HARARE – The European Union’s ambassador to Zimbabwe has bought a house in a plush Harare neighbourhood, just a year into his four-year tour in what diplomats said was a highly unusual move.
Jobst von Kirchmann, a German, paid an undisclosed fee for the house in Highlands and immediately stripped it down before commencing extensive renovations. The lowest priced properties in the area cost an average US$350,000.
Kirchmann arrived in Harare after being ambassador to the Ivory Coast since 2018. He presented his credentials to President Emmerson Mnangagwa on October 12 last year.
The diplomat has wasted no time in making friends with elements of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime, diplomatic sources told ZimLive.
“He calls some ministers ‘my brother’ and his wife Maria has found a friend in first lady Auxillia Mnangagwa,” the source said.
Kirchmann consulted the foreign ministry before making the purchase, and the ministry reportedly played a key role in smoothing the transaction and securing the necessary planning permissions for the renovations.
A ZimLive correspondent visited the property on Wavell Road and workmen confirmed that the house was owned by “the EU ambassador.” The house is ringed by a stone wall and blooming jacarandas.
There is no suggestion that the acquisition is illegal, but several diplomats said such a purchase is almost never done before the end of one’s tour of duty.
“It may not be expressly prohibited by the Geneva Convention, but it raises potential conflict of interest. It makes him potentially susceptible to manipulation by the regime,” one western diplomat said.
“If for instance the government implements currency measures that encourage arbitrage but benefit property holders like him, will he speak out?”
The diplomat said he was however aware of two colleagues who bought holiday homes in the Eastern Highlands, but only after their tour of duty ended.
If Kirchmann and his wife decided to stay in Zimbabwe after his four-year posting, they would have to switch to other permits as years spent in one country as a diplomat do not count towards permanent residency qualification.
The couple have a son at Hellenic Academy in Harare, “the school where normal people have to put their kids on a waiting list at birth,” observed another diplomat.
Alexandra Maseko, the spokesperson for the EU mission in Harare, said: “I am unable to provide comments on personal affairs of the ambassador and his family.”
Kirchmann trained as a lawyer in Germany and France and also has qualifications in information management and strategic leadership.
He worked as a lawyer, prosecutor and a judge before joining European Union institutions.