Painting an embarrassing picture of the state of Zimbabwes foreign service, Finance Minister Tendai Biti told Parliament last week that in some cases the countrys representatives abroad were having to conduct official business on their personal mobile phones after their office lines were cut for non-payment of bills.
Biti, who made the alarming disclosures while presenting his mid-term budget to Parliament last Thursday, told the House that Zimbabwe had by December 31 last year accumulated arrears of over US$30 million on the financial obligations of its foreign missions. Many of our diplomats have had to be ejected from their residences or have had their phones cut for non-payment of their financial obligations, Biti told Parliament.
One of those affected is Zimbabwes top diplomat in Geneva, Switzerland, Chitsaka Chipaziwa, who has had to rely on his cellphone for communication after the telephone at his office was cut for non-payment of bills, according to Biti.
It is embarrassing that (we have to contact) our Geneva ambassador by cellphone because the office phone lines were cut, said Biti. This is not the first time Zimbabwes foreign missions have found themselves at the receiving end of the countrys economic crisis.
Embassy staff at several Zimbabwean missions has regularly gone without salaries since the country plunged into an economic crisis in 2000 that critics blame on President Robert Mugabes controversial policies. Many of Zimbabwes foreign diplomats are known to moonlight in order to raise cash to buy food or pay rent.
In the 2009 budget mid-term review, Biti allocated US$15.4 million to the foreign missions in order to allow us to meet outstanding obligations, including rentals and utilities.
The cashflow crisis facing Zimbabwes foreign missions is symptomatic of the general problems bedevilling the countrys five-month-old coalition government. The southern African country also owes more than US$3.1 billion in arrears to the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral lending institutions.
The arrears have worsened the countrys credit rating at a time it desperately requires at least US$10 billion to revive its economy.Post published in: News