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Were Shamu and Mzembi silenced?

John Makamure, the director of the United States government-funded parliamentary support project implemented by the State University of New York, said Webster Shamu and Walter Mzembi were promoted to the cabinet to silence them.

He said this after Mzembi was promoted to deputy Minister of Water in 2007 saying his elevation was a blow to parliamentary independence.

Makamure said Mzembi was not the first outspoken committee chair to be silenced by inclusion in the cabinet. Webster Shamu was similarly critical before he was named to the cabinet in 2004.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 07HARARE205, SIGNS OF INDEPENDENCE IN ZIMBABWE’S PARLIAMENT

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

07HARARE205

2007-03-14 14:45

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1239

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1511

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1369

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1515

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0191

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0777

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1141

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1570

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3974

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1338

RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1998

RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1732

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 000205

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/13/2017

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: SIGNS OF INDEPENDENCE IN ZIMBABWE’S PARLIAMENT

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) Ruling party and opposition legislators in

Parliament’s 14 portfolio committees have demonstrated a

growing willingness to challenge executive authority. The

MPs have worked to conduct bipartisan public hearings,

question ministers, and produce reports critical of the GOZ.

This new-found independence has prompted a backlash from some

ministers, but to date the MPs appear undaunted. Outside of

the committees, Parliament remains a poor check on executive

authority. U.S. assistance, via a USAID project, has helped

the committees to be more bipartisan and independent and

should be continued and expanded to encourage improvements in

Parliament as a whole. End Summary.

 

—————————-

Committees Find Independence

—————————-

 

2. (C) John Makamure, the director of the USG-funded

parliamentary support project implemented by the State

University of New York (SUNY), told poloff on February 26

that chairpersons of the 14 portfolio committees, from both

sides of the aisle, had gradually begun to assert their

authority against government ministers. The committees,

which roughly shadow the various ministries, had held public

hearings, conducted fact-finding missions, questioned

ministers, analyzed draft legislation, and produced

hard-hitting reports.

 

3. (C) Makamure noted three examples in particular:

criticism from Lazarus Dokora (ZANU-PF MP for Rushinga and

recently named Deputy Minister of Higher Education) of the

draconian NGO Bill that was almost enacted in 2004;

ex-Agriculture Committee Chairman Walter Mzembi,s (ZANU-PF

MP for Masvingo South and recently named Deputy Minister of

Water Resources) reports over the past few years on poor

state of agricultural preparedness; and Communication and

Transport Committee Chairman Leo Mugabe’s (ZANU-PF MP for

Makonde) public hearings last year that resulted in a

redrafting of a bill that would have allowed the GOZ to

monitor all forms of communication.

 

4. (C) Makamure said that Mzembi’s elevation to the cabinet

was a blow to parliamentary independence. The SUNY director

said Mzembi was not the first outspoken committee chair to be

silenced by inclusion in the Cabinet; Webster Shamu was

similarly critical before he was named to Cabinet in 2004.

However, while Mzembi’s elevation was a setback, Makamure

expressed confidence that someone new would emerge to fill

the void. To this end, Makamure said that acting-chairman of

the agriculture committee George Chimombe, a chief from

Manicaland, had performed well to date.

 

5. (C) Makamure said the committees had taken the

unprecedented step of calling ministers to testify and

grilling them on policy failures. Executive branch officials

who have ignored committee summons have been censored. Not

only had ministers been called to testify, but committees had

begun to call them to task regarding discrepancies in their

testimony. Last November, for instace, Parliament began

impeachment proceedings against Industry and Trade Minister

Mpofu for allegedly lying in testimony he gave to a committee

investigating the fate of moribund state-owned steel company,

ZISCO Steel.

 

HARARE 00000205 002 OF 004

 

 

 

6. (C) Makamure said the politicians’ desire to be seen as

serving their constituents and as national leaders had led

many to embrace the oversight role. For instance, in the

past ZANU-PF MPs typically relied on plenary speeches

praising Robert Mugabe as the only vehicle to get their names

in the media. Now, however, ZANU-PF chairpersons and even

average MPs were increasingly gaining media attention though

public hearings on popular topics, such as local service

delivery and gender equality.

 

7. (C) In addition, Makamure said the drive for greater

independence was also aided by the increased expertise of

MPs. For example, Budget Committee Chairman David Butau

(ZANU-PF MP for Guruve North) was a qualified economist and

Mzembi owned a farming equipment supply company. In fact,

many ZANU-PF MPs, especially those elected since 2000, were

business-owners who had been personally affected by the GOZ’s

economic mismanagement and wanted to improve business

conditions.

 

8. (C) Echoing Makamure’s comments, MDC Chief Whip Innocent

Gonese (MP for Mutare Central) told poloff that ZANU-PF MPs

in the portfolio committees seemed to relish their oversight

role. While the MPs remained committed to the ruling party,

Gonese said that these MPs also recognized that they

represented a branch of government separate from the

executive and thus had an important role to play. Gonese

noted that while the executive might not accept all

recommendations from the committees, the ministries did take

on board many of the suggestions, in part due to public

pressure created by committee hearings.

 

———————-

Bipartisanship As Well

———————-

 

9. (C) Makamure said the political sparring common to

plenary sessions of Parliament was absent from the internal

workings of the portfolio committees, where ruling party and

opposition MPs often made common cause against ministers

perceived to be failing. Additionally, Makamure said that

the factional split within the opposition was not evident in

Parliament as MDC members from both factions continued to

work together. (N.B. ZANU-PF MPs chair nine portfolio

committees, including the influential budget, defense, and

agriculture committees. Meanwhile, MDC MPs chair the

remaining five, including the all-important Parliamentary

Legal Committee, which weighs the constitutionality of all

draft bills.)

 

10. (C) However, despite common cause made between MPs of

both parties within committees, Gonese and ZANU-PF MP Charles

Majange (MP for Chivi South) separately told poloff that

unity did not extend beyond committee doors. Once on the

floor of Parliament, no ruling party MP would think about

siding with the opposition. The ruling party whip would

ensure that MPs toed the party line, and failure to adhere to

these instructions would be political suicide, according to

Majange. Gonese added that Zimbabwe’s constitution gave

political parties the right to eject dissident MPs from their

elected seats. Debate in the general body of Parliament

remained politically charged, with legislators from both

sides hurling abuse at each other.

 

——————–

But Backlash Growing

——————–

 

 

HARARE 00000205 003 OF 004

 

 

11. (C) Majange, who is a member of the Parliamentary Legal

Committee and the Budget Committee, told poloff that the

ability to call ministers to testify had given the committees

teeth and that ministers had become more engaged with

Parliament through their testimony. However, he said there

was a growing backlash from ministers. Makamure said the

same, noting that criticism from ZANU-PF chairpersons had

prompted several Cabinet officials, including

then-Agriculture Minister Made, Industry Minister Mpofu, and

Reserve Bank Governor Gono to complain to Mugabe in January

that the ruling party chairpersons were interfering with

executive authority.

 

12. (C) Makamure said Mugabe had then tasked Justice

Minister Chinamasa, as leader of parliamentary affairs, to

summon the chairpersons and present the ministers’ concerns.

Majange and Makamure both said the chairs held their ground

in the meeting, and that ZANU-PF Chief Whip Jorum Gumbo (MP

for Mberengwe West) offered a stinging defense of committee

independence. Mzembi, whose criticism triggered Made’s ire,

recited from the GOZ-approved parliamentary reform guidelines

that created the committees as a defense for his committee’s

outspoken reports.

 

——————————————-

And Parliament as a Whole Remains Quiescent

——————————————-

 

13. (C) Outside of the committees, however, parliamentary

business has dropped off dramatically. Comparatively few

bills have been introduced in the past year and the pace of

addressing those that have has been slow. In the absence of

bills, Makamure said that MPs in the past would introduce

motions on topical issues, but that even these initiatives

had been virtually absent in recent months. Parliamentary

staffers have remarked that legislators appear content with

“going through the motions.”

 

14. (C) Makamure said budget shortfalls had reached critical

levels and were contributing to Parliament’s malaise.

Parliament had even run out of toner to print documents.

Pro-Senate MDC MP for Nkayi Abendico Bhebhe told poloff on

February 19 that the pace of inflation had outstripped the

travel allowances given to MPs residing outside of Harare and

that many MPs were now reducing their time spent at

Parliament, rather than cover their accommodation costs out

of their own pockets.

 

15. (C) Gonese said Parliament’s special fuel facility had

run dry, leaving him to scramble to find fuel to return to

his eastern Zimbabwe home.   Echoing these sentiments,

Makamure noted that MPs were increasingly concentrating on

personal and business priorities, rather than public service.

Majange conceded that his salary was equivalent to 75

British pounds per month, using the parallel exchange rate,

less than half what his wife, who works as a nurse in London,

earns in one day.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

16. (C) It was to be expected that MDC parliamentarians

would embrace the committee structure, but it has also

encouraged ruling party backbenchers to become more vocal,

and even outright critical of GOZ policies. No doubt some of

this new-found independence among ZANU-PF MPs is an attempt

at personal aggrandizement and an expression of ZANU-PF

intra-party divides. That said, the committees have also

 

HARARE 00000205 004 OF 004

 

 

created a safe environment for ruling party moderates to gain

footing and push for reforms within the party. A striking

example of the kind of cross-aisle comity that has been

created was a recent Embassy-hosted reception for

parliamentarians where ZANU-PF, MDC, and independent MPs

joked, debated, and drank with the Ambassador in a relaxed

atmosphere that transcended the Zimbabwe’s bitter political

divide. Continued USG support to the institution of

Parliament, via the SUNY program, is sorely needed to help

support the committees increasing independence and

bipartisanship and to expand those gains into Parliament as a

whole.

DELL

 

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