The United States embassy said it had no carrots to offer to central bank governor Gideon Gono. The only grounds for meaningful re-engagement with Zimbabwe were a commitment to the implementation of a comprehensive political and economic reform package and restoration of due process and the rule of law.
The US position was told to Commercial Farmers Union president Dog Taylor-Freeme by a United States embassy official after Freeme had told the official that he had been asked by Gono what the international community’s minimum requirements were for re-engaging with Zimbabwe in the agricultural sector.
Gono had told him that he was willing to go and talk to President Robert Mugabe if he had something concrete to offer.
Freeme said the aim of the CFU was to out-survive Mugabe in the hope that there would be a quick turnaround upon Mugabe’s departure.
The US embassy felt that Gono clearly intended for Taylor-Freeme to float a trial balloon with the embassy as part of his ongoing campaign to portray himself as the voice of moderation and reason within the government.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1352, RESERVE BANK GOVERNOR IN THE SEARCH OF AN OPENING
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 001352
AF/S FOR B. NEULING, STATE PASS USAID FOR M. COPSON, NSC
FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE, TREASURY FOR J.
RALYEA AND B. CUSHMAN, USDOC FOR ROBERT TELCHIN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/29/2015
SUBJECT: RESERVE BANK GOVERNOR IN THE SEARCH OF AN OPENING
REF: HARARE 1346
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.4 B/D
(1) (C) Summary: Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) President
Doug Taylor-Freeme related that Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
(RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono asked him what the international
community’s minimum requirements would be for re-engaging
with Zimbabwe in the agricultural sector. The farm union
president viewed Gono,s outreach as a last-ditch attempt by
a small group of reform-minded forces in the GOZ to reverse
Zimbabwe’s economic decline. He understood that Gono was
willing to appeal directly to Mugabe, but needed some results
to gain the old man,s support. The Embassy response to
Taylor-Freeme was that nothing short of a comprehensive
political and economic reform package and the restoration of
due process and the rule of law could open the door to
re-engagement. Taylor-Freeme described how the CFU was
helping commercial farmers to establish themselves throughout
Africa as part of the CFU strategy to keep expertise on the
continent while it waits to “outsurvive” Mugabe. End Summary.
Gono Seeks “Carrot” from International Community
¶2. (C) GOZ rabble rousing on farm takeovers, recent
isolated cases of violent farm invasions, and orders issued
to ten commercial farmers to cease farming (reftel) spurred
CFU President Doug Taylor-Freeme to enter into a lengthy
discussion on September 26 with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
(RBZ) Governor Gono on the dire state of the sector and new
threats to operation. In the course of their meeting, Gono
asked Taylor-Freeme what the minimum principles or minimum
requirements would be that would influence the international
community,s readiness to re-engage with the GOZ in the
agricultural sector. Taylor-Freeme told Gono the CFU’s
immediate minimum requirement was a moratorium on farm
¶3. (C) Taylor-Freeme related to econoffs on September 27
his sense that there was a small group in government,
spearheaded by Gono and Minister of Finance Murerwa, keen to
make a last ditch effort to address “the meltdown.”
Taylor-Freeme asked if there was room in U.S. policy for some
&carrots8 for Gono. He said Gono was willing to appeal
directly to Mugabe, but needed to have something to take to
the old man to gain his support. Gono allegedly told the
farm president that, if he had no means to influence policy,
he would resign. (Taylor-Freeme opined to us it was not
inconceivable that Gono could be used as a scapegoat for
failed economic policies.) He also told Gono the CFU could
deal a further blow to agricultural production by calling on
its members to shut down or further draw down production.
Econoff relayed to the farm union president the U.S. position
that the only grounds for meaningful re-engagement with the
GOZ were a commitment to the implementation of a
comprehensive political and economic reform package and
restoration of due process and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
The ball was in the GOZ’s court and the USG had no “carrots”
to offer Gono in the absence of concrete action to alter the
course Zimbabwe is on.
CFU – Extending its Influence in the Region
¶4. (C) Taylor-Freeme, who is also a member of Gono’s
so-called Public Advisory Board, explained that the aim of
the CFU was to “outsurvive” Mugabe, protect agricultural
assets (barns, irrigation systems and other infrastructure)
and maintain farming expertise, if not in Zimbabwe, at least
in the region, for a quick turnaround upon Mugabe’s
departure. The CFU helped farmers get access to finance and
had used Gono as an ally in this regard with some success.
Gono had been able in the past to intervene to defend some
farmers when a businessman was invading a farm, but not when
a politician or member of the military was undertaking a
¶5. (SBU) Discussing the evolving role of CFU in Zimbabwe and
in the region, Taylor-Freeme explained that the CFU existed
to provide agricultural services to commercial farmers; it
was not a political structure nor did it want to be pulled by
either party into politics. He described the fresh
“horsepower” the CFU was getting from the Southern African
Confederation of Agricultural Unions, of which he is Vice
President. He related SACAU,s success in tapping into SADC,
Africa Union, NEPAD and other African development
institutions to promote commercial agriculture in Africa. On
behalf of SACAU, Taylor-Freeme has sought out farming
opportunities across the continent from Sierra Leone to
Madagascar for expropriated farmers, and worked out financing
arrangements for start-up farms outside of Zimbabwe. He
recounted a recent 4-day trip to Nigeria, where he met twice
with President Obasanjo, who told him that Zimbabwe’s
agricultural policy was “not good for Zimbabwe, not good for
the region, and not good for Africa”. The Nigerian president
said of Mugabe, although “my brother is not talking to me,”
he himself was “not giving up”.
Bio Notes ) Doug Taylor-Freeme
¶6. (SBU) Doug Taylor-Freeme is serving his third year as
President of the Commercial Farmers Union. In addition, he
is Vice President of The Southern African Confederation of
Agricultural Unions. Having trained in the U.K. as an
agricultural engineer, he also runs a commercial farm in the
area of Chinhoyi, northwest of Harare. While he said he lost
60 percent of his holdings under fast-track land reform, he
still plants 400 hectares of soybeans, 200 hectares of maize,
50 hectares of tobacco, and keeps 500 head of cattle. He
spends about four days a week in Harare on CFU/SACAU business
and travels widely across Africa for SACAU, leaving his
farm’s day-to-day operation in the hands of a farm manager.
¶7. (C) Gono clearly intended for Taylor-Freeme to float a
trial balloon with the Embassy as part of his ongoing
campaign to portray himself as the voice of moderation and
reason within the GOZ. While he always talks a good game,
the truth is that both GOZ interference in the economy and
the resulting economic crisis have grown on Gono’s watch.
Gono appears increasingly desperate to turn the economy
around and it is typical of him to try to play both sides
against each other to find a little more wriggle room. Gono
is obviously under growing pressure and we see no reason to
give him any relief.