GOVERNMENT is under pressure to reduce the number of diplomatic missions abroad amid claims it requires over US$20 million monthly in salaries and other expenses to keep the embassies running.
Zimbabwe has 38 embassies and three consulates in Africa and around the world. The missions are draining the fiscus in staff salaries and rentals for embassy buildings among other operational costs.
Sources said there was a feeling in government that a majority of the embassies were not serving any economic or strategic purpose.
The Minister of State in the Prime Ministerâ€™s Office, Gorden Moyo, told the Zimbabwe Independent that while a country should have diplomatic missions that pay economic and strategic dividends, Zimbabwe was failing to sustain its embassies.
He said the issue of the diplomatic missions was not exhaustively debated in government but said reforms were necessary.
â€œIdeally, Zimbabwe like any other country, should have diplomatic missions in strategic countries,â€ said Moyo. â€œThe issue of the embassies was not exhaustively debated and is still under consideration but unfortunately for Zimbabwe, the missions are costly and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a task to look at the viability of missions and maintain those that are viable,â€ Moyo said.
He however could not comment on government intentions to shut down embassies and referred questions to Foreign Affairs minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who is currently out of the country while his deputy Moses Mzila-Ndlovu was not reachable.
Zimbabwean ambassadors working in missions in Africa and abroad are getting salaries of between US$11 000 and US$13 000 a month.
Zimbabwe has 16 diplomatic missions in Africa in Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Overseas Zimbabwe is represented in Australia, Austria, Belgium,Â Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy andÂ Japan.
The country is also represented in Kuwait, Malaysia, Portugal, Russia, Sweden,Â Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
In the United States Zimbabwe is represented at the United Nations in New York and in at the US seat of power, Washington DC.
Some diplomats in the Zimbabwean embassies have not been paid since last year due to unavailability of funds.
Zimbabwe at Independence opened diplomatic missions in many countries as a gesture of solidarity and appreciation for assisting Zanu PF during the war of liberation.
BY LOUGHTY DUBE