Britain opens new state of the art £21 million embassy in Zimbabwe

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. The Telegraph