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Jokonya a breath of fresh air after Jonathan Moyo

New Information Minister Tichaona Jokonya was a breath of fresh air after his “clever but shrill and vitriolic predecessor” Jonathan Moyo, United States embassy officials said.

They said they had already seen modestly positive shifts in government media policy since his appointment.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s castigation of Operation Restore Order, for example, was given airtime by the national broadcaster and an extended critique of government economic policies by the private sector, including commercial farmers, was also aired.

The officials concluded: “Jokonya is, however, unlikely to stand up to Mugabe or the party hierarchy on critical issues but, as a diplomat and elder statesman, he may be an effective conduit of information and we intend to take him up on his offer to engage more closely with his ministry and through it the country’s official media.”

Jokonya told United States ambassador Christopher Dell that after a long career with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was a diplomat, not a politician.

He spoke fondly of his four years in the United States as Zimbabwe’s permanent representative to the United Nations and said that he was proud to be a “free citizen” of Louisiana.

“He half-jokingly asked if this citizenship would spare him inclusion on our sanctions list,” Dell said.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 05HARARE801, INFORMATION MINISTER ON BILATERAL RELATIONS, MEDIA

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

05HARARE801

2005-06-09 13:50

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000801

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. NEULING

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010

TAGS: PREL KPAO PHUM PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: INFORMATION MINISTER ON BILATERAL RELATIONS, MEDIA

POLICY, CRACKDOWN

 

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Eric T. Schultz under Section 1

.5 b/d

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: During a courtesy call by the Ambassador at

the Ministry on June 2, new Minister of Information Tichaona

Jokonya defended the GOZ’s media policy and its Operation

“Restore Order”. He said he wanted better relations with the

independent media and with the USG. The Ambassador condemned

the GOZ’s crackdown in urban areas and stressed that concrete

measures by the GOZ to improve governance would have to

precede any improvement in bilateral relations. END SUMMARY.

 

 

2. (C) Jokonya opened the meeting by telling the Ambassador

that, after a long career with the Ministry of Foreign

Affairs, he was a diplomat, not a politician. However, the

ruling party was pushing him as a recently elected MP to

spend considerable time in his district (Chikomba in Masvingo

Province) cultivating relations with his constituents. He

spoke fondly of his four years in the United States as

PermRep and said that he was proud to be a “free citizen” of

Louisiana. He half-jokingly asked if this citizenship would

spare him inclusion on our sanctions list.

 

—————–

Minister Defends GOZ Media Policy, Seeks Rapprochement With

Independent Media

—————–

 

3. (C) Conceding that he was still learning the ropes at the

Ministry, the Minister launched into a familiar rehearsal of

historical sketches on land reform and Tony Blair’s purported

personal vendetta against the GOZ. Jokonya then moved to

defenses of various aspect of the GOZ’s media policy. He

asserted that the much-criticized Access to Information and

Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) was not as draconian as

portrayed by the western media. The GOZ had not arbitrarily

banned The Daily News (TDN, an independent newspaper closed

in 2003), which he maintained was closed after it refused to

obey the law by registering. He noted that TDN’s new

application remained before the Media and Information

Commission, and he urged that we reserve further judgment on

the GOZ’s media policy pending the adjudication of the TDN

application.

 

4. (C) Jokonya emphasized his interest in repairing the

Ministry’s relationship with the independent media. He had

initiated a dialogue with its representatives and was trying

to address their complaints and suggestions. For example, he

was examining the composition of the Media and Information

Commission, which journalists complained inadequately

represented the perspective of journalists. He asserted that

when pinned down about AIPPA, media representatives’

complaints boiled down to certain aspects of registration

requirements and purported selective application of its

provisions. He was sure something could be worked out on

both issues.

 

———————————-

Seeks Better Relationship With USG

———————————-

 

5. (C) The Minister encouraged the USG to work more closely

with his ministry. He noted that we worked well with other

GOZ ministries, such as the Ministry of Public Health, and

emphasized that he was open to American suggestions on how to

improve operations at his Ministry. He said he had been

enormously impressed with the current and preceding

Secretaries of State, and complimented the First Lady on

 

SIPDIS

comments she made in Egypt regarding U.S. tolerance for

different paths to democracy. If the USG could talk to North

Korea, he concluded, it should be able to collaborate more

closely with Zimbabwe, a country with which it had much more

in common. He said that he wanted his Ministry to be where

diplomats came when they wanted something done; he emphasized

that he would relay our views to “the highest level” when we

came to him.

 

—————————–

Ambassador Condemns “Restore Order”, Urges Concrete GOZ

Measures to Enhance Relations

—————————–

 

6. (C) The Ambassador said that the USG would welcome

different approaches and an improvement in bilateral

relations. He reiterated his message to President Mugabe

that shrill public rhetoric did nothing to advance either

country’s interest and that the governments should engage

more meaningfully with each other face to face. However,

dialogue would only go so far as long as we were divided by

fundamental principles that could not be papered over or

finessed through image management.

 

7. (C) The Ambassador told the Minister that the Embassy

watched closely for signals that would justify a return to

our formerly constructive relations but discerned few. In

particular, the USG was appalled at the unconscionable abuses

associated with the GOZ’s Operation “Restore Order”, which

had deprived tens of thousands of their homes and

livelihoods. Limitations on freedom of expression and

continued gross economic mismanagement represented additional

constraints. We welcomed indications of positive shifts in

GOZ media policy and hoped to see them bear fruit. The key

to prospects for improved bilateral relations would continue

to be concrete measures for improved governance on the GOZ’s

part.

 

8. (C) Jonkoya briefly defended “Restore Order”, casting it

as a legitimate exercise to stem “criminal elements”, but

noted its “inconsistency” with other national objectives and

expressed appreciation for the Ambassador’s comments.

 

———————

VOA; Public Diplomacy

———————

 

9. (C) The Ambassador welcomed the Minister’s offer to work

more closely together and encouraged more contact between the

official media and the Embassy’s Public Affairs Section. He

noted that he had offered to do his first in-country

interview with the state-controlled Herald, which had not

taken him up. Jonkoya responded that he would work to

facilitate the Ambassador,s access to Zimbabwe,s official

media.

 

10. (C) The Ambassador added that the Voice of America was

charged with projecting balanced views on the Zimbabwean

situation and welcomed engagement with GOZ ministers and

representatives; few had exploited the opportunity. Jokonya

criticized VOA for broadcasting sensationalist, often

misleading or untrue stories about Zimbabwe, and asserted

that it maintained an anachronistic “Cold War” view of

Zimbabwe. Nonetheless, he undertook to listen to it more

often and said he would look into the possibility of greater

GOZ engagement with VOA.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

11. (C) Jokonya is a relative breath of fresh air in

comparison to his clever but shrill and vitriolic predecessor

Jonathan Moyo. We have already seen modestly positive shifts

in GOZ media policy. Opposition MDC President Morgan

Tsvangirai’s castigation of “Restore Order”, for example, was

 

SIPDIS

given airtime by the national broadcaster this past week, and

an extended critique of GOZ economic policies by the private

sector, including commercial farmers, was aired June 8.

Jokonya is unlikely to stand up to Mugabe or the party

hierarchy on critical issues but, as a diplomat and elder

statesman, he may be an effective conduit of information and

we intend to take him up on his offer to engage more closely

with his ministry and through it the country,s official

media.

SCHULTZ

(34 VIEWS)

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