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What is it that the West sees in Zimbabwe that Zimbabweans don’t see?

What is it that the West sees in Zimbabwe that Zimbabweans don’t see? This is the fundamental question a cable that was released by Wikileaks raises.

The cable dispatched on 7 November 2008 reveals that 16 powerful Western countries met in Ottawa, Canada in October 2008 to discuss the future of Zimbabwe following stalemate between the Movement for Democratic Change and the Zimbabwe African National Union –Patriotic Front soon after they had signed the Global Political Agreement which was supposed to pave way for a new coalition government.

The meeting of “like-minded countries” was attended by Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States as well as representatives of the African Development Bank, European Commission, United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank.

The countries expressed their limited ability to influence the resolution of the stalemate but agreed that the best course of action was to be guided by what the MDC was willing or able to achieve through negotiations and to facilitate the MDC’s effectiveness where possible.

Canadian ambassador to Harare Barbara Richardson and British ambassador to Harare Andrew Pocock said the MDC had no faith in South African President Thabo Mbeki as mediator but at the same time Pocock said South Africa was the key player in applying outside pressure and “unless it can be prodded to move from analysis to action, we have no hope of bringing about change in Zimbabwe”.

The United States suggested supporting the MDC’s position and providing strategic technical assistance to strengthen the MDC’s ability to engage ZANU-PF in negotiations.

 The full cable:


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Reference ID






2008-11-07 16:37

2011-04-28 00:00


Embassy Ottawa





DE RUEHOT #1424/01 3121637


P 071637Z NOV 08















E.O. 12958: N/A





1. (SBU) Summary: Canada hosted an informal meeting of

like-minded countries on Zimbabwe in Ottawa on October 30.

Delegates agreed that MDC and ZANU-PF are in the midst of a

power struggle to which there is no easy solution in sight.

Several countries expressed concern at the Like-Minded

Group,s limited ability to influence a resolution to the

current stalemate. Participants acknowledged the limited

range of options the international community has available

and agreed that the best course of action is to be guided by

what MDC is willing or able to achieve through the

negotiations and to facilitate MDC,s effectiveness where

possible. There was also consensus that conditions on the

ground are deteriorating rapidly. The U.S. proposed

development of a consensus on benchmarks and continued

engagement with regional leaders, emphasizing the interests

of the region in resolving the crisis. Broad agreement

emerged that the international community would be in a

position to provide additional calibrated assistance as soon

as credible governmental partners emerge. Canada undertook

to write a paper laying out short-term options for a

diplomatic strategy and public diplomacy messaging based on

the meeting,s outcome, as well as to debrief South Africa on

the proceedings of the conference. Canada,s Ambassador in

Harare promised to debrief both MDC and ZANU-PF leaders on

the broad sense of the meeting. The Harare Fishmongers Group

was tasked to continue operationalizing the principles for

reengagement. Conferees agreed on the need more fully to

engage the African Union (AU) and the Southern African

Development Community (SADC) in resolving the crisis and on

the efficacy of broadening the negotiating structure to

include the AU. End summary.


Update on Situation



2. (SBU) Canadian Ambassador to Harare Barbara Richardson and

UK Ambassador to Harare Andrew Pocock opened with overviews

and discussion of recent political developments in Zimbabwe.

Richardson urged conferees to judge whether and when to

re-engage with Zimbabwe on the basis of democratic outcomes

in the currently stalemated talks among MDC leader Morgan

Tsvangirai and ZANU-PF and Robert Mugabe. MDC interlocutors

have no faith in Thabo Mbeki as a mediator, according to both

Pocock and Richardson. ZANU-PF and Mbeki view the deadlock

as related to only one issue, control of Home Affairs, said

Pocock. MDC, on the other hand, objects to ZANU,s

unilateral actions including appointments of governors,

ministerial designations, continuing intransigence, and

ongoing violence by ZANU-PF supporters and militias,

according to Pocock. All parties want a SADC Summit, he

said, and Mugabe in particular is comfortable with such

plenary meetings, given his past ease in dividing and

conquering the SADC countries.


Policy Issues and Responses



3. (SBU) The U.S. delegation briefed on the humanitarian

situation and responded to the Chair,s request for

discussion of policy responses and diplomatic activities.

Currently over one million are in need of food assistance,

but the situation is much more complex, as basic services in

Zimbabwe collapse after years of mismanagement. There is

currently an appeal in place by the WFP and the UN, and it is

Qcurrently an appeal in place by the WFP and the UN, and it is

critical that donor countries reconsider their pledges as the

crisis deepens. In addition, access continues to be an issue

that requires donor — but particularly UN — attention.

Although the GOZ ban on NGO activities has been lifted, there

continue to be instances of local government interference in

the distribution of assistance based on need. Also, actions

taken by the GOZ in the financial arena are having a negative

impact on NGO abilities actually to deliver assistance.


4. (SBU) The U.S. head of delegation suggested that policy

responses include supporting MDC,s position while providing

strategic technical assistance to strengthen the MDC,s

ability to engage ZANU-PF in negotiations. Such assistance

could address deficiencies in messaging and communications.

In response to the three scenarios presented in the

Fishmongers, report, the U.S. suggested that the most likely

would be weak reform initially. Ultimately, assistance would

also be needed to build the capacity of the strategic

governing structure of the office of the Prime Minister,

parliament, and local government if a transitional governing


OTTAWA 00001424 002 OF 003



arrangement is to yield results. The U.S. also urged

continued engagement with regional leaders, emphasizing the

interests of the region in resolving the crisis. While most

delegations stressed the centrality of South Africa to

resolving the current impasse, the U.S. pointed out the

important role to be played by Tanzania and the potential of

expanding the negotiating structure to provide for a more

active role on the part of the AU. The U.S. also proposed

development of a consensus on benchmarks; while it was clear

that all delegations support the broad principles for

reengagement, it would be equally important to agree on what

constitutes success in a calibrated approach to

re-engagement. Early opportunities include cessation of

violence, appointing the PM and his deputies, submission and

repeal of key legislation in parliament, and appointing a new

governor of the RBZ. Change at the RBZ was among the

economic steps that the Fishmongers’ Group emphasized needed

to come early.


5. (SBU) Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and

International Trade Director General for Africa Janet Graham

outlined Canada,s three-pronged approach: continued

humanitarian support to avert crisis conditions; pushing for

an African-led approach to solve the political stalemate;

and, strong public condemnation of human rights abuses by the

Mugabe government and ZANU-PF affiliated militias. Pocock

again urged donors to support MDC as it sets the terms for

negotiations, chief among them control of the Reserve Bank of

Zimbabwe and the retirement or firing of the police



Donors Await Credible Government



6. (SBU) The discussion of re-engagement scenarios was

chaired by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

Director General Nadia Kostiuk, and began with a report

prepared by the Harare Fishmongers’ Group. African

Development Bank (ADB) Senior Advisor Graham Stegmann said

the ADB will continue its new emphasis on helping fragile

states to reform and strengthen. It has no plans, however,

to re-engage with Zimbabwe until a credible governmental

partner emerges that reflects the will of the people of

Zimbabwe. Stegmann noted that progress and reform in

Zimbabwe will depend on credible people assuming important

roles within a new government and pursuing a real reform

agenda. He said Zimbabwe,s economic recovery challenges are

compounded by a lack of understanding among all political

leaders of the true damage that Zimbabwe,s economy has



7. (SBU) Stegmann commented that a recovery program must have

the full buy-in of all parties to achieve real momentum. He

noted that donors will likely look for early signs of

credibility by the new government, including appointment of a

respected figure as the head of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe

(RBZ) and an early audit of the RBZ. The ADB can offer

expertise in agriculture, water, sanitation, infrastructure,

accountability operations, and lines of credit for exporters.

Zimbabwe must repay its arrears to the ADB as a

pre-condition for technical assistance and lines of credit,

which is a non-negotiable pre-condition, according to

Stegmann. The ADB has no funding to help forgive Zimbabwe,s

arrears to the bank (although the delegation requested

Qarrears to the bank (although the delegation requested

contributions to the ADB,s Fragile States Facility, which

could fund arrears clearance). Immediate flashpoints between

donors and the new government are likely to be land reform, a

timetable for lifting of sanctions, and investor protections.


8. (SBU) The World Bank,s Peter Nicholas said the Bank

strongly endorsed the analysis of the ADB on the problems

facing Zimbabwe as well as the rules for re-engagement in

Zimbabwe by international financial institutions. Once a

credible government partner exists, the World Bank stands

ready to provide humanitarian assistance, analytical policy

support, and programs to treat and combat HIV/AIDS, said

Nicholas. The Bank is working on proposals to make available

a $5 million fund for coping and survival mechanisms as well

as a $10 million grant for maize seed purchase and

distribution, tightly integrated with the FAO,s global



9. (SBU) Unlike the ADB, the World Bank has funding set aside

to assist in the clearance of Zimbabwe,s arrears, but the


OTTAWA 00001424 003 OF 003



new GOZ will need to become HIPC-eligible to gain access to

the Bank,s special arrears clearance program. Nicholas

highlighted that the Bank has gained important experience in

several other countries in security sector reform, including

disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, and it stands

ready to help implement those best practices in Zimbabwe. In

an apparent plea against benchmarks for reengagement, UNDP,s

Zimbabwe technical director Mark Simpson cautioned that

Zimbabwe, like all fragile states in transition, can and will

perform well and poorly simultaneously after it makes the

transition to a post-Mugabe government. He said donors must

manage their own expectations in this light and make their

domestic constituencies understand the disjointed dynamic of



10. (SBU) CIDA Acting Director General Louise Clement said

the donors must align their goals with those of the new

government when it comes. She emphasized the important role

of Zimbabwean civil society in crafting benchmarks for the

new government. Canada will remain cautious on re-engaging

in Zimbabwe and will likely advocate that many of the

Like-Minded Group,s benchmarks should be viewed as

pre-conditions for further steps and deeper re-engagement

with the new government. Canada recognizes the need for

flexibility in managing the fluid nature of reform with a new

government, said Clement, but Canada does want the group to

agree on minimal standards for deeming benchmarks as having

been met. She urged the conference to task the Fishmongers’

Group with further work on benchmarks and minimum

expectations for a new government.


11. (SBU) Sweden,s Ambassador to Zimbabwe Sten Rylander

seconded the Canadian proposal to task the Fishmongers’ Group

on benchmarking and minimum standards. Sweden will step

forward with short-term humanitarian relief but cautioned

that it will be “quite strict” in requiring progress on

benchmarks in return for long-term recovery assistance.

Rylander also reiterated Sweden,s offer to host a donor

conference at the appropriate time. He urged caution in

pushing for early elections once a transitional government is

in place. In Sweden,s estimation, early elections often do

more harm than good. Germany,s representative Zimbabwe desk

officer Kristina Jonek said the group should take a

step-by-step approach (“we will deliver when you deliver”)

and agreed with France,s advocacy for a pragmatic approach

to dealing with Zimbabwe.


12. (SBU) The UK will judge any new government by what it

does, not by who it appoints, said Ambassador Pocock. He

urged the group to consider ways to support the MDC, civil

society, and the parliament as they stand up to Mugabe and

ZANU-PF. The international community must engage African

leaders and publics intensively and at every level to achieve

a shared analysis of the situation in Zimbabwe and secure

agreement on a common path forward, said Pocock. South

Africa is the key player in applying outside pressure, said

Pocock, and, unless it can be prodded to move from analysis

to action, we have “no hope” of bringing about change in

Zimbabwe. Pocock also urged the conference to begin planning

for worst case scenarios to manage the consequences of

failing to solve the crisis. Those consequences include:

Qfailing to solve the crisis. Those consequences include:

final middle class flight; final infrastructure collapse;

potential internal conflict or civil war; and, large

increases in displaced persons, both internally and



13. (SBU) Countries and organizations attending the October

30 Meeting included Australia, Denmark, Finland, France,

Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand,

Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United

States, African Development Bank, European Commission, UNDP,

and the World Bank.


14. (U) AF/S has cleared this message.


Visit Canada,s Economy and Environment Forum at ada




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