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Better to go slow and arrive alive

Namibia’s Foreign Minister Marco Hausiku told United States ambassador to Windhoek Dennise Mathieu that Zimbabwe needed a cooling off period to develop a sense of trust in their leadership before holding new elections.

He said the time-frame for new elections should be dictated by the situation on the ground. “It’s better to go slow and arrive alive than to drive fast and arrive dead”.

Hausiku said this during a 45-minute meeting with the ambassador in August 2008 when the major political parties in Zimbabwe were negotiation an end to the political and economic crisis in the country.

The US ambassador was trying to sell an agreement that would recognise Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s victory in the March elections.

Tsvangirai beat Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front leader Robert Mugabe by a narrow margin which necessitated a run-off. He, however, pulled out of the run-off because of the violence in the run-up to the run-off elections.

Hausiku declined to say what Namibia’s opinion was saying: “We may have an opinion,” but the best outcome is whatever the Zimbabweans themselves agree to.

All the political parties should be satisfied with the agreement.”We can’t dictate a particular outcome.”

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 08WINDHOEK249, AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES ZIMBABWE, LAND REFORM WITH

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08WINDHOEK249

2008-08-13 16:24

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Windhoek

VZCZCXRO9738

PP RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHWD #0249/01 2261624

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 131624Z AUG 08

FM AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0018

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WINDHOEK 000249

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2018

TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM PINR KDEM EAID EAGR KMCA ZI WA

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES ZIMBABWE, LAND REFORM WITH

NAMIBIAN FOREIGN MINISTER

 

Classified By: Ambassador Dennise Mathieu for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

 

Summary

——–

 

1. (C) During a cordial 45-minute meeting with the Ambassador

in his office on August 12, Foreign Minister Marco Hausiku

declined to describe the kind of agreement he hoped ZANU-PF

and the MDC would reach, saying that was up to Zimbabweans.

The Ambassador stressed the U.S. view that Morgan Tsvangirai

should have a substantial role, that any new government

should be transitional and followed quickly by new elections.

Hausiku replied that Zimbabweans need a cooling-off period

before new elections.   The Minister delivered an emotional

plea on the Government of Namibia’s need to proceed quickly

with its land reform program, saying Namibians were getting

frustrated with the slow pace. The Ambassador noted that

announcement of a detailed, transparent land reform program

would make it easier for the GRN to manage internal

expectations and attract international financial assistance.

Hausiku was delighted with the recent signature of the

Millennium Challenge Compact, and regretted that he had been

overseas at the time of the signing ceremony. End Summary.

 

Zimbabwe negotiations

———————

 

2. (C) The Ambassador asked for Hausiku’s assessment of the

ongoing negotiations in Harare between ZANU-PF and MDC. The

Foreign Minister said he hoped there would be an agreement by

the time of the SADC summit August 16-17. He had spoken to

the Namibian ambassador in Harare that morning and understood

the two sides had reached agreement on most issues.   The one

sticking point, he said, appeared to be how executive power

would be shared. The negotiators are now trying to work out

an appropriate division of responsibilities between the

President and Prime Minister. The Government of Namibia, he

added, is hoping an agreement would be finalized by the time

of the SADC Summit August 16-17.

 

3. (C) Asked whether the Troika would publicly express its

views on the agreement, Hausiku responded in the affirmative.

That is why, he explained, President Mbeki would brief the

Troika Chair before any public announcement, and the Troika

Chair would brief his other SADC counterparts. The

Ambassador expressed the USG’s hope that any final agreement

should express the will of the Zimbabwean people.   Since

Morgan Tsvangirai had received so many votes, his role in

government should be substantial.   Our view, she said, was

that the new government should be transitional and followed

soon after by new, free and fair elections.   The Ambassador

asked Hausiku what kind of agreement Namibia preferred.

Chuckling uncomfortably, Hausiku said “we may have an

opinion,” but the best outcome is whatever the Zimbabweans

themselves agree to. All the political parties should be

satisfied with the agreement.   “We can’t dictate a

particular outcome,” he declared. He noted that both parties

had accepted the legitimacy of the other by agreeing to the

MOU on the negotiations. The Foreign Minister was

noncommital about new elections, saying that Zimbabweans

needed a “cooling-off period” to develop a sense of trust in

their leadership.   At that point, they might be ready for

the “next phase.” Moving too quickly to new elections could

spark similar problems, Hausiku asserted. The Ambassador

reiterated the need for the transition period to be as rapid

as possible, to which the Minister replied, laughing, “it’s

better to go slow and arrive alive than to drive fast and

arrive dead.” The time frame for new elections, he stressed,

should be dictated by the situation on the ground.

 

Land reform

———–

 

4. (C) The Ambassador noted that the SADC Tribunal recently

had ruled against the government of Zimbabwe in a land

seizure case and asked Hausiku’s views on next steps.   The

Minister was dismissive of the ruling, saying it was the

first case and adding that “in our system, we accept what the

courts say but whether we do what they say is another

matter.” He said the court should provide an alternative to

redress the imbalances that predated the beginning of land

reform efforts in Zimbabwe.

 

5. (C) Turning to Namibia, Hausiku said he is under constant

pressure from “my people” to speed up land reform efforts.

He said he regularly assured Namibians that the government is

proceeding with a land reform program, but he said they will

stop listening in 15 or 20 years unless the process speeds

up. He said frustration is building among the population and

made an appeal for resources from the international

community. Namibia needs to find a way to redress the

imbalances in land ownership while also addressing the needs

 

WINDHOEK 00000249 002 OF 002

 

 

of landowners, he noted.

 

6. (C) The Ambassador said the United States understands

Namibia’s unique history and she commended the GRN’s

constitutional approach, its stated preference to proceed

with acquisition of land on a willing seller, willing buyer

basis. Before the GRN requested resources from the donor

community, however, it was important to have a well-defined,

transparent program.   For instance, it should make clear

whether the goal is commercial viability or whether mere

distribution of land is sufficient. The GRN also will need

to decide whether it will provide agricultural extension

services to resettled communities.   Once the GRN clarifies

those kinds of issues, it will be easier to manage the

population’s expectations and will facilitate requests for

international assistance. The Ambassador noted that the

Millennium Challenge Corporation plans to work with communal

farmers to help them become more productive.

 

7. (C) Noting that he was Namibia’s first Minister of Lands

and Resettlement after independence, Hausiku said it wasn’t

true to say that Namibia doesn’t have a land reform program.

Policies have been developed, committees have been

established to determine who gets settled where, and guidance

has been developed on who can apply for land and how. What

is missing, though, is support services, such as agricultural

extension and provision of inputs to farmers. And, for that,

the GRN needs resources. “I accept that the U.S. may see

things differently,” the Minister said.   Germany, he added,

doesn’t want the GRN interfering in farming, since a large

percentage of commercial farmers have roots there. He

claimed that Germany had pledged financial assistance for

construction of infrastructure on resettled farms ten years

ago but still hasn’t disbursed any funds. Hausiku said he

“can’t imagine Germany would ever support our land reform

program, regardless of what they say.” The only way to

proceed is to plan carefully, but the GRN must move forward

on this issue using available resources.

 

Millennium Challenge Compact

—————————-

 

8. (C) The Foreign Minister said the recent signing of the

Millennium Challenge Compact had been great news, and he

thanked the Ambassador for shepherding the negotiations to a

successful conclusion. The Ambassador noted that the hard

work of implementation would now begin.

 

Mauritania

———-

 

9. (C) The Ambassador thanked Hausiku for Namibia’s public

statement critical of the coup in Mauritania, noting that

recent political developments there had been a setback for

Africa.   Hausiku agreed, calling the coup a pity and

commenting that Mauritania had been headed in the right

direction.

 

SWAPO

—–

 

10. (C) The Ambassador asked about recent media reports

criticizing the President for not consulting widely enough

prior to making diplomatic appointments, particularly

Namibia’s Permrep at the UN and ambassador to Botswana.

Constitutionally, the President has every right to appoint

his diplomatic representatives abroad, Hausiku replied, but

“I advise him on all such appointments.” He said that no

ambassadors have been assigned without his blessing, and

ambassadors would remain in place unless the President or he

decided otherwise.

 

Comment

——-

 

11. (C) As usual, Hausiku was charming and engaged, even

when discussing the very emotional issue of land reform.

Despite his assurances to the contrary, the government does

not appear to have a well-defined, transparent land reform

program.   At a minimum, there has been widespread criticism

of the lack of clear criteria for selection of recipients,

and of government’s failure to provide adequate support to

those who are resettled.   On Zimbabwe, Hausiku remained

noncommittal regarding a political solution. It is unclear

exactly what he envisions in terms of a “cooling-off period”

prior to new elections, but we will continue to advocate

support for a transitional government with the GRN.

MATHIEU

 

(7 VIEWS)

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