Investors were showing renewed interest in Zimbabwe due to the country’s abundant natural resources and well-educated populace way back in February 2010, according to a cable dispatched by United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray ahead of a visit by a congressional delegation led by Gregory Meeks.
But they were generally remaining on the sidelines, concerned abou political instability and absence of investment security.
The embassy, however, said the behaviour of President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF indicated that they were determined to play an obstructionist role, thwarting all Movement for Democratic Change attempts to fully implement the Global Political Agreement, while regrouping in anticipation of elections.
The delegation’s visit provided an opportunity to demonstrate US commitment to democratic transition in Zimbabwe.
“You will be meeting with President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai, and Minister of Finance Tendai Biti,” the embassy said.
“ With Mugabe, you will be able to reiterate the message that the US supports the Zimbabwean people, but that greater engagement, including assistance, depends on a demonstration of greater commitment to political reform and rule of law.
“With Tsvangirai, you can express support for his efforts to achieve democratic reform and encourage him to continue to press for full implementation of the GPA.
“With Biti, you can underscore the importance of fiscal responsibility and reiterated the importance of political reform as a predicate for increased US engagement and assistance.”
Viewing cable 10HARARE91, Welcome (back) to Zimbabwe – CODEL MEEKS/WATT Scenesetter
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0031
INFO SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMCSUU/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 HARARE 000091
AF/S FOR BRIAN WALCH
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR MICHELLE GAVIN
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Welcome (back) to Zimbabwe – CODEL MEEKS/WATT Scenesetter
¶1. (SBU) U.S. Mission Zimbabwe welcomes CODEL Meeks/Watt and
their delegation. Your return visit comes at an important period
in Zimbabwe’s history, at the one-year anniversary of the entry
into government of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
factions in February 2009 and the formation with ZANU-PF of a
coalition government. It is an opportunity to express support for
democratic reform in Zimbabwe and emphasize our expectations of the
government. While the power-sharing agreement between President
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and the MDC is flawed and fragile, under the
coalition government the economy has stabilized after a lost decade
and there are signs of political change. Most noteworthy is that
Morgan Tsvangirai is Prime Minister, something that was virtually
inconceivable following the violence of the 2008 elections, and the
combined MDC factions now have an equal weight with ZANU-PF in
Parliament. Commissions — Media, Electoral, and Human Rights —
may be established in the near future. Also, despite delays, the
process of drafting a new constitution remains on track.
Disturbingly, however, Mugabe and ZANU-PF continue to drag their
heels on full implementation of the Global Political Agreement
(GPA). MDC governors have not yet been appointed, Deputy Minister
of Agriculture-designate Roy Bennett has not yet been sworn in, and
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney
General Johannes Tomana, appointed in violation of the GPA, remain
in office. The Attorney General’s office under Tomana has
selectively prosecuted MDC Members of Parliament (MPs) in an
apparent attempt to weaken what was an MDC majority in Parliament.
While violence has decreased, ZANU-PF structures remain in place in
parts of the country and there is continued intimidation of MDC
supporters. Invasions and disruptions of white-owned farms and
nature conservancies also continue.
¶2. (SBU) Investors are showing renewed interest in Zimbabwe due to
the country’s abundant natural resources and well-educated
populace. But so far they are generally remaining on the
sidelines, concerned about political instability and absence of
investment security. There is no land tenure — title to land
resides in the State and seizure of land is constitutional — and
the government has threatened to require 51 percent indigenous
ownership of businesses in all sectors.
¶3. (SBU) Donors, especially the U.S., provide large amounts of
humanitarian assistance, but are unwilling to reengage in direct
development assistance to the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) until
there is greater compliance with the GPA, particularly an end to
human rights violations and establishment of the rule of law. In
an effort to achieve greater compliance with the GPA, Tsvangirai
and the MDC have appealed to the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) and its designated Zimbabwe mediator, South
African President Jacob Zuma. Zuma has established a South African
facilitation team that has visited Zimbabwe several times and held
extensive talks with the three negotiating parties in an effort to
advance deadlocked negotiations. However, despite mediation
efforts, in late January ZANU-PF announced that they would not make
any further concessions unless the MDC succeeded in convincing
Western nations to remove sanctions. Real change appears unlikely
until there are new elections, and this will probably occur in 2012
or 2013. END SUMMARY.
Despite Flawed Agreement, MDC Joins Government
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¶4. (SBU) Presidential and Parliamentary elections took place on
March 29, 2008 and were relatively fair. The Tsvangirai (MDC-T)
and Mutambara (MDC-M) factions of the MDC combined won a
parliamentary majority. Tsvangirai may have won a majority in the
presidential vote, but after delaying the announcement of results
for almost a month, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced he
was just short of the 50 percent of the vote necessary to claim
outright victory. In the run-up to the June 27, 2008 presidential
runoff election, ZANU-PF unleashed a campaign of violence against
MDC supporters. Tsvangirai ultimately withdrew his name and Mugabe
won a clearly flawed victory.
¶5. (SBU) The international community, including SADC countries,
refused to recognize Mugabe’s victory and grant him the legitimacy
he craved. Under pressure from SADC, and with the economy
imploding under inflation that ultimately reached over a
quadrillion percent, Mugabe entered into negotiations with the MDC.
The GPA was signed on September 15, 2008. For Mugabe, a coalition
government represented a way to shift responsibility to the MDC and
to gain legitimacy; for Tsvangirai, it presented an opportunity to
enter government, to stabilize the economy, and to help badly
¶6. (SBU) While lofty in tone — the GPA called for an end to
violence, institution of the rule of law, and power sharing — the
agreement was scant as to detail and Tsvangirai spent the next five
months trying to negotiate with Mugabe as to the specifics of the
new government. During this period of negotiation, over 30 MDC
officials and members of civil society were abducted, tortured, and
prosecuted. (NOTE: Even after the formation of the new
government, many of these people are still being prosecuted,
although there is no evidence to support charges against them. END
NOTE.) Despite few gains in negotiations with Mugabe, Tsvangirai
and the MDC agreed to the passage of Constitutional Amendment 19
which incorporated the GPA and paved the way for the inauguration
of MDC officials and the establishment of the new government in
Political Progress is Slow…
¶7. (SBU) Prior to the 2008 elections, it would have been difficult
to conceive that Morgan Tsvangirai would be Prime Minister of
Zimbabwe, that the MDC would have a majority in parliament, and
that the Speaker of the House of Assembly would be from the MDC.
The MDC is now in a position to influence the political and
economic trajectory of Zimbabwe, and Tsvangirai has been received
in the U.S., Europe, and Africa as a head of government.
Nevertheless, ZANU-PF is attempting to frustrate political progress
and the GPA remains unfulfilled.
¶8. (SBU) The GPA called for major appointments subsequent to its
signature to be made by Mugabe as President in consultation with
Tsvangirai as Prime Minister. Nevertheless, Mugabe without
consultation appointed Gono as Reserve Bank Governor and Tomana as
Attorney General. Finance Minister Tendai Biti of MDC-T has
largely marginalized Gono, whose source of power over the last
several years rested in his ability to print money; with the
abandonment of the Zimbabwe dollar and the usage of foreign
currency, principally the U.S. dollar, Gono’s wings have been
clipped. Gono remains a symbol, however, of economic mismanagement
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and ZANU-PF patronage. Tomana has been largely responsible for the
selective prosecution of a number of MDC MPs. This is quite likely
part of a ZANU-PF strategy to weaken and perhaps overcome the MDC’s
parliamentary majority. Tsvangirai and the MDC have urged Mugabe
to comply with the GPA by dismissing both Gono and Tomana and
replacing them in consultation with Tsvangirai.
¶9. (SBU) Under the GPA, ZANU-PF and the MDC are supposed to divide
governorships, ministerial permanent secretaries, and
ambassadorships. The parties agreed that permanent secretaries and
ambassadors will remain in place and be replaced proportionally as
positions become open. The first five MDC ambassadors were named.
An agreement was reached months ago dividing governorships between
the parties, however Mugabe reneged on the deal.
¶10. (SBU) Roy Bennett, the MDC treasurer, returned from exile
after the formation of the new government. He was appointed to be
a Senator and designated by Tsvangirai as the Deputy Minister of
Agriculture. Bennett was arrested and charged with treason three
days after the new government was formed and released on bail a
month later. He is alleged to have illegally possessed weapons to
use against the government. Bennett’s trial is ongoing and Mugabe
has refused to swear him in as deputy minister despite the fact
that other government officials have been sworn in despite pending
¶11. (SBU) ZANU-PF structures, used to terrorize and intimidate MDC
supporters in the last election, remain in place in many rural
¶12. (SBU) Invasions and disruptions of farms and nature
conservancies continue to take place. These actions prevent
harvests and are inimical to tourism which is a key component of
economic growth in Zimbabwe.
…But There is Progress
¶13. (SBU) The GPA calls for an 18-month process to draft a new
constitution. This process is being guided by a committee of
Cabinet ministers, the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary
Affairs, and Parliament. Despite opposition from ZANU-PF (which
fears that completion of a new constitution will be a prelude to
early elections), and elements of civil society (who oppose a
political, as opposed to a civic-led process), it is proceeding,
albeit it at a slower than anticipated pace.
¶14. (SBU) The BBC is now operating openly — though there are
some pressures to self-censor — and there are possibilities that
independent daily newspapers will be allowed to publish in the
¶15. (SBU) The MDC is present in government and in ministries it
controls is establishing policies and taking actions. In general,
it is seen by the public, which has never known post-independence
anything but a ZANU-led government, as a legitimate democratic
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Reversing Economic Decline
¶16. (SBU) Zimbabwe’s economy shrank across all sectors between
1999 and 2008; real GDP is estimated to have declined by over 40
percent. President Mugabe’s large unbudgeted payments in late 1997
to agitating veterans of the 1970s liberation war precipitated the
economic decline, and Zimbabwe’s costly military intervention in
the Democratic Republic of Congo in the late 1990s further
destabilized the economy. The disastrous fast-track land
redistribution exercise that began in 2000 and the implementation
of draconian price controls led to a sharp fall in food production
and exports. The collapse of the agricultural sector also harmed
Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector, a second pillar of the economy
closely linked to agriculture. In addition, Zimbabwe’s pariah
status devastated the tourism industry. A fourth pillar of the
economy – the mining sector – was also hit hard by misguided
pricing, poor foreign exchange policies, and patronage abuse.
¶17. (SBU) Zimbabwe’s rate of inflation spiraled out of control as
the government turned to money creation to fund its spending.
Inflation is estimated to have peaked at an unprecedented level of
500 quadrillion percent in September 2008. In late 2008, the
Zimbabwe dollar virtually disappeared from circulation and the
pricing of goods and services shifted to foreign currency.
¶18. (SBU) Formal acceptance of dollarization by the government in
February 2009 finally stopped hyperinflation overnight and ushered
in macroeconomic stability. The adoption of a cash budget (monthly
expenses matching monthly revenue) by the new government put an end
to high deficits while dollarization provided a strong nominal
anchor for the control of inflation. Upon the new government’s
reengagement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2009,
the Fund approved the provision of limited technical assistance to
¶19. (SBU) While the economy has begun to stabilize, the systematic
and ongoing attack on property rights, and reports that all
companies will be required to have 51 percent indigenous ownership,
have scared off investors. Today Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of
southern Africa, is a deeply indebted country with a per capita GDP
of about US$1/day. The success of the new government’s economic
policies will depend on introducing further far-reaching reforms
that will spur production and attract support from international
donors and investors alike.
Current U.S. Assistance
¶20. (SBU) USAID’s current FY 2010 budget level for Zimbabwe
(excluding centrally-funded humanitarian assistance) is
approximately US$65 million. These funds support activities
related to democracy and governance, health, and the start-up of an
economic growth program. This funding level will enable the
Mission to begin to implement components of its recently approved
transition strategy for Zimbabwe. In addition to the above
funding, USAID receives significant support from USAID’s Bureau for
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Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/DCHA) for
food and non-food humanitarian assistance and transition support.
FY 2010 funding from DCHA has not been confirmed; however, FY 2009
levels included US$160 million from the Office for Food for Peace
(USAID/FFP), US$31 million from the Office of Foreign Disaster
Assistance (USAID/OFDA), and US$4 million from the Office of
Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI).
Status of GOZ and Donor Community
¶21. (SBU) Through an analytical Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), the
donor community, including the USG, has created a mechanism to
provide technical assistance to progressive-line ministries and the
Office of the Prime Minister to fill critical gaps. This mechanism
is intended to assist overwhelmed ministries to identify and
prioritize critical needs and to advise on policy reforms.
Coordination between the GOZ and the donor community is at a
nascent stage. Much work remains to improve coordination at all
levels and to educate the GOZ on aid effectiveness principles and
standard development practices. A programmatic trust fund is under
negotiation which would allow donors to jointly address critical
infrastructure needs such as water and sanitation.
U.S. Policy and Reengagement
¶22. (SBU) The U.S. and other donors form a very cohesive front
subscribing to a set of principles to guide reengagement with
Zimbabwe to ultimately include developmental assistance. These
— Full and equal access to humanitarian assistance;
— Commitment to macroeconomic stabilization;
— Restoration of the rule of law, including enforcement of
contracts, an independent judiciary, and respect for property
— Commitment to the democratic process and respect for
internationally accepted human rights standards; and
— Commitment to timely free and fair elections with international
standards, and in the presence of international observers.
¶23. (SBU) Access to humanitarian assistance has improved, the
MDC-controlled finance ministry is working to achieve macroeconomic
stabilization, and a constitutional process called for by the GPA
is underway — a new constitution is a predicate to new elections.
¶24. (SBU) USAID is supporting the constitution-making process by
funding civil society organizations involved and by contributing to
a multi-donor effort spearheaded by UNDP. USAID resources in
support of those efforts amount to US$3 million and US$1 million,
respectively. Much remains to be done, however, in the area of
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human rights and rule of law and the USG has signaled that greater
engagement and developmental assistance will depend on progress in
these areas. In the interim, and following the guidance of
President Obama from his meeting in June, 2009 with Prime Minister
Tsvangirai, we are putting in place “humanitarian plus” assistance
in the areas of health, education, and agriculture, including
¶25. (SBU) The behavior of Mugabe and ZANU-PF indicates that they
are determined to play an obstructionist role, thwarting all MDC
attempts to fully implement the GPA, while regrouping in
anticipation of elections . ZANU-PF is now conditioning further
GPA progress on the lifting of sanctions. While the MDC has long
argued that sanctions are out of their control, recent comments by
British Foreign Secretary Miliband to the effect that the UK would
consult with the MDC before altering its sanctions policy,
undermined that position. It now appears that the EU will lift
sanctions on some parastatals later this month.
¶26. (SBU) In light of ZANU-PF intransigence on the GPA, the MDC
appears close to declaring a deadlock and referring the issue to
SADC. If there is still no progress on GPA issues, the MDC may
begin a push for elections. The most likely scenario remains a
continuing and uneasy coalition between ZANU-PF and the MDC with
some economic progress and fitful and limited political reform.
Real political change would seem possible only after a new
election. Neither party, however, seems eager to advance elections
which are scheduled under the current constitution for 2013.
A Note on Your Visit
¶27. (SBU) Your visit provides an opportunity to demonstrate U.S.
commitment to democratic transition in Zimbabwe. You will be
meeting with President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai, and
Minister of Finance Tendai Biti. With Mugabe, you will be able to
reiterate the message that the U.S. supports the Zimbabwean people,
but that greater engagement, including assistance, depends on a
demonstration of greater commitment to political reform and rule of
law. With Tsvangirai, you can express support for his efforts to
achieve democratic reform and encourage him to continue to press
for full implementation of the GPA. With Biti, you can underscore
the importance of fiscal responsibility and reiterated the
importance of political reform as a predicate for increased U.S.
engagement and assistance.