US ambassador found no new evidence of violence

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGhee did not find any new information on the violence that was endemic in Zimbabwe in the run-up to the presidential elections runoff when he visited Mashonaland East two weeks before the polls.

He, however, said the trip confirmed heightened tension and police presence as well as police concern with outsiders.

The administrator of a mission church hospital that he visited even told him that they had not treated any victims of violence though security guards at the hospital told him a different story.

The ambassador was travelling alone with his delegation and refused police escort.

 

Full report:


Viewing cable 08HARARE510, AMBASSADOR'S VISIT TO MASHONALAND EAST

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08HARARE510

2008-06-13 14:31

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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OO RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0510/01 1651431

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 131431Z JUN 08

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3022

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2044

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2165

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0707

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1442

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1800

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2221

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4652

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1311

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000510

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

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

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/13/2018

TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM KDEM ZI

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S VISIT TO MASHONALAND EAST

 

REF: A. HARARE 503

B. HARARE 474

 

Classified By: Ambassador James McGee for reason 1.4(d).

 

------

SUMMARY

-------

 

1. (SBU) On June 12, 2008, Ambassador McGee, the Dutch

Charge d'Affaires, two poloffs, RSO, DATT, and three FSNs

visited two locations in Mashonaland East Province: a Church

of Christ mission hospital in Nhowe and the town of Mutoko,

about 120km east of Harare. The trip confirmed significantly

increased police presence and widespread distribution of

ZANU-PF campaign materials, as well as a fearful population.

While Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) allowed Mission staff to

travel, ZRP and/or intelligence vehicles followed the convoy

after the delegation made their presence known at the Mutoko

police station, as requested by the Ministry of Foreign

Affairs (MFA). END SUMMARY.

 

--------------------------------------------- --------

Doctors deny presence of violence victims in hospital

--------------------------------------------- --------

 

2. (SBU) The Embassy contingent first visited the Church of

Christ's Mission hospital in Nhowe, a rural area in

Mashonaland East. The Church is supported by religious

groups in the U.S., NGOs, and the Government of Zimbabwe.

The hospital administrator said the 54-bed hospital, which

has a staff of two doctors and 14 nurses, treats mainly

HIV/AIDS patients. The hospital has a caseload of about

2,000-3,000 patients per month; most patients have

HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. The hospital also dispenses

Anti-Retro Virals, although it has an insufficient supply.

Because the hospital is relatively well-staffed for a

Zimbabwean hospital, and because its funding allows it to

source drugs, it receives patients from as far away as Harare

(over 100 kilometers).

 

3. (C) Ambassador McGee asked whether the hospital had seen

many victims of violence. The hospital administrator claimed

uneasily that they did not currently have any victims of

violence in the hospital. He also denied there had been much

violence in the surrounding area. The Ambassador asked if we

could tour the hospital. The hospital administrator

indicated he would prefer that we did not.

 

4. (C) After our conversation with the administrator, we

spoke with hospital security guards on the grounds outside

the hospital. They indicated there had been significant

violence in the rural areas of Mashonaland East near the

hospital and that a number of victims had been and were

currently being treated in the hospital. One guard, who was

also affiliated with the Zimbabwe Republic Police, noted

there was a general climate of fear in the area. He said his

commanding police officer had instructed all police to vote

by postal ballot (the equivalent of an absentee ballot); the

ballots would be filled out under a supervisor's direction

and voters would be instructed to vote for ZANU-PF.

 

-----------------

Rural ghost towns

-----------------

 

5. (U) Departing the hospital, the convoy drove north on a

dirt road through several very small towns. We noted empty

fields, stunted cotton plants, sick cattle, shuttered shops,

and a surprising paucity of men. Not coincidentally,

President Mugabe was preparing to hold a rally in nearby

Murewa, about 20km away. Emboffs encountered several groups

 

HARARE 00000510 002 OF 003

 

 

of Zimbabweans, perhaps 200 throughout the morning, walking

towards Murewa wearing t-shirts emblazoned with Robert

Mugabe's image. This region voted heavily for Mugabe's

ZANU-PF party in the March 29 election. We did not see any

posters or t-shirts for the Movement for Democratic Change's

(MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai.

 

-------------------------------

"The Geneva Convention says..."

-------------------------------

 

6. (C) In Mutoko, scene of some of the worst recent violence

in Zimbabwe, we announced our presence at the local police

station; in a recent meeting with Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Permanent Secretary Joey Bimha, the Ambassador had indicated

that on our next fact-finding trip we would check in with

police stations upon arriving at a new area. We noted a

gathering on police grounds of approximately 80 people seated

under a tree, some in uniform, listening to a uniformed

officer. The group repeatedly raised their fists, in

apparent allegiance with ZANU-PF. Although police officers

in the station said it was a "monthly staff meeting," we

learned afterward it was a "pep rally" to build support for

ZANU-PF. Attendees included regular police officers as well

as "village police," the equivalent of neighborhood watch

officers.

 

7. (C) A uniformed officer emerged from the gathering and

greeted the party cordially, introducing himself as the

Officer-in-Charge. The Ambassador explained that we were

announcing our presence in Mutoko and declined the ZRP's

offer to escort or assist us. During the discussion, a man

in plainclothes took over the discussion. He averred that,

according to the Geneva Convention, we needed permission to

travel more than 40 kilometers from Harare. Showing a

diplomatic note from the MFA stating that notification to the

MFA of diplomatic travel was a formality, the Ambassador said

he had received assurances from Permanent Secretary Bimha

that diplomatic travel was unrestricted. After personally

speaking with the MFA by phone, the official relented and

declared we were free to proceed. (NOTE: Our interlocutor

refused to identify himself. We later established his

identity as Colonel Douglas Nyikayaramba of the Zimbabwean

army. He is ZANU-PF's point person in the Mutoko area and is

presumably responsible for the campaign of violence in Mutoko

and the surrounding area. END NOTE.)

 

8. (C) Shortly after departing the police station, en route

to another mission hospital just east of Mutoko, RSO noted a

vehicle following the convoy. To avoid putting the hospital

in danger, Ambassador McGee decided to turn around, at which

point the tailing vehicle stopped as well. Driving through

side streets in and after departing Mutoko, the convoy was

followed by at least three different vehicles.

 

-----------------------

Food deliveries stopped

-----------------------

 

9. (SBU) Back in Mutoko, the Ambassador briefly visited a

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) warehouse where USG food aid

continues to be stored. Pursuant to the edict of Nicholas

Goche, Minister of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare,

CRS has ceased food deliveries in Mutoko (Ref A). A lone

security guard greeted the Ambassador and told him existing

food stocks are being protected.

 

-------

COMMENT

-------

 

10. (C) While this trip did not yield any new information on

 

HARARE 00000510 003 OF 003

 

 

the violence that is now endemic in Zimbabwe, it did confirm

heightened tension and police presence as well as police

concern with outsiders. A local MDC official told us that

before the March 29 elections, MDC president Morgan

Tsvangirai had held several rallies in Mashonaland East,

including Mutoko. Such rallies, the official told us, would

be impossible to hold now. In fact, the MDC has indicated it

may not campaign in Mashonaland East, despite the significant

inroads it made in the March elections.

 

11. (C) The roadblocks are more heavily manned than just two

weeks ago (Ref B), and it appears vehicles are under more

scrutiny. In addition, it is clear that despite our having

notified the MFA of the trip, word had not traveled down to

the local authorities. Security is a highly localized issue

in Zimbabwe, and travelers are at the mercy of local

officials whose knowledge of regulations and diplomatic

privileges is flimsy at best. Local officers are unaware of

MFA diplomatic notes or verbal assurances that notifications

to the MFA or MFA permission are unnecessary for diplomatic

travel - and the MFA has shown no inclination to inform them.

END COMMENT.

 

McGee

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