US upset by Obasanjo’s letter about Zimbabwe

The United States was so upset by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to Australian Prime Minister John Howard recommending the lifting of Commonwealth sanctions on Zimbabwe that it said the letter read like a press release from Zimbabwe’s propaganda chief Jonathan Moyo.

“..The Nigerian president appears to have taken at face value a number of claims from President Mugabe which can most generously be described as disingenuous,” a cable released by Wikileaks says.

“Much of the letter, in fact, reads like a press release from the office of Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, whose reputation for intellectual dishonesty and vitriolic diatribes against all those who do not share his views is firmly established.”

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE422, OBASANJO LETTER TO HOWARD: FANTASYLAND

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE422

2003-02-27 11:19

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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 06 HARARE 000422

 

SIPDIS

 

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR CNEARY

BANGKOK FOR WDAYTON

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/25/2013

TAGS: PREL PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: OBASANJO LETTER TO HOWARD: FANTASYLAND

 

REF: HARARE 206

 

Classified By: political section chief Matt Harrington.

 

1. (U) The recent letter from President Obasanjo to

Australian PM Howard recommending lifting of Commonwealth

sanctions on Zimbabwe surprised many observers in Zimbabwe,

as many of the assertions on which his recommendation is

based have little basis in reality. Indeed, the Nigerian

president appears to have taken at face value a number of

claims from President Mugabe which can most generously be

described as disingenuous. Much of the letter, in fact,

reads like a press release from the office of Information

Minister Jonathan Moyo, whose reputation for intellectual

dishonesty and vitriolic diatribes against all those who do

not share his views is firmly established. We will defer to

Embassy Abuja for an assessment of Obasanjo's motivations for

writing such a letter but believe it is important to set the

record straight on some of the document's more outrageous

statements. Ironically, conversations with Nigerian

diplomats based in Harare, one reported reftel, show that

they do not believe the GOZ line reflected in the Obasanjo

letter. The full text of the letter is contained in

paragraph 2; our analysis is provided in paragraph 3.

 

2. (U) Begin Text of Obasanjo-Howard letter:

 

Dear Prime Minister,

 

I am writing to you at this time in continuation of our

consultations and especially to brief you on issues on which

we have been engaged relating to Zimbabwe. This briefing has

become necessary following my recent visit to South Africa

where I had extensive discussions with President Thabo Mbeki,

President of the Republic of South Africa, and then to

Zimbabwe where I was engaged in very useful and constructive

exchange of views with President Robert Mugabe. President

Mbeki seized the opportunity of my visit to brief me on his

recent trip to Britain, including his discussions with Prime

Minister Tony Blair on Zimbabwe.

 

You may recall Mr. Prime Minister that Zimbabwe was one of

the issues discussed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government

Meeting in Coolum, Australia, in February 2002 as a result of

which a troika was established to follow up on the matter.

Soon afterwards, we had our first meeting at the Marlborough

House in London in March 2002 to consider the report of the

Commonwealth Observer Group on Zimbabwean elections, and it

was also decided, among other things, that Zimbabwe should be

suspended from the Commonwealth Councils for one year and

that we would meet in a year to review developments during

that one year suspension. In spite of the one year

stipulation for meeting, the troika still met in Abuja at

your request.   Since then, your government has proceeded to

impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, a decision which of course is

your government's prerogative. However, this unfortunate

decision would seem to me to compromise Australia's position

as an honest broker in the Zimbabwean crisis.

 

Meanwhile, I am sad to note that the unhelpful media war

between Britan and Zimbabwe has not abated, but actually

exacerbated matters thereby worsening the already charged

situation. It was against this background that I concluded

that another meeting of the Commonwealth Troika on Zimbabwe

at this time might not serve any useful purpose. Indeed,

President Thabo Mbeki shares the same view. This position is

further reinforced by the fact of certain critical

developments that have occurred in Zimbabwe and which he must

acknowledged.

 

In many of our previous meetings, it had been admitted that

the issue of land is at the core of the current crisis in

Zimbabwe and that an appropriate solution to this problem

would go a long way in bringing to early conclusion other

associated issues. Following my recent visit to Zimbabwe, I

have come to realize that the land issue may no longer be the

most serious problem at this juncture as it cannot be

compared to the situation during the Lancaster House

Conference in 1979 or even in the last ten years. It is now

a matter of reality that the Fast Track Land Resettlement

Program, adopted by the Government of Zimbabwe in order to

address the situation that was developing in the country at

that time, has substantially ended since 31st August 2002.

Since then, the Land Reform Program (LRP) has continued to be

implemented in the normal regulatory process. I noted, in

particular, that the land occupation by demonstrators has

ended, while the Government of Zimbabwe has agreed to pay

compensation for any improvement on the land acquired under

the Fast Track Program and the LRP.

 

I am informed that in the current financial year, the

Government has actually allocated the sum of four billion

Zimbabwe dollars ($4bn) to pay for full and fair compensation

for whatever improvements that may have been made on the land

being acquired. Although this may be a far cry from adequate

compensation, the good intention on the part of a Government

cash-strapped should not be overlooked. However, the

Government still insists that compensation, for the true

commercial value of the land, at today's prices, must be paid

by the British Government, which did not pay anything when

the lands were taken from the African owners during the

colonial period. Furthermore, the Government of Zimbabwe has

recently been engaged in dialogue with the Commercial Farmers

Union (CFU). Indeed, the Government has again reiterated to

these farmers its readiness and preparedness to provide land

to anyone who wishes to continue farming and has so applied.

Certainly, more work needs to be done in this process and it

is therefore necessary that every encouragement must be given

by all concerned. I emphasize that Government of Zimbabwe

should always keep open the channel of dialogue with the

Commercial Farmers Union who felt a sense of loss in the

exercise.

 

The results of the Government's effort in the land

redistribution exercise have been acclaimed a remarkable. By

1998, 74,000 families had been settled under the

willing-seller/willing-buyer basis. An additional 220,000

communal peasant families and 54,000 indigenous commercial

farmers were settled under the Fast Track Resettlement

Program on 11 million hectares of land. Ideally, full

compensation should have been paid as the land was being

appropriated. This program has no doubt addressed, to some

extent, the internal dissatisfaction arising from the skewed

colonial land policy which remained a potential source of

conflict in Zimbabwe. On the other hand, it is reasonable to

except that a major reform on this vast scale would be

attended by some measure of corruption together with

complaints of unfairness.

 

In response to some of these criticisms, President Mugabe

confirmed to me that he had in place procedures for receiving

complaints, and that all those found guilty of malpractices

have been brought to book.

 

Moreover, in order to promote transparency, equity and ensure

sustainable utilization of resettled land, as well as

determining the level of uptake, the Government of Zimbabwe

has instituted a land audit that aims to generate confidence

in the whole process. This audit will help in the

identification of any malpractices or corruption which the

Government of Zimbabwe has expressed its readiness to

investigate and redress.

 

With regard to the criticisms on land given to some officials

but not utilized, it seems that this may not be directly

connected with the Fast Track Program. Generally, the

Zimbabwean Government gave land to those who intended to

utilize it for farming purposes. It is also true that many

of those allocated land need financial assistance from

Government for optimum utilization. Unfortunately, with

priority being given to payment of compensation for

improvements on the land, the Government has only been able

to provide financial assistance to about 30 percent of this

group. This, I believe is an area where the international

community can genuinely provide assistance, not to the

Government but to those genuinely desirous of farming. In is

encouraging that there has been renewed international

interest in supporting the Land Reform Program in Zimbabwe.

Given the progress which I have outlined above, it is

essential that we should continue to look at ways by which we

can get more members of the international community not only

interested but actively involved in the program, only then

can the average Zimbabwean begin to reap the benefits of the

exercise and the country would be helped to cope with the

issue of scarcity of food.

 

A major concern and perhaps criticism of the LRP by the

international community has been the fate of former farm

workers from neighboring states of Mozambique, Malawi and

Zambia particularly affected by the redistribution program.

I am informed that, of the estimated four hundred thousand

people affected, some have been resettled, while may others

have been re-employed on the 54,000 recently created

commercial farms. In fact, I am assured that the Zimbabwean

Cabinet has taken a decision to the effect that all

foreigners of their offspring from Sadc countries who came as

laborers before 1980 will be entitled to Zimbabwean

citizenship. Accordingly, it is envisaged that by the end of

March 2003, the problem of displaced former foreign workers

will no longer be an issue as they will be entitled, as bona

fide Zimbabwean citizens, to the full benefits of land reform.

 

Another area of concern and perhaps outcry pertains to the

"Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act

(AIPPA)". I am assured in this regard the Government of

Zimbabwe continues to make genuine efforts to respond to such

concerns. Indeed, following challenges by the media in the

Zimbabwean High Court, the Minister of Information has

proposed some amendments to the Act. I have been assured

that his will be one of the issues to be taken as matter of

priority when Parliament resumes later this month.

 

On the issue of inter-party dialogue, the Government of

Zimbabwe remains committed to resuming the talks but feels

that this can only happen after the court's ruling on the

petition by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change

(MDC). In my separate meeting with Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai of

the MDC, I have brought to his attention the position of the

Zimbabwean Government with regard to negotiations. The MDC

will now therefore have to decide on whether to withdraw the

case from the court so that the negotiations can resume in

earnest or wait until the determination of the case the

court. There is need for Zimbabweans of all parties to

dialogue and reach consensus on good governance, human

rights, stability and general direction of development of

their country.

 

During my visit to Zimbabwe, Honorable Job Sikhala, an MP of

MDC for St Mary's, forwarded a petition to me complaining of

breach of fundamental human rights on the part of the

Zimbabwean police and possibly sponsored by Government. I

raised the issue with President Mugabe who confirmed that the

MP concerned had taken the case to court and that the police

admitted with apology that the MP was assaulted. The police

were to take necessary disciplinary action against the

culprit, President Mugabe denied any Government involvement

in such police acts. Allowing the case to be prosecuted in

court must convince people that Government was not behind the

act and would not condone it. From all accounts, it would

appear that violence political or non-political is fairly

pervasive in Zimbabwe. If there are some coming from

Government agencies, there are certainly those coming from

non-government agencies. All stakeholders in Zimbabwe have

to work together to stop the reign of terror and violence.

The Government must be in the vanguard of such efforts.

 

With the above, it is clear to me that we must concert to

give every assistance to Zimbabwe so that the present crisis

may be speedily brought to an end. It is also necessary that

we should encourage the international community to redeem the

pledges of financial assistance, reaffirmed in our

Marlborough House decision, in order to expedite the land

reform process and bring about the desired improvement in the

standard of living of the generality of Zimbabweans. The

international community and organizations that have

generously contributed to food donations to Zimbabwe must be

commended for the humanitarian gesture which has been of

tremendous assistance to Zimbabwe and the sub-region. The

earlier Zimbabwe can get out of her political crisis,

economic difficulties and food shortage, the better it would

be for the country, the sub-region and the continent. It is

important that we remain positively engaged with Zimbabwe.

We must continue to make good offices available for mediation

between UK and Zimbabwe, a rather unfortunate confrontation

in which rhetoric and media warfare and tend to be

suppressing reason and fair mindedness.

 

From all the above, together with what I personally saw on

the ground in Zimbabwe, I believe that the time is now

auspicious to lift the sanctions on Zimbabwe with regard to

her suspension from the Commonwealth Councils. This will

represent an appropriate development for the final resolution

of the crisis in that country.

I crave your indulgence to forward a copy of this letter to

President Thabo Mbeki and another copy to the

Secretary-General of the Commonwealth who can use it as a

 

SIPDIS

basis for re-establishment of contact with Zimbabwean

authorities at all levels. This will be made easier with

Prime Minister Tony Blair already accepting an appeal to

discourage media offensive against Zimbabwe from the UK side

and President Mugabe agreeing to reciprocate in kind. This

should be the precursor to re-engagement between UK and

Zimbabwe. Copies of this letter will also be forwarded to

President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

 

Please accept, Prime Minister, the assurances of my highest

esteem and consideration.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Olusegun Obasanjo

 

End Text of Letter.

 

Comment

-------

 

3. (C) The fact that President Obasanjo spends most of his

letter discussing the Government of Zimbabwe's fast track

resettlement effort suggests that he has bought President

Mugabe's contention that land is at the center of this

country's interrelated series of political, economic,

humanitarian, and social crises, an assertion that was also

accepted in the September 2001 Abuja agreement. Intense and

widespread political repression and serious economic

mismanagement are at the root of Zimbabwe's plight, although

President Mugabe and his inner circle have, in some quarters,

successfully used their chaotic land redistribution exercise

to distract attention from their misgovernance. Zimbabwe's

rapid economic contraction began in 1997, three years before

Government-orchestrated land seizures began in earnest --

although the seizures have certainly accelerated this

country's economic implosion. In addition, the overwhelming

majority of political violence (murders, tortures, rapes,

disappearances) is unrelated to the land seizures, but is

sanctioned by the ruling party in an effort to extinguish any

threat -- real or perceived -- to its iron grip on power.

The Mugabe regime's actions are motivated overwhelmingly by

the desire to maintain power at all costs. The following are

point-by-point refutations of some of the factual errors in

Obasanjo's letter:

 

--"the land occupation by demonstrators has ended, while the

Government of Zimbabwe has agreed to pay compensation for any

improvement on the land": Land seizures continue unabated.

Seventy-seven farms have received compulsory acquisition

notices since January 1, 2003. Only 126 of the 4,350 farmers

who have received compulsory acquisition notices have

received any amount of compensation. Of those 126 farmers,

the payments received are far below the appraised value of

improvements.

 

--"the Government has actually allocated the sum of four

billion Zimbabwe dollars to pay for full and fair

compensation for whatever improvements that may have been

made on the land being acquired": although the budget was

approved in November 2002, not a single cent of that

allocated amount has yet been disbursed. Even if the GOZ

does disburse this total sum of money, it would amount to an

average payment of U.S.$625 to each of the 4,350 affected

farmers. Given that most of these properties contain large

farmhouses, outlying buildings such as barns and tobacco

curing facilities, roads, irrigation systems, dams, and

expensive equipment, a payment of U.S.$625 as "full and fair

compensation" is laughable.

 

--"the Government of Zimbabwe has recently been engaged in

dialogue with the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU). Indeed,

the Government has again reiterated its readiness and

preparedness to provide land to anyone who wishes to continue

farming": The GOZ has trumpeted its new dialogue with the

CFU as a significant breakthrough, although it has offered

nothing of substance in these discussions. Instead, the GOZ

is pressuring the farmers to sell their equipment at bargain

basement prices to the new settlers and to turn over their

title deeds, while telling them to seek compensation from

international donors. Most observers have concluded that the

apparent willingness of the GOZ to engage in dialogue with

the CFU -- for the first time in 18 months -- was a charade

intended to project an image of moderation during the Cricket

World Cup and prior to an expected decision by the

Commonwealth on whether to renew sanctions against Zimbabwe.

On Government's repeated claims that no one will be left

without a farm, it is important to point out that a third of

farmers (approximately 1500) who had properties seized owned

only one farm and have not been offered another one. Rather

than leave farmers with one farm, Agriculture Minister Made

has said that dispossessed farm owners would be put on a list

for possible allocation of another farm -- a process as

illogical as it is nonsensical.

 

--"An additional 220,000 communal peasant families and 54,000

indigenous commercial farmers were settled under the Fast

Track Resettlement Program on 11 million hectares of land":

We have been unable to confirm these figures, which the CFU

believes are significantly inflated. We note that the GOZ,

until recently, claimed to have settled 300,000 peasant

families under the fast track program. In any case, the

220,000 figure is much lower than the number of farmworkers

(estimated between 300-500,000) displaced by this program,

suggesting a net loss for the Zimbabwean population. It is

also important to note that fast track has not significantly

decongested the communal areas -- one of the program's

objectives -- as those who have been allocated land move back

and forth between their new plots and properties in their

home areas.

 

--"President Mugabe confirmed to me that he had in place

procedures for receiving complaints, and that all those found

guilty of malpractices have been brought to book": This is

simply untrue. A land audit conducted by Cabinet Minister

Flora Bhuka and recently published in "Africa Confidential"

revealed widespread corruption in the fast track program,

including that many prominent members of Mugabe's regime have

obtained multiple farms. Not a single person on that list

has been sanctioned. Instead, we understand that Bhuka has

been marginalized as a result of her report.

 

--"With regard to the criticisms on land given to some

officials but not utilized, it seems that this may not be

directly connected with the Fast Track Program. Generally,

the Zimbabwean Government gave land to those who intended to

utilize it for farming purposes": Only about 30 percent of

those allocated commercial farms under the A2 resettlement

program have taken up their new properties, and only 25

percent of the allocated A2 properties are being farmed.

 

--"Unfortunately, with priority being given to payment of

compensation for improvements on the land, the Government has

only been able to provide financial assistance to about 30

percent of this group (new settlers needing financial

assistance)": Since very few farmers have received any form

of compensation, this sentence is misleading.

 

--"I am informed that, of the estimated four hundred thousand

(former farmworkers) affected, some have been resettled,

while many others have been re-employed on the 54,000

recently created commercial farms": Fewer than 10 percent of

former farmworkers have been allocated land under fast track.

While we have no reliable estimates of how many former

farmworkers have been re-employed, the numbers are likely low

given that crops are being cultivated on only 25 percent of

A2 farms. Minister of Labor July Moyo recently refused to

authorize an increase in the minimum wage for farmworkers

from 4500 Zimbabwean dollars (U.S.$3) a month, saying such a

raise would make it impossible for the new settlers,

including himself, to hire them and constitute economic

sabotage against the government's land reform efforts.

 

--"Another area of concern and perhaps outcry pertains to the

Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

I am assured in this regard the Government of Zimbabwe

continues to make genuine efforts to respond to such

concerns": More than a dozen journalists have been arrested

since passage of this legislation in 2002, all of them from

the independent media. Despite a number of documented cases

of falsehoods published in the Government-controlled media,

not a single journalist from the public media has been

arrested or charged under this repressive legislation. The

Government-controlled Media Commission established by this

law has failed to act on the registration applications of

most independent journalists, which prevents them from

covering Parliament and a range of politically-significant

events. We would welcome GOZ moves to ease the repressive

effect of AIPPA but have yet to see evidence of any

meaningful action in that direction. Indeed, proposed

amendments to AIPPA submitted to Parliament would increase

its repressive nature.

 

--"I raised the issue (of MDC MP Job Sikhala's torture) with

President Mugabe who confirmed that the MP concerned had

taken the case to court and that the police admitted with

apology that the MP was assaulted. The police were to take

necessary disciplinary action against the culprit. President

Mugabe denied any Government involvement in such police

acts": The ZANU-PF Government has used the police as an

instrument of repression against its political opponents, so

Mugabe's reported attempts to distinguish between Government

and the police are without merit. We are not aware that

anyone has been arrested or charged in connection with the

torture of Sikhala.

 

--"From all accounts, it would appear that violence --

political or non-political -- is fairly pervasive in

Zimbabwe. If there are some coming from Government agencies,

there are certainly those coming from non-government

agencies": Prominent human rights organizations have

documented many incidences of human rights violations --

including more than 1,000 cases of torture and 58

politically-motivated murders in 2002 alone -- and found

that, in the preponderance of instances (more than 90

percent), the victims were supporters of the MDC and the

perpetrators ruling party supporters or government agents.

SULLIVAN

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