodation situation is also not good. We are rationalising our foreign missions, but it is a process. We have a closed embassy in Hong Kong. But the challenge is that if you close embassies, you have to think of relations with those countries. And by closing an embassy, your influence in the world will be diminishing,” he added.

This also comes as director in the ministry of Finance Pfungwa Kunaka also told the committee that the situation had gotten to that stage because Treasury had been facing foreign currency challenges.

“We have been facing challenges in terms of generating forex to meet that obligation, but we have gathered some ground now because last week we disbursed US$6 million; we can be behind in terms of operational costs, but in terms of current salaries we have covered ground,” Kunaka said. 

Meanwhile, the committee heard that foreign governments were releasing Zimbabwean returnees without testing them for Covid-19 because “it is not their responsibility to test foreigners who are leaving their countries so they prioritise their populations”. Daily News

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