THE government will this year spend more than ZW$2,8 billion (US$6,7 million) on erecting new embassy buildings, while sprucing up old structures, which have deteriorated over the years.
The Permanent Mission of Zimbabwe to the United Nations in New York, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, recently invited tenders for expression of interest for the demolition of the chancery in Manhattan.
The tender will also see the winning bidders construct a new building for the embassy in New York.
The winning bid in the second tender will design and supervise the construction of the official residence in New York.
According to officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, government will spend ZW$385 million (US$924 858) for the new chancery building and official residence.
In an interview, Foreign Affairs and International Trade spokesperson Livit Mugejo confirmed the construction of new and modern office facilities for the Zimbabwe mission in New York.
“For New York, it’s ZW$385 million and the total figure for renovations is ZW$2,8 billion. The new building will replace the current one although in a strategic area of New York,” Mugejo said.
“The building had become derelict, expensive to maintain, and inadequate for the mission’s needs. To this end, the ministry has flighted a tender for the demolition of this old structure.
“This development is in line with the Second Republic’s clarion call to the ministry to improve the country’s image abroad under the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1). The development speaks to one of the ministry’s priority areas under NDS 1.
“We believe that image is important. Many times perspectives and conclusions about us are made by merely looking at the building that houses our diplomatic establishment,” he said.
Mugejo said the ministry made a deliberate and conscious decision to enhance the image of the country by constructing the chancery in New York.
“The new chancery building will go a long way in enhancing our image in the USA,” he said.
Mugejo added that the total cost of the project would be determined once a bill of quantities has been done by the consulting company in conjunction with the Ministry of Local Government and Public works.
“So far, the ministry has instituted the tender process for a local consulting firm to do the preliminary scope of work, come up with designs and the bill of quantities. The public will be apprised of further developments at every step of the way,” he said.
“The projects will be funded from the Ministry’s own budget and budgetary support from Treasury.
“New York is the citadel of the UN and the fortress of all diplomatic engagements. The country needs to be viewed and regarded better at the highest level of our international relationships. Most certainly this development sends a message of our permanent presence in New York,” Mugejo said.
He said the Treasury availed enough funding for the improvement of the embassy buildings across the world, adding that Zimbabwe also has plans to improve the embassy building in Washington DC.
“The ministry does not only have infrastructure developments in New York. We have plans for construction works at our Embassy in Washington.
“We are also refurbishing our chanceries and residents in a number of countries, which include South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya, the UK, Germany and Malawi.
“We are pleased that we have already finished refurbishing our residents in Malawi. This was our first priority. We are also refurbishing the Ministry’s guest houses in Harare,” Mugejo said.
President Mnangagwa’s administration has been on an engagement and re-engagement drive as it moves to improve Zimbabwe’s relations with Western countries. The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2018 presented a report to parliament, which revealed the sorry state of affairs at Zimbabwe’s foreign missions and there were indications that diplomats were living in penury.
The committee heard of the despicable state of despair at the country’s chancelleries and embassies, and diplomats have had to leave their houses because of the state of dilapidation.
To solve the continued accumulation of debt by embassies, Treasury promised to allocate funds for the purchase and construction of properties for embassies.