The heads of eight large business corporations launched the Business Initiative in Zimbabwe to build dialogue with President Robert Mugabe’s government hoping to win the President’s trust by underwriting projects that he approved of.
The business leaders had declared that: “we in the business community cannot stand by while 90 percent of the population sinks below the poverty datum line”.
They planned to set aside 0.35 percent of their revenue to assist small entrepreneurs.
Viewing cable 02HARARE2361, Business Community Tries to Engage Mugabe
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 002361
STATE FOR AF/S
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
USDOC FOR 2037 DIEMOND
PASS USTR ROSA WHITAKER
TREASURY FOR ED BARBER AND CWILKENSON
USAID FOR MAJORIE COPSON
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Business Community Tries to Engage Mugabe
Sensitive but unclassified. Not for Internet posting.
¶1. (U) Summary: The heads of 8 large corporations in
Zimbabwe are banking that their new association can engage
the Government of Robert Mugabe in a non-threatening manner
and help the country stave off deeper recession. End
Will Mugabe listen?
¶2. (SBU) In funding Business Initiative Zimbabwe (BIZ), the
company chiefs have declared that “we in the business
community cannot stand by while 90 percent of the population
sinks below the poverty datum line.” This is the business
community’s most organized effort to build a dialogue with
the Mugabe government. Founders hope to win the President’s
trust by underwriting numerous projects that he approves of,
such as a young farmers program. (Member corporations agree
to pledge .35 percent of revenue to assist small
entrepreneurs.) Ultimately, they seek to leverage any good-
will into restored influence with the GoZ.
¶3. (SBU) Given the GoZ’s distrust of the private sector and
entrenched statist mindset, this is a tough sell. After a
recent two-day Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries
symposium where business leaders gently challenged
government ministers, the GoZ had the CZI head dismissed.
Furthermore, it does not help that some BIZ members
represent British multinationals. However, the CEOs of
Standard Chartered and Anglo American, both prominent black
Zimbabweans, have told us they see little to gain through
confrontation. BIZ founders, a collection of Zimbabwe’s
most prominent movers-and-shakers, have tried unsuccessfully
for months to secure a meeting with Mugabe. Meanwhile, they
hope to recruit Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa as an
honorary board member. BIZ already includes several
Zimbabwe-owned companies, such as PG, and members want to
add a couple dozen more. Standard Chartered CEO Washington
Masaira, the first BIZ chairman, told us the organization
will strive to be assertive but unthreatening – a very fine
line coming from reps of Western corporate interests in
today’s Zimbabwe. Masaira is not confident he will succeed,
but believes this may be the business community’s last
chance to help salvage what’s left of Zimbabwe’s economy.