ZIMBABWE – Telephone lines at the Zimbabwean embassy in the United States have reportedly been disconnected over outstanding bills, while embassy officials at over 10 overseas missions have been given eviction orders at their places of residence over the same issue.
Senior government officials, who declined to be named, confirmed the developments at the weekend.
“The phones were cut off last week and the embassy workers were given eviction notices because the Zimbabwe government has been failing to pay rentals and other bills,” a senior government official, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said.
NewsDay also failed to get through to the embassy’s direct line, +1 (202) 332-7100, with an automated operator message saying the line had been disconnected.
Foreign Affairs deputy minister Edgar Mbwembwe said he was unaware of the development, while permanent secretary Joey Bimha was unavailable for comment.
“I will have to verify with my staff on that. Who told you about that development?” Mbwembwe said, promising to call back with a response, of which he did not.
Rentals have also not been paid for the personal residences of ambassadors in most of the country’s foreign missions, with some having bills of more than
For the past three years, government has been battling to sustain foreign missions, with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee proposing that some embassies be shut down to reduce costs.
Legislators warned that the crisis bedevilling foreign missions was a serious security risk, as the struggling envoys could be recruited by foreign spies due to their financial problems.
Among the problems being faced by various embassies are lack of cars, accommodation, failure by the State to pay its workers and other resources.
So dire has been the situation such that in France, the ambassador and senior staffers are often forced to use public transport because of technical problems with his 18-year-old official vehicle.
Bhima last year told Parliament that, although the embassies represent the country, the state of affairs in most of the missions was dire.
Insiders said President Robert Mugabe came face-to-face with the dire situation crippling most embassies when he visited the Paris mission in France for the United Nations climate change conference at the beginning of December.