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Mugabe tones down vitriol

President Robert Mugabe was reported to have toned down his vitriol against the West and the opposition when he addressed the nation on 4 December 2007, four days before he was due in Lisbon for the European Union-Africa summit.

Instead he implored Zimbabweans to persevere in the face of continuing challenges and commended the Movement for Democratic Change for participating in a “new era of constructive engagement across the political divide”.

Mugabe said that campaigning for the 2008 elections should be permitted in an “atmosphere of peace”.

He pinned hopes of an economic turnaround on the “Look East” policy and blamed Britain for a “sinister campaign” to isolate the country.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 07HARARE1093, Zim Notes December 7, 2007

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

07HARARE1093

2007-12-07 10:51

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO6216

RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #1093/01 3411051

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

R 071051Z DEC 07

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2214

RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1788

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1679

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1810

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0420

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1087

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1435

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1866

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4294

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0937

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 001093

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S.HILL

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN

TREASURY FOR J.RALYEA AND T.RAND

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN

COMMERCE FOR BECKY ERKUL

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O.12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM ECON ZI

 

SUBJECT: Zim Notes December 7, 2007

 

1. The Embassy Harare Political/Economic Section began producing

Zim Notes in July, 2007 to present a perspective on current events

in Zimbabwe. Suggestions are always welcome. If you would like to

receive Zim Notes by email, as well, please contact Frances Chisholm

at chisholmfm@state.gov. Distribution is restricted to U.S.

government employees.

 

2. Parallel exchange rate: ZW$2,100,000:US$1

Official exchange rate: ZW$30,000:US$1

Sugar on the parallel market jumped to Z$2.5 million/2kg vs.

controlled price of Z$247,000/2kg

Cooking oil on the parallel market – steady at Z$5 million for 750

ml vs. controlled prince of Z$440,000/750ml

Fuel – scarce at the nearly doubled price of Z$4 million/liter vs.

Z$60,000/liter at controlled price and unavailable.

 

—————————–

On the Political/Social Front

—————————–

3. MDC Sets Conditions for SADC Agreement – MDC negotiators Tendai

Biti and Welshman Ncube in a diplomatic briefing on Tuesday said

that essential to an agreement were implementation before elections

of the already agreed-upon draft constitution and an election date

that would permit time for organizing and campaigning (Harare 1080).

On Wednesday, the MDC (Tsvangirai faction) issued a press release

reporting that its National Executive Committee had met that day and

resolved that neither an agreement nor free and fair elections would

be possible unless the following conditions were met:

–Introduction of a new constitution before elections;

–Reconstitution of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which

would be responsible for a new voters’ roll and delimitation of

constituencies;

–Restoration of daily newspapers and freedom for journalists to

operate;

–Implementation of agreed-upon reforms to POSA, AIPPA, the

Broadcasting Act, and electoral laws;

–Unimpeded international monitoring of elections;

–Voting by the Diaspora.

MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa told the press the National

Executive Committee would meet again on December 16 and decide

whether to ratify any agreement reached between the MDC and ZANU-PF

and whether to contest next year’s elections.

 

4. *A Farewell March? – ZANU-PF’s so-called “Million Men and Women

March” on November 28 to show support for President Robert Mugabe’s

candidacy in 2008 fell well short of expectations. Press reports on

the crowd size varied widely – anywhere from 10,000 to 200,000 – but

our best guess is that around 40,000 participated, although many

unwillingly. To ensure a respectable showing, ZANU-PF mobilized

nearly every available form of state transportation to bring in

“supporters” from out of town. There is no doubt it was the largest

political rally in years, but only because the government has not

afford the oppposition equal space, according to many political

observers.

 

In true megalomaniacal fashion, Mugabe addressed the crowd wearing a

shirt bearing his own image. True to his tired script, he again

railed on Britain, blamed all the country’s woes on a Western

conspiracy, and called on Zimbabweans to identify and defeat their

“common enemy”.

 

5. State of the Nation – In his 20th state of the nation address in

Parliament on December 4 President Mugabe toned down the usual

vitriol – at least towards the opposition – and implored Zimbabweans

to persevere in the face of continuing challenges. Mugabe commended

the MDC for participating in a “new era of constructive engagement

across the political divide.” He added that campaigning should be

permitted in an “atmosphere of peace.”   At one point Mugabe even

admitted that some problems (e.g., predatory pricing by greedy

 

HARARE 00001093 002 OF 004

 

 

individuals) were homegrown. Once again Mugabe pinned hopes of an

economic turn around on the “Look East” policy. Unable to resist

taking pot shots at his detractors, he blamed Britain for a

“sinister campaign” to isolate the country and said only “friendly

and objective” members of the international community would be

invited to observe elections.

 

6. Practice Makes Perfect – Teachers Threaten To Strike Again – In

what has become a quarterly exercise in futility, teachers are once

again threatening to strike over low wages, continually eroded by

inflation. Raymond Majongwe, the outspoken leader of the

Progressive Teacher’s Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), this week demanded

an increase in teacher’s pay to ZW$318 million (about US$138) or

teachers would not return to schools when the new term begins in

January. Teachers last received a raise on October 3 when their

minimum monthly wage was increased to ZW$14 million then about US$30

on the parallel market. Due to skyrocketing inflation, that USD

salary equivalent quickly diminished to about US$11 by November 23

and about US$6 by December 5. Majongwe told us government needs to

get serious about retaining teachers as more workers head everyday

for greener pastures in South Africa. See Zim Notes November 23.

 

7. ZESN Dismisses Mop-Up Mobile Voter Registration Exercise As

Ineffective – The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) released

a report on the “mop-up” mobile voter registration exercise that ran

from October 26 through November 15.   It concluded that the

registration process did not address some of the fundamental issues

raised by the opposition and civil society after the previous

exercise in June, which ZESN regarded as ineffective. Among other

observations, ZESN reported that the exercise was inadequately

publicized, affected by power cuts, and lacked adequate simple

resources like registration forms and film.   ZESN has called on the

government to carry out a more comprehensive and transparent voter

registration process. The full ZESN report is available at:

http://www.zesn.org.zw/newsflash_view.cfm?nfi d=8

 

8. Morgan Tsvangirai Begins Nationwide Rallies – MDC President,

Morgan Tsvangirai addressed a rally of about 10,000 people in Glen

Norah, a Harare high density suburb, on Sunday December 2. He

talked about the general state of the economy, the SADC-initiated

dialogue, and the forthcoming elections. MDC Information Secretary,

Nelson Chamisa told embassy officials that this was the first of

many more rallies nationwide. The next rally will take place in

Nkayi, Matabeleland North, next week.

 

——————————————— —-

On the Economic and Business front

——————————————— —-

9. Cash Shortage At Crisis Level – The cash shortage that hit the

country a few weeks ago has reached crisis level as commercial banks

struggle to mobilize deposits. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is

not making the situation any easier as it supplies fewer and fewer

bank notes to the market. A senior executive at a major commercial

bank told us the RBZ supplied the bank with only Z$15 billion on

December 5, 2007 – not enough cash for even a single branch under

normal circumstances. The banker told us some smaller banks were

getting no cash at all from the RBZ. Cash-rich clients and

supermarkets are back to selling cash to ready buyers at a 25% to

50% commission, mitigating some of the losses they are making in

grocery sales at monitored and controlled prices.

 

10. Release Of New Bearer Cheques Still “Imminent” – RBZ Governor

Gono called bank CEO’s together on Thursday and told them that the

rollout of new bearer cheques (not a new currency, we now

understand) was imminent, as reported to us by one bank executive

who attended the meeting.

 

11. Update On “Mother of All Agricultural Seasons” – The FAO-led

Agriculture Coordination Working Group heard at its November 29

 

HARARE 00001093 003 OF 004

 

 

meeting that Zimbabwe’s target maize seed requirement is 50,000 MT

against 35,100 MT local seed supply, of which 28,457 MT has been

distributed by seed houses to date. Groundnut seed is in short

supply; the local supply of soybean stands at 8,400 MT against a

requirement of 12,000 MT; 1,442 MT of sorghum seed is available

against a target quantity of 4,000 MT. The basal fertilizer

requirement is 720,000 MT – available stocks stand at 157,698 MT

(excluding toll manufactured fertilizers, which mainly cover crops

grown under contract and by corporates). World Food Program and

C-SAFE provided food to 4,083,383 people in November.   And, on a

positive note, most of the country is in the “normal” or

“above-normal” rainfall range as the summer agricultural season

commences.

 

12. Passport Fees Hiked – The Herald reported this week that the

Registrar General’s Office increased passport fees as of November

26, to Z$5 million (US$1.90 at the parallel rate) for a regular

application and Z$20 million (US$7.69) for issuance within 24 hours,

up from Z$150,000 (US$0.19) and Z$1 million (US$0.38) respectively.

An Embassy FSN who applied for a passport last month, however, told

us he had to pay US$220 for the 24-hour service, a figure also cited

in a local electronic financial newsletter this week.

 

13. Be Independent, Electricity Regulators Told – At the fourth

annual conference of the Regional Electricity Regulators association

(RERA) held in Victoria Falls on November 27 and 28, Dr Frank

Sebbowa, CEO Electricity Regulatory Authority of Uganda chronicled

how regulators in East Africa had succumbed to political

interference and warned RERA members not to fall into the same trap.

Vinod Shrivastava, President of US-based Core International, said

regulators should focus on a few key governance principles, namely

commitment to high ethical standards, adoption of clear and simple

rules for the sector, employment of skilled personnel and

strengthening of external checks by consumers, competition

authorities and the courts. Roger Williams, Technical Director of

Zimbabwe’s chrome giant ZIMASCO, reported that the company lost

US$17 million directly from power outages and had a potential

revenue loss of an additional US$33 million between January and

October 2007 due to unreliable power supplies. According to the

Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), the region requires a total

investment of around US$43 billion to ensure uninterrupted power

supply in the medium to long term. In the meantime, delegates

agreed on the need to implement both load shedding and demand side

management techniques.

 

14. Johnson & Johnson Withdraws From Zimbabwe – Citing

“insurmountable issues” for most businesses in sourcing foreign

currency, Johnson & Johnson country manager Christopher Muyeye

informed business partners on November 28 that the company was

withdrawing from Zimbabwe effective November 30, 2007. Johnson &

Johnson had already shut down its manufacturing arm and was only

importing and distributing Johnson & Johnson products, which proved

to be unviable without access to foreign exchange.

 

15. Zimbabwe Slips Into Trade Deficit With U.S. For First Time In

Over Decade – Zimbabwe’s bilateral trade balance with the U.S.

slipped into a cumulative annual deficit for the first time since

1995 with the release of the Jan-Sept figures. Total volume of

trade (imports plus exports) rose slightly in the nine month period

to US$112.6 million, up from US$105.1 million in the same period in

2006, and rising for the fifth year in a row.

 

16. Background Paper On The Requirements For A Future Economic

Program – In circulation among donors in Harare is a thoughtful

background economic paper, Progressive Zimbabwe – Sustainable Growth

& Transformation, prepared by the Zimbabwe Institute in South Africa

and available at: http://www.zimbabweinstitute.org

 

17. See Harare 1091 for Readout Of World Bank Nov 22-30 Mission To

 

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Zimbabwe.

 

18. Quotes Of The Week From The Financial Gazette of December 6-12,

2007 on the Million Men and Women March:

“I don’t understand why people would march to celebrate failure.”

(Political Analyst Ibbo Mandaza)

*And even less charitable, from former Information Minister Jonathan

Moyo: “It was a farewell march.”

 

MCGEE

 

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