Harare West Member of Parliament (MP) Honourable Jessie Fungayi Majome has successfully advocated for people in her constituency to get first priority for employment at the new United States Embassy currently under construction in Bluff Hill.
The embassy is the biggest construction project currently underway in the area, with development of the 16.5 acre site that adjoins Westgate Shopping Mall set at 200 million dollars. Ground breaking took place in August last year.
“I advocated with success that they employ local – that is, Harare West labour – and I was inspired to be assured that they use a fair, competitive process; how refreshing in this era of corruption in Zimbabwe!” said Majome. “Unfortunately they need only about 800 general and skilled workers but have received 3,000 applications in this desperate 90% unemployment situation,” said Majome.
The MP, known for her human rights advocacy and for a concern over the wellness of her constituency, said she also gave the embassy details of children’s homes in Harare West in case they are able to donate to them.
MP Majome expressed pleasure with the embassy’s environmental awareness. “I was impressed by the attention to safety and environmental protection that will see many of the majestic Acacia trees that characterise Westgate being saved as well as the use of solar power,” she said.
Plans for the new embassy have been afoot since 2001 when the land was purchased. The project only commenced last year however, under the watchful eye of B.L. Harbert International construction company. In a statement at the ground breaking ceremony former US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton said, “This project will generate jobs, directly through the construction process, and for those who will make the many local inputs that are required for its completion.”
The new compound’s design was inspired by the cultural, historical, geological, political and architectural aspects of Zimbabwe in general and Harare in particular. “The Highveld of central Zimbabwe inspired the landscape design of the embassy grounds, just as Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage inspired the building design,” said Ambassador Wharton. “Indigenous and adapted plantings will be featured throughout the compound, focused on a particularly beautiful preserve of Highveld trees in the northeast corner of the site – where we are standing now.”
Also to be planted at the new embassy are indigenous grasses to reduce irrigation demand and the ornamental landscape will feature predominately indigenous shade and flowering trees. “A reclaimed water supply from the on-site wastewater treatment facility will be one of the primary sources of irrigation water, and will simultaneously minimise the Embassy’s burden on the existing infrastructure, by not tapping into the existing overtaxed sewer system,” added Wharton.
The embassy is contractually obliged to earn a minimum Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Certification by the US Green Building Council. “LEED certification represents the highest standard of construction and design to minimise our environmental impact on Zimbabwe and maximise our contribution to sustained and responsible use of resources here, and reflects the US Government’s commitment to eco-diplomacy,” he said.
The project is a development node that will encourage growth and development in Harare West which already houses the Chinese Embassy. Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said, “The move indicates an intention of establishing permanence to their stay and their confidence in Zim-USA bilateral relations eventually becoming mutually beneficial.”
He added that the construction may also be informed by announced plans to shift the centre of the Zimbabwean government to the Mazowe area. “It would appear logical for the American state department to make such a decision,” said Zhangazha.
A foreman on site said construction would take about two years to complete.
Image: Construction of the US Embassy compound has already begun
Image credit: Harry Davies