HARARE – Senators have urged the Foreign Affairs ministry to recall ambassadors, as government is struggling to pay them, and deploy low level diplomats.
Zimbabwe’s diplomats are living rough as the cash-strapped President Robert Mugabe administration has for months been failing to pay its embassies staff and other operational costs, including rentals.
The country has over 40 embassies and five consulates around the globe.
Speaking in the Upper House last week, MDC Senator for Matabeleland South, Sithembile Mlotshwa, queried why the Foreign Affairs ministry still maintained many missions and ambassadors instead of lower level diplomats, since the country was financially struggling.
But Foreign Affairs deputy minister, Edgar Mbwembwe, said the issue of ambassadors is a prerogative of the president throughout the world.
“… the reason why we maintain ambassadors is that in spite of the economic challenges that we have, we still need to be able to relate to the rest of the world.,” he said.
“Their presence is actually in fulfilment of our national Constitution Chapter 2 that we must have a presence to promote and protect the interests of Zimbabwe,” he said, adding that “the ministry has of course done everything possible to try and streamline and downsize the structures at the embassies”.
“However, at the end of the day, His Excellency has the prerogative to determine where we need an ambassador or where we need a charge d’affaires.”
Mbwebwe also said the appointment of ambassadors is determined by the function that has to be carried out and interest that the country has to pursue.
“… it depends on what the interest is that we are actually pursuing in that particular part of the world or region. This will determine the level to which we must then be able to lift our embassy.”
He said this informs the decision to have an ambassador or a charge d’affaires or maybe just a consular.
“The level, again, depends on whether its economic interest or political interest, all those factors help us to determine what level of position we should have at the embassy,” Mbwembwe said.
The senators also complained about the delay by the ministry in issuing them with diplomatic passports.
Mbwembwe said the president has not yet made a decision on the issue.
“I think the matter keeps coming up in many forums but the decision on who gets or who does not get a diplomatic passport rests with … the president. The ministry cannot take this decision. I think on this matter, the position with regards to MPs would be communicated back to Parliament through the Speaker …because from previous discussions, the Speaker took it upon himself to discuss the matter with His Excellency and the minister of Foreign Affairs.”