Britain opens new embassy in Zimbabwe

By Damien McElroy in Harare

Britain has opened a new 21 million embassy in Harare that will offer much needed relief to diplomats who worked without running water in the old mission.


The building comes with its own water pump, which was sunk to an
artesian well after Zimbabwe’s government turned off the taps to the
embassy’s premises on top floors in a central Harare tower block in
December.

That brought the hardships experienced by ordinary Zimbabweans uncomfortably within the confines of the diplomatic mission.

"I do still find it helpful for flushing toilets and miss it now it’s
gone," wrote embassy official Philip Barclay on a Foreign Office blog.
"So my toiletry routine has taken on a semi-African form. I fill a
bucket from a butt and carry it down the corridor, spilling a little to
present a banana-skin-type walkway to my colleagues."

Diplomats also had to run the gauntlet of a road made treacherous by the breakdown of the traffic lights system

The embassy, which has been built on its own site in the leafy Mount
Pleasant suburb, is split into five two storey modern office blocks,
complete with reinforced concrete safe rooms.

Tall strands of wild grass on the patios shade the walkways from the harsh African sun.

Completion of the building was delayed by 13-months as the effects of
Zimbabwe’s political and economic collapse affected the site. However
the opening could not be better timed with the Foreign Office
expressing hope for a new beginning in the troubled relationship with
Zimbabwe after last month’s historic reconciliation agreement between
Robert Mugabe, the president and rival Morgan Tsvangirai, the new prime
minister.

Dozens of British builders that were flown to Harare on short-term
contracts to complete the project got to experience history’s second
worst bout of hyperinflation, a peril never depicted in Auf Wiedersehen
Pet
.

Jonathan Manser, the architect, experienced the hostility of Robert
Mugabe’s regime towards the former colonial power. He told Global
Building magazine: "On my first visit, I was picked up by the police
for showing too much interest in the president’s State House, and I was
locked up for a few hours."

With a nod to Labour’s dictates, the building meets Whitehall
ecological standards. Bicycle racks have been installed and the
sanitation system is powered by solar panels.

Daily Telegraph

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