Ndlovu threatened to revoke NGOs licences


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Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu threatened to revoke the licences of all non-governmental organisations in an attempt to ferret out groups “seeking to force regime change”.

Ndlovu said that such NGOs were working with the Movement for Democratic Change under the umbrella of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign to violently overthrow the government.

Speaker of Parliament and ZANU-PF chairman John Nkomo echoed these statements days later when he said that these NGOs “were creating an un-African culture, (by) giving money to people to remove their leaders”.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 07HARARE336, GOZ SETS SIGHTS ON NGOS, CUTS PARLIAMENTARY

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

07HARARE336

2007-04-23 15:25

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO3888

RR RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0336/01 1131525

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 231525Z APR 07

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1387

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1577

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1443

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1581

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0248

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0844

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1209

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1636

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4040

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1406

RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 2064

RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0704

RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1798

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000336

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E.LOKEN

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/23/2017

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ZI

SUBJECT: GOZ SETS SIGHTS ON NGOS, CUTS PARLIAMENTARY

SUPPORT PROJECT, THREATENS OTHERS

 

REF: A. REF A: HARARE 205

B. REF B: 2005 HARARE 395

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (SBU) The GOZ has turned its attention to NGOs perceived

as unfriendly and to be working with the political opposition

and Western governments. The USG-funded State University of

New York (SUNY) parliamentary support project became the

first victim on April 13 when Clerk of Parliament announced

that Parliament’s relationship with SUNY was terminated. On

April 16, Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu announced

that the GOZ had annulled licenses of NGOs to allow the

government to screen out groups with ties to the West. To

the best of our knowledge, however, no such step has been

taken. No civil society groups have been forced to close.

Although we cannot rule out future action, it appears more

likely that the government’s intention was to intimidate

Zimbabwe’s civil society.

 

——————————————— —

Successful USG Support to Parliament Terminated

——————————————— —

 

2. (SBU) The Clerk of Parliament, Austin Zvoma, gave the

USAID Mission Director on April 13 a letter from the Speaker

of Parliament, John Nkomo, terminating Parliament’s

relationship with SUNY, which had been providing technical

support and training to the legislature’s committee system

since 2000 (ref A). Zvoma, who was visibly distraught, also

gave the Director a letter from him noting the termination

(emailed to AF/S). Zvoma said that while he signed his

letter it had been in fact drafted by the executive branch.

 

3. (SBU) Both Nkomo’s letter and the Clerk’s letter noted

that the termination stemmed from the GOZ’s negative reaction

to Washington’s release of the Supporting Human Rights and

Democracy report earlier in April. Specifically, both

letters said Parliament officials had been insulted by claims

in the report, especially the claim that the USG had sought

to increase the independence of Parliament via its support.

 

4. (SBU) The Ambassador responded in writing to Nkomo’s

letter and the USAID Director to the Clerk’s (emailed to

AF/S). Both letters expressed regret at the decision while

emphasizing that the SUNY project had been the sole USG

program that had been implemented with the GOZ, at the

request of the GOZ, and to the benefit of the GOZ. (Note:

Since inception, the USG has provided US$5.8 million to

SUNY’s parliamentary support project.) The Ambassador also

expressed hope that Parliament would continue to exercise

independence, despite the loss of SUNY’s support.

 

————————

Civil Society Threatened

————————

 

5. (SBU) Information and Publicity Minister Sikhanyiso

Ndlovu on April 16 publicly stated that the GOZ had revoked

the licenses of all NGOs in an attempt to ferret out groups

“seeking to force regime change.” Addressing ruling party

supporters in Bulawayo, Ndlovu said that such NGOs were

 

HARARE 00000336 002 OF 003

 

 

working with the MDC under the umbrella of the Save Zimbabwe

Campaign to violently overthrow the government. (Note:

Suggesting that the Minister was kicking off his

parliamentary election campaign, Ndlovu made the address in

Mpopoma constituency, which he lost to the MDC in 2000 and

again in 2005. End Note.) Speaker of Parliament and ZANU-PF

Chairman John Nkomo echoed these statements days later when

he said that these NGOs “were creating an un-African culture,

(by) giving money to people to remove their leaders.”

 

6. (SBU) Despite Ndolovu’s and Nkomo’s statements, we are

not aware of any NGOs losing their licenses or being

otherwise forced to close down. In fact, most USG partners

in civil society are not registered as NGOs but rather as

Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) or &trusts.8 They

fall under the jurisdiction of the high court or are common

law entities and have no licenses to revoke. Most

international NGOs operate under bilateral government

agreements, the UN/WFP framework, or through Memorandums of

Understanding with the GOZ. Moreover, Labor and Social

Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche, under whose portfolio NGOs

fall, has yet to make a public statement on the issue.

 

7. (SBU) Adding further credence to the impression that

Ndlovu’s and Nkomo’s statements were essentially rhetoric was

an aborted meeting at the Ministry of Home Affairs on April

18. Several of Zimbabwe’s most prominent human rights groups

had been summoned to the meeting, ostensibly to discuss the

creation of a GOZ-appointed human rights commission. There

was widespread concern that the meeting would in fact be the

next step in a government campaign against civil society. In

the event, the meeting was cancelled, indicating that its

purpose had been as advertised. (N.B. As a sidelight, the

Ministry had summoned the human rights groups through UNDP.

The groups had no difficulty believing UNDP would be

complicit in a government crack down ) a sad commentary on

the UN body.)

 

—————————–

The Specter of a New NGO Bill

—————————–

 

8. (SBU) The renewed attack on civil society has stoked

fears among NGOs that the GOZ might attempt to revive the

dormant “NGO Bill”, which would have forced all civil society

groups to be vetted by a GOZ-appointed board similar to the

board that oversees journalists and media outlets. The NGO

Bill, which faced near universal criticism, passed Parliament

in 2004, but suffered a pocket veto by Mugabe (ref B).

Although the bill was never enacted, it has remained a sword

of Damocles over the heads of civil society and has led many

local NGOs to curtail their activities.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

9. (C) The SUNY project has been one of this Mission’s most

successful initiatives, helping to encourage even ZANU-PF MPs

to increasingly criticize executive branch excesses. It is

therefore no wonder that the GOZ has turned its sights on

SUNY. An ill-informed and pliable Parliament is much more to

the regime’s liking. That said, we believe it may be that

government will have difficulty putting the toothpaste back

in the tube. As we have previously reported (ref A),

Parliamentarians, especially those on the portfolio

 

HARARE 00000336 003 OF 003

 

 

committees, have discovered a taste for holding Ministers

accountable.

 

10. (C) The bigger story would be a concerted government

crack down on civil society. We cannot rule this out,

particularly given the on-going violent campaign to suppress

the MDC and insure a ZANU-PF election victory next year.

That said, the goal may very well have been to intimidate

civil society rather than risk an international backlash by

actually closing these organizations. In our experience,

some of these groups may be cowed but the key ones, including

ZLHR, CSU, and NCA are very unlikely to back down.

DELL

(2 VIEWS)

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The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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