Special Affairs Minister John Nkomo left United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan baffled when he dodged all the key issues that the American envoy wanted to know.
Sullivan had asked Nkomo about the status of Hammond Ranch in the Save Conservancy and Twin Springs in Kwekwe, both of which were owned by US citizens.
Nkomo said he was not familiar with the cases so he was going to limit himself to general comments.
Nkomo was also noncommittal on the ambassador’s questions about the cancellation of the crop and food supply assessment mission and the status of dialogue between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change.
This prompted the ambassador to comment: “This is the third time we have raised dialogue prospects with Nkomo, who used to champion such dialogue privately and publicly. This time, Nkomo did not even bother to invent credible excuses for walking away from dialogue.”
Viewing cable 04HARARE801, AMBASSADOR SULLIVAN MEETING WITH MINISTER JOHN
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
STATE FOR AF/FO,AFIS
NSC FOR AFRICA SENIOR ADVISOR FRAZER
AID FOR DCHA/FFP LANDIS,CRUMBLY,MUTAMBA,PETERSEN
DCHA/OFDA FOR PRATT,BARTON, KHANDAGLE,MENGHETTI,BORNS,MARX,
AFR/SA FOR FLEURET,LOKEN,COPSON,MACNAIRN
EGAT FOR HOBGOOD,THOMPSON
PRETORIA FOR DISKIN,HALE,SINK,REYNOLDS
ROME FOR FODAG FOR LAVELLE,DAVIS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/12/2014
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR SULLIVAN MEETING WITH MINISTER JOHN
REF: A. (A) HARARE 00683
¶B. (B) HARARE 00768
Classified By: CLASSIFIED BY USAID DIRECTOR PAUL WEISENFELD FOR REASONS
E.O. 12958 (B) AND (D)
¶1. (SBU) Summary. On May 10, 2004, Ambassador Sullivan
met with John Nkomo, Minister of Special Affairs in the
President,s Office (Lands, Land Reform, and Resettlement).
The Ambassador raised the status of the Government of
Zimbabwe,s (GOZ) land reform program with respect to
conservancies, the GOZ,s recent cancellation of the crop and
food supply assessment mission (CFSAM) that was being
conducted jointly with UN agencies, and the status of
dialogue between the ruling party and opposition. Minister
Nkomo was characteristically noncommittal on most issues,
even claiming ignorance of the GOZ,s cancellation of the
CFSAM. He indicated, however, that the GOZ was considering
entering into long-term lease arrangements (99 years) with
the owners of conservancies whose land was being
expropriated. End Summary.
¶2. (U) Ambassador Sullivan raised with Minister Nkomo the
status of land from Hammond Ranch of the Save Conservancy and
Twin Springs in the Kwekwe district, both owned by American
citizens. The Ambassador noted that the Minister had been
active on issues of conservancies, including encouraging
private agreements between the current owners and indigenous
groups. Recent press reports, however, suggested that some
in the GOZ were pushing for more radical action, including
complete nationalization of conservancies. The Ambassador
pointed out that a more amicable solution would be better for
the conservation of wildlife and the environment, avoid
investment disputes, demonstrate respect for the GOZ,s
investment center agreements, and be more likely to bring
continuing investment in the conservancies.
¶3. (U) Minister Nkomo stated that he was not familiar with
the details of these cases so he would have to limit himself
to general comments. The Minister,s office was in the
process of developing policy proposals on land issues,
including conservancies, which he was hoping to send soon to
Vice President Msika for approval. One proposed policy,
subject to senior approval, would be for the GOZ to enter
into long-term lease agreements (99 years) with current
owners of conservancies whose land was being expropriated.
Minister Nkomo stated that he hoped to keep things as they
are on the ground, without any further actions being taken to
dispossess owners, until the policy is cleared.
¶4. (U) Regarding agreements between current conservancy
owners and indigenous groups, Minister Nkomo stated that he
is encouraging such agreements as part of a process to remove
tension and dissipate the emotional and racial issues
surrounding land. The Minister did not, however, indicate
whether any such agreements would protect current owners from
future government takings. Not having heard from American
owners with possible long-term lease arrangements, the
Ambassador confined his remarks to encouraging a solution
acceptable to the landowners.
¶5. (SBU) Regarding the GOZ,s decision to cancel the crop
and food supply assessment mission that was being jointly
conducted with the World Food Programme and the Food and
Agriculture Organization (see Reftel B), Minister Nkomo
expressed surprise to hear of this decision. He said he was
unaware of this development and promised to check into it.
The Minister said he would imagine that there would have to
have been a Cabinet decision for such an action to happen,
but stated that perhaps it occurred on a day when he was out
of the office.
¶6. (C) Ambassador Sullivan then raised the issue of
dialogue between the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC,
noting that there was little talk in recent months about
dialogue. The Ambassador stated that he hoped there was
still an appreciation of the importance for Zimbabweans to
work together to address the underlying causes of the
¶7. (C) Minister Nkomo acknowledged that there was a time
in the past when dialogue with the opposition was being
discussed, but indicated that events had moved beyond
dialogue for three reasons. First, the Minister stated that
the ongoing treason trial against MDC President, Morgan
Tsvangirai, and the MDC,s petition challenging the 2002
Presidential elections created uncertainty that made dialogue
inappropriate at this time. Second, with the MDC’s decision
to support the call for extension of U.S. and EU travel and
financial sanctions, the Minister said the MDC was not in a
position to expect any welcome from ZANU-PF, let alone a
willingness to engage in dialogue. Third, with the scheduled
Parliamentary elections fast approaching, Nkomo said there
was an obvious need for all parties to move forward by
focusing on the upcoming election process. The Ambassador
responded that if elections were organized in the way recent
Zengeza by-elections had been held, they would do nothing to
resolve Zimbabwe’s political crisis, which Minister Nkomo had
said in an earlier conversation was necessary if the
country’s economic crisis was to be resolved.
¶8. (C) Comment: This is the third time we have raised
dialogue prospects with Nkomo, who used to champion such
dialogue privately and publicly. This time, Nkomo did not
even bother to invent credible excuses for walking away from