Information Minister Jonathan Moyo sent jitters within Non-Governmental organisations when he reportedly said NGOs that did not cooperate with the government “would be cut off at the knees”.
United Nations Development Programme resident representative Victor Angelo was so worried about the hardening attitude of the government that he was scared to talk about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe even when there were no government officials around.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1713, WFP/UNDP REPORT A FOOD-FIGHT IN THE OFFING
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 03 HARARE 001713
STATE FOR AF, A/S KANSTEINER AND PDAS SNYDER; ALSO FOR
PLEASE PASS USAID FOR ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS, AA/AFR NEWMAN,
AA/DCHA WINTER, AND FFP, LANDIS
NSC FOR SENIOR DIRECTOR FRAZER
ROME FOR FODAG
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2008
SUBJECT: WFP/UNDP REPORT A FOOD-FIGHT IN THE OFFING
REF: HARARE 1712
Classified By: DCM REWHITEHEAD DUE TO 1.5 (b) and (d).
¶1. (c) Summary. In a somber August 28 meeting, UNDP resrep
Victor Angelo commented on the accelerating downward spiral
of the Zimbabwean economy and increasingly difficult UN/NGO
relations with the GOZ. The WFP Regional Director described
a discouraging exchange with President Mugabe on NGO
involvement in food distribution. Although there was no GOZ
representative present to listen, donors hewed to the common
position that GOZ demands to cede food recipient selection
and physical distribution to local councils and headmen
(reftel) is unacceptable, both for WFP-controlled and
bilateral food pipelines. Angelo telephoned DCM after the
meeting to say that he was expecting some difficult
negotiations on a renewed MOU that would permit food
distribution to continue and counted on strong U.S. support.
We think that letting the UNDP take the lead at this moment
is the correct approach, although this may need to be
reviewed if the GOZ does not back away from unreasonable
demands. It is our view that if they will not yield to
reason, we must draw a line in the sand and halt further U.S.
contributions until they agree to a status quo approach that
will not politicize and fatally taint humanitarian food
donations. End summary.
Gloom and Doom in the Room
¶2. (u) An unusually restrained Victor Angelo kicked off the
meeting by reciting a list of dismal statistics about the
Zimbabwean economy, none of these news to those in attendance.
— GDP was down one-third since 1999 and stood to plunge at
least another 20 percent in 2003.
— Zimbabwe was 550,000 MT short of fertilizer for the
upcoming agricultural season, with an equally serious seed
— There would be little if any irrigated tobacco production
during the coming cropping year.
— Foot and mouth disease had enveloped Harare and moved
north to the Norton/Chinhoyi areas. The GOZ had procured
some HMD vaccine and taken other measures, such as decreeing
that all buffalo on game farms and conservancies would be
moved to national parks. How the latter might be
accomplished is a mystery.
— In the past three weeks, the GOZ had listed for seizure
375 additional farms to include plantations, export producing
operations, and even some indigenous-owned farms.
— The formal economy was withering.
— The GMB claimed that it had procured 150,000 MT from the
last harvest, a dubious figure. (Angelo told us last week
that GMB probably had acquired no more than 40,000 MT.) The
GMB also claimed that they would import another 340,000 MT,
another questionable figure given the paucity of forex.
— The brain drain continued apace.
Moving the Goal Posts
¶3. (sbu) Angelo said that there appeared to be a hardening
of attitude by the GOZ toward the UN and cooperating partners
involved in humanitarian feeding. The most obvious
manifestation was the August 14 promulgation of new GOZ rules
that shunted the NGOs aside and ceded food beneficiary
selection and physical food distribution to local councils
and headmen, most of whom are in ZANU-PF’s pocket. In an
August 20 meeting with Minister of Labor and Social Welfare
July Moyo, Angelo said that he had warned that there was a
low level of donor response to the UN EMOP (for Zimbabwe) to
date — pushing ahead with the new rules would make it very
difficult for UNDP/WFP to enlist sufficient donor support to
meet the appeal. He said that Moyo had backtracked, stating
that the new rules did not signify a meaningful change from
existing procedures. Angelo said that this line ran counter
to reports he had received of Moyo and other ministers
meeting with NGOs in the provinces, where they stressed that
the new rules would go into force. Minister of Information
Jonathan Moyo, according to one press report, went so far as
to say that NGOs that did not cooperate “would be cut off at
the knees.” Angelo said that negotiations were underway for
a renewed one-year MOU between the UNDP/WFP and GOZ on
modalities for humanitarian food operations for 2003 and
¶2004. The outcome of these negotiations would be critical to
assuring sufficient and timely donor response.
The Donor Response
¶4. (sbu) The assembled donors responded in turn and in close
harmony. There was universal agreement that the new NGO
rules as now written would be unacceptable and would
complicate donor participation. Policy clarity was essential
before those present could speak definitively to their
governments’ response to the EMOP. No one said outright that
they would refuse to contribute to a program stage-managed by
GOZ/ZANU-PF proxies, but no one piled grain futures on the
table either. The Angolan High Commissioner responded that
there were positive signs on the political front and queried
if a forward-leaning donor response might provide incentive
for further progress. The DCM pointed out that the U.S.
bases its contributions on humanitarian need and not
political criteria. We seek a depoliticized program and need
a similar commitment from whatever government we engage on
this issue. Policy clarity referred to food distribution
mechanisms and food security issues, not the political
President Mugabe’s Views/UN Counterpoint
¶5. (sbu) After the representatives of locally based UN
specialized agencies delivered their set pieces, visiting WFP
Regional Director Mike Sackett and WFP Representative Kevin
Farrell offered some worthwhile insights. Sackett said that
he had accompanied a visiting OPEC delegation (reportedly
offering a package of USD 9 million for the regional appeal)
to Zimbabwe and had participated in a meeting with President
Mugabe. Mugabe had heard OPEC out and then turned to Sackett
and brusquely demanded what WFP intended to do. Sackett had
replied that WFP faced a “Herculean task” of sourcing 450,000
MT of food and moving it through the pipeline expeditiously.
The August 14 announcement on NGOs had not helped. When
Mugabe pled ignorance, July Moyo clarified, and Mugabe picked
up the theme with “not encouraging” comments:
— we cannot undermine local Zimbabwean structures.
— NGOs have a political agenda.
— Many NGOs are staffed with callow foreign youth.
— Religious NGOs give food only to those of their own
— Mugabe himself had personally assured WFP’s Jim Morris
that food distribution would be apolitical, so there was
nothing to worry about.
¶6. (sbu) Sackett said that following the meeting WFP had
decided to send Mugabe a strong letter from Morris, the
afternoon of August 28, stating the following, among other
–“for WFP, NGOs are crucial to distribution of food relief”
— “It would be a SERIOUS (underlined) mistake to make
changes to established procedures.”
WFP’s message to other parts of the GOZ were equally clear:
WFP will tolerate no abuses and will cease all food
distribution in areas where there are abuses. He said that
WFP had instructed its field staff and NGO partners to be
especially vigilant and diligent in reporting any changes.
He concluded by noting that he hoped that recent developments
would not halt planning for food pledges in donor capitals,
since this could seriously imperil the food pipeline in the
crucial January to March 2004 time frame.
¶6. (sbu) Farrell said that he too had prepared a strong
letter to July Moyo urging that the GOZ maintain the status
quo. He reported that August distributions were ongoing and
that so far, “it is business as usual.” He concluded by
explaining WFP policy reasons for rejecting a prescribed GOZ
food for work program for the able bodied, since GOZ control
of public work projects could translate into preventing those
the GOZ does not favor from working, and thus eating.
¶7. (c) Angelo called DCM after the meeting to thank him and
other donors for their solidarity and the implicit support
this would give him as he went into further MOU negotiations
with the GOZ. He said that he depended on strong donor
support, and especially from the U.S. as the largest
contributor, as he undertook what he expected to be bruising
negotiations. He agreed that the EU had made a tactical
error in publicizing significant food donations to Zimbabwe
even before the GOZ appeal was released, thereby leading GOZ
officials to assume that food would be forthcoming, whatever
the prevailing climate.
¶8. (c) The U.S. has important bilateral as well as
multilateral interests at play here, since the outcome of the
UNDP/WFP MOU negotiation will provide a template for our own
C-SAFE MOUs that must also be renegotiated before the end of
the year. We agree that the best strategy for now is to let
the UNDP take the lead and provide strong public and private
support as needed/requested, both here and in Rome. Angelo
is clearly aware of the stakes and does not want a failed
humanitarian relief effort on his watch. Accordingly, he
will not cut a deal that the donors cannot accept. Our
principal interests here are to see that the vulnerable are
fed, to continue unpublicized planning for U.S. contributions
that will keep the food pipelines intact, and not to count
coup on the GOZ/ZANU in a public tit for tat. If the UN does
not prevail, however, we may still need to become directly
involved and publicly pull back from any further food aid
until the GOZ agrees to acceptable terms. One thing is
clear. From a policy and from a humanitarian point of view,
we cannot allow the GOZ to win a game of food relief chicken
and replace USAID’s clasped hands logo with ZANU/PF’s