United States ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGhee told Finance Minister Tendai Biti that the exit of central bank governor Gideon Gono and attorney-general Johannes Tomana from the scene was very important in assuring observers that Zimbabwe was serious about reform.
He said the fact that Gono and Tomana were still in office symbolised the lack of power of the Movement for Democratic Change in government and raised questions about its ability to push a reform agenda.
Biti had invited McGhee to ask him about the US$73 million that the President Barack Obama had pledged to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
McGhee said the money was not fungible and was restricted to HIV/Aids and governance.
Biti acknowledged McGhee’s points and lamented that nobody within the MDC was driving the reform agenda.
He said most ZANU-PF ministers were aware of the liability represented by Gono in terms of receiving assistance but were unwilling to join the MDC in urging his removal because of fear of Mugabe.
Viewing cable 09HARARE532, AMBASSADOR PRESSES BITI ON REFORMS
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/01/2019
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR PRESSES BITI ON REFORMS
Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (d)
¶1. (C) The Ambassador met with Minister of Finance Tendai
Biti on June 30 at Biti’s request. Biti requested details of
the US$73 million pledged by President Obama to Prime
Minister Tsvangirai at their recent White House meeting. The
meeting evolved into a discussion of Zimbabwe’s lack of
progress on reforms which was impeding consideration of
further U.S. assistance to Zimbabwe. END INTRODUCTION.
¶2. (C) Biti asked the Ambassador whether the US$73 million
was fungible and could be used for necessary goods and
services (not directly to government) and thereby as indirect
budgetary support. The Ambassador responded in the negative;
the money would be restricted and most was pledged for
HIV/AIDS and governance.
¶3. (C) Biti expressed concern about government finances and
the survival of the government without foreign assistance.
The Ambassador praised Biti for his efforts at the Ministry,
and noted that the IMF was similarly impressed with his
efforts (Septel), but told him directly that Washington was
reluctant to expand assistance until there were demonstrable
improvements in the areas of human rights and rule of law.
While there had been significant progress since last year —
the MDC was in government, Morgan Tsvangirai was Prime
Minister, and Biti was Finance Minister — Washington and the
world continued to read reports of arrests, beatings, and
land seizures. That Gideon Gono was still Governor of the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and Johannes Tomana was still
Attorney General symbolized the lack of power of the MDC in
government and raised questions about its ability to push a
reform agenda. The Ambassador emphasized that the exit of
Gono and Tomana from the scene would be very important in
assuring observers that the GOZ was serious about reform.
¶4. (C) Biti acknowledged the Ambassador’s points. He
lamented that nobody (read Tsvangirai and his inner circle)
was driving the reform agenda. He said most ZANU-PF
ministers were aware of the liability represented by Gono in
terms of receiving assistance but were unwilling to join the
MDC in urging his removal because of fear of Mugabe.
¶5. (C) While Tsvangirai and Biti have heard similar messages
in their recent travels to Washington and Europe; the
Ambassador took some of the diplomatic gloss off and spoke to
Biti directly as a friend. Biti took on board the message.
As finance minister, however, his plate is overflowing and,
as capable as we believe he is, he is not in a position to
coordinate and push the governance reform agenda.
¶6. (C) The MDC has had a long-term strategy — to achieve
constitutional and electoral reform and strengthen itself for
a new election. It has been less concerned about human
rights improvements and rule of law reforms than have the
U.S. and other western countries. Tsvangirai, therefore, has
so far chosen to work with Mugabe and accept incremental
reform. But in a sign that the MDC is becoming frustrated
with ZANU-PF, Deputy Prime Minister Thokazani Khupe on June
30 made a speech that was sharply critical of ZANU-PF’s
failure to treat the MDC as an equal partner and to carry out
the terms of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). On June
30, Tsvangirai issued a statement that reviewed his recent
trip and also endorsed Khupe’s statement. He noted concerns
in the U.S. and Europe about the delay in fully implementing
the GPA and, without referring to Mugabe or ZANU-PF, stated
that “those parties and individuals that are blocking the
full implementation of the GPA are blocking national progress
and international assistance.” He called for the immediate
resolution of outstanding issues. It remains to be seen,
however, whether Tsvangirai is willing to stand up to Mugabe
and go beyond rhetoric. END COMMENT.