Broke govt sits on land offered for ambassador homes

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By Anna Chibamu

FOREIGN AFFAIRS permanent secretary James Manzou says authorities were running out of time to develop plots of land offered by several governments for Chanceries missions’ housing and offices’ development.

Manzou told a Parliamentary Portfolio committee during a 2021 pre-budget consultation meeting held last week that some plots offered to government had not been developed owing to budgetary constraints and warned Zimbabwe could soon lose some if funds are not sourced.

“The government of Zimbabwe has time frames within which it has to start construction work on plots it was offered by host governments and the time limits are fast approaching expiration.

“A case in point is the risk of losing two plots in Abuja to the Federal Government of Nigeria as there has not been any development on the sites,” said Manzou.

The top government official said this would be a big loss to the country should the offer and other similar offers not be developed as a matter of urgency.

Manzou highlighted his ministry had various construction plans, major repairs and facelift projects for Chanceries, Ambassadors’ residences and officers’ houses at various missions but there have not been any adequate financial resources released for such projects.

His call has been for government to purchase properties at missions in various countries to reduce the burden of paying rentals amid recurrent instances of defaulting on such payment.

“Furniture at diplomatic missions is now obsolete and boarded but not replaced. Some ambassadors are using very old vehicles even though some were replaced in 2018. These have become a burden on mission budget due to astronomical repair and maintenance costs,” he said.

The ministry has debts amounting to US$41.2 million in rentals, salaries, operations, fees and medical bills.

For the year 2021, the ministry has requested a budget of $51.6 billion from treasury against  a resource envelope ceiling of close to $5.3 billion.