Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is now the Acting President, taking over from his counterpart Phelekezela Mphoko who has been acting since 91 year old President Robert Mugabe left for his annual leave that began on December 24, 2015.
“Please kindly note that as of today, Monday, 11th January 2016, Honourable Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is the Acting President of Zimbabwe in the absence of His Excellency the President, Cde R.G.Mugabe, who is on his traditional annual vacation,” read a statement signed by principal director in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Mr Regis Chikowore.
Media reports had indicated that President Mugabe had ‘snubbed and humiliated’ VP Mnangagwa by appointing VP Mphoko to act on his behalf for the second consecutive time.
Meanwhile, at least ten of Zimbabwe’s 40-plus diplomatic missions are under legal notice for eviction over unpaid rentals with salary arrears for staff, in may cases averaging 12 months, also remaining unpaid, media reports indicate.
In interviews, staff at some of the embassies said the situation was now grave.
Rentals have also not been paid for the personal residences of the ambassadors with some having bills of more than $30,000.
According to reports, phone lines at the New York mission were cut over non-payment and President Robert Mugabe’s delegation had to pay the bill when the veteran leader attended the United Nations General Assembly last September.
Mugabe also found the Paris mission in France with a similar pickle when he attended United Nations climate change conference at the beginning of December.
“At least ten missions are under legal notice; it’s really embarrassing,” said one official who asked not to be identified.
“We are under so much stress with more and more eviction notices coming; phones, water and heating for those in cold western countries have been cut off. We just can’t function.”
Struggling to right a tanking economy despite promises of a boom during the 2013 election campaign, the Harare regime admits that the national purse is nearly empty.
December salaries for most State workers were only paid this January.
Incredibly however, the government has managed to accommodate vice president Phelekezela Mphoko at a top Harare hotel for more than a year.
Again, President Robert Mugabe hosted a party for his ministers and Zanu PF politburo members before taking his family for a State-funded month-long holiday in the Far East.
“They are not afraid of the people; they have no respect for the citizenry,” said opposition politician Douglas Mwonzora about Mphoko’s lengthy hotel stay and the Christmas party for ministers and top ruling party officials.
Last year some diplomats said that they were forced to live on chicken feet and gizzards having gone for more than a year without being paid.
They said while treasury was remitting salaries to the ministry of foreign affairs, the money was not forwarded to staff at foreign missions but used for head office expenses in Harare.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa responded by depositing the wages into the diplomats’ Zimbabwe bank accounts beginning, September last year.
While welcoming the move, mission staff complained that the minister had not done anything about arrears prior to September which average a whole year’s salary in most cases.
“The ministry of finance did not keep its promise to pay rentals, utilities, medicals, school fees, fuel; so officers now paying their own rentals if they can.
“But in some cases the rental arrears can be as much as $30,000 and there is no way officers can afford to pay such amounts,” said our source.
Foreign affairs officials could not be reached for comment but the opposition MDC-T said problems at the embassies exposed the rot within government.
“This is a manifestation of the failure of this regime to manage the affairs of the State,” said Mwonzora, the party’s secretary general.
“It’s extremely embarrassing for Zimbabwe and very stressful for the poor diplomats.”
He added: “The only solution is to get rid of this government.”
The parliamentary committee on foreign affairs recently recommended that government reduces the foreign missions to a number it can sustain.
The decision to cut the missions, sources said, can only be made by Mugabe.