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Botswana urged US to strengthen the hands of change in Zimbabwe

Botswana’s Foreign Minister Mompati Merafhe told United States ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice that there was a need to “strengthen the hands of change” in Zimbabwe while accepting that for now President Robert Mugabe would not disappear from the scene.

Rice said that the United States was re-examining its Zimbabwe policies, but there was a difficulty in balancing the need to avoid strengthening ZANU-PF hardliners while assisting the Movement for Democratic Change to show that their party could bring about improvements to the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.

Merafhe said that Botswana was trying to assist the MDC in improving the economic situation by providing a US$500 million loan facility to selected private Zimbabwe business firms.

He said that his government would work with the Southern African Development Community finance ministers working group to ensure that ZANU-PF hardliners would not have access to hard currency through this line of credit.

Merafhe suggested that the United States might best support the MDC by providing assistance for education and health in Zimbabwe, including funds for enhancing teachers’ salaries.

He said that the US should consult the Zimbabwe Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, on ways to ensure that such funds would not be siphoned off by the ZANU-PF.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09USUNNEWYORK521, AMBASSADOR RICE MEETS WITH BOTSWANA FOREIGN

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

09USUNNEWYORK521

2009-05-19 22:14

CONFIDENTIAL

USUN New York

VZCZCXRO8482

PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUCNDT #0521 1392214

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 192214Z MAY 09

FM USMISSION USUN NEW YORK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6605

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY PRIORITY

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1413

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1316

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3735

RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L USUN NEW YORK 000521

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/19/2019

TAGS: PREL PGOV UNGA SOCI KHIV ETRD ELAB BC ZI MA

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR RICE MEETS WITH BOTSWANA FOREIGN

MINISTER MERAFHE

 

Classified By: ECOSOC M/C Robert Hagen for reasons 1.5(b) and (d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: On May 14, Botswana FM Mompati Merafhe told

Ambassador Rice that Botswana would balance support for

Zimbabwean social ministries controlled by the MDC and

revitalization of the economy with the necessity of

continuing to deny access to foreign credit to ZANU-PF

leaders. To this end, Botswana had launched bank credits for

select Zimbabwean business firms, but would tightly monitor

the program. He recommended that the USG support salary

payments for teachers and the health sector, perhaps

utilizing the SADC Finance Ministers working group that would

monitor regional assistance to Zimbabwe. Merafhe stated he

was “reasonably optimistic” about South Africa President

Zuma’s new cabinet. He praised PEPFAR’s support for

Botswana’s public health program as well as AGOA-generated

job creation and urged the Obama administration to generate

new initiatives for which Botswana, an emerging country,

might be eligible. END SUMMARY

 

2. (U) On May 14, Ambassador Rice met with Botswana Foreign

Minister Mompati Merafhe who had come to New York to accept

recognition of Botswana as “the best African country of the

year” by the Celebrate Africa Foundation. Ambassador Rice

praised Botswana’s “steady leadership” in the region and

commented that the new administration would seek to

strengthen our bilateral relationship.

 

3. (C) In commenting on Zimbabwe, Merafhe noted the need to

“strengthen the hands of change” while accepting that for

now, President Mugabe would not disappear from the scene.

Ambassador Rice stated that the USG was re-examining its

Zimbabwe policies, noting the difficulty of balancing the

need to avoid strengthening ZANU-PF hardliners while

assisting the MDC to show that their party can bring about

improvements to the life of ordinary Zimbabweans. Merafhe

agreed, noting that Botswana was trying to assist MDC in

improving the economic situation by providing a 500 million

USD loan facility to selected private Zimbabwe business

firms. He stated that the government would work with the

SADC finance ministers working group to ensure that ZANU-PF

hardliners would not have access to hard currency through

this line of credit.

 

4. (C) Merafhe suggested that the United States might best

support the MDC by providing assistance for education and

health in Zimbabwe, including funds for enhancing teacher

salaries. He thought the USG should consult the Zimbabwe

Finance Minister, a MDC post, on ways to ensure that such

funds could not be siphoned off by the ZANU-PF.

 

5. (C) FM Merafhe termed former South African President

Mbeki, the “worst of the worst” and quipped that current

President Zuma had to be an improvement. He said he was

“reasonably optimistic” about Zuma’s new cabinet, but that FM

Mashabane was an unknown quantity.

 

6. (U) Merafhe urged the USG to continue the U.S. President’s

Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), noting that PEPFAR

financing had permitted Botswana to reach 117,000 out of

140,000 HIV-positive patients needing anti-virals. He said

that initial indications suggested that Botswana’s HIV

incidence was beginning to fall with the biggest success

lying in a 96% reduction of mother/infant transmission.

Merafhe noted that Botswana had successfully launched a

“cluster” program of providing health clinics to groups of

villages and that follow-on steps would include placing more

advanced medical technology into clinics as opposed to

staffing and equipping large hospitals. Merafhe also urged

the continuation of the African Growth and Opportunities Act

(AGOA) tariff provisions, noting that AGOA had created 10,000

new textile industry jobs in Botswana.

 

7. (U) Ambassador Rice commented that the Clinton

administration had launched AGOA, the Bush administration

PEPFAR, and the new administration was open to creative

thinking on a new initiative in which Botswana might lead by

assisting other African countries through the dissemination

of good practice and know-how.   The agricultural sector

might be a fertile sector for a new initiative, FM Merathe

agreed, noting that Botswana’s recent expansion of

agricultural inputs (seed and fertilizer) to small farmers

had led to a record-setting bumper crop, expansion of land

under cultivation, and a boost to food security. Ambassador

Rice commented that assistance with renewable energy would be

another area to explore assistance and joint programs.

Wolff

 

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