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Is the West afraid of Mugabe because he is an intelligent black man?

A Zimbabwean businessman of Indian origin Ramish Kewada, who owned a paint and plastics retail shop in Harare, asked a United States embassy official eight years ago whether the West was afraid of President Robert Mugabe because he was an intelligent black man because he did not understand why they wanted to get rid of him.

Kewada who had a lot of faith in Mugabe and believed he could turn around the country’s economy said Mugabe was not corrupt but was surrounded by corrupt advisors who did not provide him with the information he needed to make proper decisions.

He argued that Mugabe was not aware of the level of corruption around him because he always said something when he was made aware of it.

Kewada said that commercial farmers were partly to blame for their fate because they were stubborn about land reform and overly confident about their ability to control events.

He said Mugabe protected the commercial farmers after independence but finally had to balance land ownership. He said that the British and Americans reneged on their monetary and political support, so Mugabe did it himself.

He, however, acknowledged that political expediency also played a role in Mugabe’s land reform implementation.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 04HARARE1308, ASIAN INDIANS WEIGH PROSPECTS IN ZIMBABWE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE1308

2004-07-30 07:34

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001308

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

STATE FOR AF/S

USDOC FOR AMANDA HILLIGAS

TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW

PASS USTR FLORIZELLE LISER

STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON

USDOL FOR ROBERT YOUNG

STATE FOR MARINDA HARPOLE

 

E. O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ELAB EAID BTIO EINV ECON PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: ASIAN INDIANS WEIGH PROSPECTS IN ZIMBABWE

 

1.   (SBU) Summary: Can Indian-Zimbabweans escape the

wrath that the Mugabe government has showered upon

whites? EconOff spoke with Zimbabweans of Indian descent

(“Asians” in local vernacular) and an Indian Embassy

representative about conditions in Zimbabwe. Some are

hopeful while others are less optimistic about their

future in Zimbabwe. End summary.

 

ASIANS IN ZIMBABWE

——————-

2. (SBU) Indians came to Zimbabwe three or more

generations ago, mostly engaging in commerce. In the

latter days of Rhodesia, Asians formed strong ties to

Zanu-PF and its leadership to combat discrimination. They

assisted monetarily and otherwise the then-rebel ZANU-PF.

Asians are now Zimbabwe’s largest minority, accounting

for nearly 1 percent of the population.

3. (SBU) The Asian community built its own society with

separate schools, religious worship centers, sports

clubs, etc. Interaction with indigenous Zimbabweans is

limited to business transactions and general social

encounters. Since land reform began, Asians have kept low

profiles while quietly funding and supporting GOZ. They

hope to retain their possessions and positions by

publicly staying away from politics. Many attribute the

white commercial farmers’ sudden downfall to their public

and defiant support for the opposition.

 

RAMISH KEWADA: A ZANU-PF SUPPORTER

———————————–

4. (SBU) Kewada owns a paint and plastics retail shop in

downtown Harare. He claimed that his family had close

ties to the ruling party. Kewada expressed faith in

President Mugabe and GOZ’s ability to better the economy.

 

5. (SBU) Kewada believes that commercial farmers are

partly to blame for their fate- they were stubborn about

land reform and overly confident about their ability to

control events. Kewada believes Mugabe protected the

commercial farmers after independence but finally had to

balance land ownership. He says that the British and

Americans reneged on their monetary and political

support, so Mugabe did it himself. Kewada did acknowledge

that political expediency also played a role in Mugabe’s

land reform implementation.

 

6. (SBU) Kewada believes Mugabe is not corrupt but is

surrounded by corrupt advisors who do not provide him

with the information he needs to make proper decisions;

Mugabe is unaware of the level of corruption around him

and always says something when he is made aware of it.

 

7. (SBU) Kewada does not understand why the West “wants

to get Mugabe”. He asked whether the West was afraid of

Mugabe as an intelligent black man. EconOff told him that

the West welcomes honest intellectual debate as part of

its core free speech principles. Rather, it is repressive

policies that the West dislikes. Kewada admitted there

had been mistakes, but attributed them to corrupt

advisors’ mal-adherence to Mugabe’s policies.

 

8. (SBU) Kewada says that Asians keep a low profile and

support the ruling party. As a minority, it is their only

option. Although the youth leave the country for higher

education, Kewada believes they will return because this

is their home and they cannot live the same luxurious

life in the UK or USA.

 

VAS NAYEE: TRYING TO SURVIVE IN A SINKING ECONOMY

——————————————— —–

9. (SBU) Mr. Vas Nayee owns a blue jeans manufacturing

concern in Harare. He also runs the Jaipur restaurant at

the Sunrise Club (the mostly-Asian sports club). Nayee

expressed concern about the fate of Asians and business.

 

10. (SBU) Nayee’s blue jeans business used to supply

Target stores, but now survives on local and South

African orders. Target shifted business to AGOA-compliant

countries. At the same time, labor wants a living wage

that he cannot afford. He hopes wage negotiations will

produce a more modest proposal. In an hyper-inflationary

and random government interventionist environment,

businesses cannot plan any type of short, medium, or long-

term strategy.

 

11. (SBU) Nayee feels there is not an historic tension

between locals and Asians in Zimbabwe. However, recently,

general resentment of Asians’ quality of life has

increased. Nayee has personally felt this walking into

stores where people glare at him- although no one has

actually physically or verbally abused him. He can just

feel the suspicion and resentment in their glaring eyes.

 

12. (SBU) Nayee described how when the Joshi brothers

fled, many Asians suddenly felt vulnerable. The Joshis

were supposedly so connected that they were protected

from anything as long as Zanu-PF remained in power. Now,

they wonder if it is not such a large leap from farms to

commerce. So, Asians keep a low profile in the hopes of

weathering the storm. The youth are studying higher and

secondary education abroad and will likely not return.

 

K. JEEVA SAGAR: AN OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE

—————————————

13. (SBU) Mr. Sagar is the Indian Embassy’s second in

charge. He stated that Asians maintain a low profile with

their own schools, places of worship, etc. Their small

numbers and self-enforced isolation has kept them safe.

Asians’ heavy involvement in the independence struggle

and subsequent support for Zanu-PF and Mugabe has bought

them protection. But loyalty could run out, especially

when indigenous Zimbabweans generally believe that the

Asian community takes advantage of business opportunities

without giving back to the community.

 

14. (SBU) Sagar believes Mugabe’s personal loyalty to the

Asian community runs too deep for any backlash to emerge.

Particular individuals, such as the Joshi brothers, may

be targeted, but not the community. However, a new

government (Zanu-PF, MDC, or other) may feel differently.

All the elements for a backlash exist: an easily

recognizable minority who enjoy an higher standard of

living than the local population, who keep to themselves

and do not contribute to the local society.

 

COMMENT

———-

15. (SBU) Despite Kewada’s optimism, there is a general

uneasiness among Asians. As the youth leave the country

for higher education, they are unlikely to return after

establishing lives elsewhere. Kewada himself appeared as

if he were trying to convince himself.

 

16. (SBU) the low profile and financial support strategy

may prove shortsighted. While Mugabe has refrained from

targeting Asians, the leap is not that great from farms

to other sectors (as the recent grab for conservancies

illustrates). Eventually, when the land reform promises

fall short, a new scapegoat will emerge.

 

17. (SBU) Once a government begins demonizing part of

society, the madness may not stop until brother fights

against brother. Asians are distinct in race, color,

religion, and dress. They also isolate themselves from

the general society. This makes them easy targets if Zanu-

PF chooses. Sagar may be correct that Mugabe’s loyalties

run too deep, but he is 80 years old and there is no

guarantee that the next Zanu-PF or other government would

uphold those loyalties. The local Asian community should

seek to build bridges and connect with the general

society rather than retreat.

 

WEISENFELD

(22 VIEWS)

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