Remarks for New Embassy Compound Groundbreaking Ceremony

group photoAmbassador Bruce Wharton, Remarks for NEC Ceremony

As Prepared for Delivery

Today, we ceremonially open the construction phase of the New United States Embassy Compound (NEC) in Zimbabwe, a major building project that gives substance to our deep commitment to Zimbabwe.   I am pleased that a process begun in 2001, with our acquisition of this land, has progressed to the point that we are ready to begin construction.  While the actual building work won’t start for another few months, it was important to me professionally and personally to be able to mark the occasion.

I must begin by highlighting my most profound appreciation to the Government of Zimbabwe and the many officials in the government whose cooperation and assistance made this project possible.  Special thanks go to Permanent Secretary Ambassador Joey Bimha, Ambassador Chitsaka Chipaziwa, and Ambassador Chipo Zindoga and their teams at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  These are the officials who provided crucial initial permissions, then helped guide us to ensure we secured all the correct agreements on VAT, import duties, and building permits.   Thank you.

I am also grateful to His Worship, the Mayor of Harare Councilor Ben Manyenyene, for his early and enthusiastic support for this project.

Minister Ignatius Chombo and his staff also provided crucial support by bringing together an interagency Government of Zimbabwe working group to move the process forward.  Thank you all.

Of course, we also wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the steadfast support and work by our colleagues from the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, who shepherded the project.  I am also delighted to welcome today representatives from B.L. Harbert International, the company that will oversee construction of this facility, and their architect of record, Page.

Finally, I must single out Sasha Jogi and his team at ARUP for being such important partners throughout this entire process.

We have worked hard to ensure that the New Embassy Compound honors and contributes to Zimbabwe and to our bilateral relations in as many ways as possible.

  • 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 NEC will be the place from which generations of American diplomats and their Zimbabwean colleagues will shape our bilateral relationship, increase the flow of business and investment between our countries, and open our pathways of mutual respect and understanding between the United States and Zimbabwe.
  • The NEC will proudly represent the United States of America while its design and responsible use of resources makes clear our respect for Zimbabwe.
  • AECOM, the design architect for this project gathered information on 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.
  • 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.
  • The site will also be planted with 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 minimize the Embassy’s burden on the existing infrastructure, by not tapping into the existing overtaxed sewer system.
  • The buildings on the campus are conceived as a series of gomos (small hills) that animate the terrain.  The Chancery is organized into two separate wings, as you can see on the two posters behind me, giving definition to the open landscape flowing in-between – “the veld.”  The new embassy campus and building designs draw their inspiration from the traditional culture, climate and geography of Zimbabwe.
  • Finally, the buildings are contractually obligated 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 minimize our environmental impact on Zimbabwe and maximize our contribution to sustained and responsible use of resources here, and reflects the US Government’s commitment to eco-diplomacy.

To close, in the long term, the NEC project is a strong and tangible symbol of the United States of America’s commitment to a strong, dynamic and growing relationship with Zimbabwe, a relationship based on respect, understanding and mutual interests.  In the medium term it is a development node that will encourage growth and development in the northwestern suburbs of Zimbabwe.  And, in the short-term, it represents job creation, materials supply, and skills transfer for the hard-working people and businesses of Zimbabwe.

As a gesture of our commitment to Zimbabwe, to the beauty and richness of this country, to promoting sustainable practices and reducing our carbon footprint, we are symbolically planting this Albizia tree.  The tree was provided by the Embassy’s Green Team, a diverse group of colleagues that promotes environmentally friendly practices within the Mission and throughout Harare.

Thank you.