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Zimbabwe, the UNDP and elections

Zimbabwe withdrew its request for assistance with the 2005 elections from the United Nations Development Programme, according to the United States embassy, but the embassy construed this to mean that it was setting the stage for a considerably reduced international presence in the run-up to and during the March 2005 parliamentary elections.

But that was not all; the country also announced that it was not going to ask for any food assistance. President Robert Mugabe instead ordered the government and the Grain Marketing Board to import 800 000 tonnes of food.

The UNDP is currently funding the constitutional making process which has hit several snags because the drafters are reported to have totally ignored the views of the people gathered during the constitutional team’s outreach programme.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 04HARARE461, GOZ SEALING COUNTRY AHEAD OF ELECTIONS?

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE461

2004-03-17 11:08

2011-08-30 01:44

SECRET

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

171108Z Mar 04

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000461

 

SIPDIS

 

SECRET NOFORN

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2014

TAGS: PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: GOZ SEALING COUNTRY AHEAD OF ELECTIONS?

 

REF: A. HARARE 456

 

B. HARARE 350

C. HARARE 349

 

Classified By: POLITICAL OFFICER KIMBERLY JEMISON FOR REASONS 1.5 B/D

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Government of Zimbabwe appears to be

setting the stage for a considerably reduced international

presence in Zimbabwe in the run-up to and during the March

2005 parliamentary elections. Withdrawing its request for

UNDP elections assistance (Ref B) and suggesting it does not

plan to request food relief (Ref C) evince GOZ intent to

reduce foreign access to the country and to maximize ruling

party control of key electoral levers. The crackdown on the

independent press and harassment of NGOs also play into this

effort to close off the electoral process to outsiders. END

SUMMARY.

 

——————————————— —————-

FOOD “SELF-SUFFICIENCY” INCREASES RISK OF FOOD POLITICIZATION

——————————————— —————-

 

2. (SBU) Maize distribution could be solely in the hands of

the GOZ during an important election period if Zimbabwe

significantly reduces or even eliminates its appeal for food

aid this year. In the past, ZANU-PF has used food as a

political tool and a Grain Marketing Board (GMB) monopoly on

maize distribution would work to the party’s advantage. As

suggested in ref B and confirmed at a UN/donor meeting on

March 15, the GOZ requested that this year’s Consolidated

Appeal include no reference to food assistance beyond June

2004.

 

3. (U) The December 2003/2004 FOSENET food security

monitoring report noted an increase in allegations of

political bias in accessing GMB food stocks over the last few

months, particularly in Mashonaland East. The report

identified the following districts as having problems with

political bias in food access: Chikomba, Marondera rural and

urban, Mudzi, Hwedza, Bindura rural, Guruve, Mazowe, Chegutu

urban, Norton, Zvimba, Bikita, Chiredzi, and Chivi. Of these

districts, Marondera, Bindura, Chegutu, Bikita, and Chiredzi

had constituencies almost evenly split between the MDC and

ZANU-PF during the 2000 elections.

 

4. (SBU) Prior to many parliamentary and urban/rural council

elections over the last two years, ZANU-PF candidates and

officials were accused of bribing voters with food.

Typically, the ZANU-PF district office received bags of maize

which only card-carrying ZANU-PF members were able to

purchase. In some places, showing cards was not enough and

prospective buyers had to produce letters from community

leaders or local party officials attesting to long-standing

party loyalty and activity. Throughout the food crisis,

FOSENET, a coalition of 54 local NGOs that monitors the food

situation in Zimbabwe, has reported that ZANU-PF party

members were favored in GMB food sales and international food

relief distributions, although the latter allegations were

infrequent and swiftly dealt with by international NGOs. For

its part, the GOZ has ignored such complaints and counter

claimed that some NGOs were selectively distributing to

opposition elements.

 

—————————–

IS SELF-SUFFICIENCY POSSIBLE?

—————————–

 

5. (U) A GOZ claim that Zimbabwe will be self-sufficient in

maize depends on the country’s final production and ability

to secure the foreign exchange to import the remainder of its

need. Fueling prospects for maize production are improved

rainfall–although for crops planted in February the rains

must continue through April–and increased hectarage planted

to maize(Ref C).   PolOff spoke with the Famine Early Warning

System (FEWS) on February 26 about likely production. FEWS

said preliminary Agricultural Research and Extension Services

(AREX) maize estimates based on likely area planted and yield

suggest production in 2004 of between 780,000 and 1,170,000

MT (area at 1.3 million hectares and yields between .6 and .9

MT/ha). These estimates are based primarily on communal area

planting, as data about the resettled areas is generally

unavailable. According to FEWS, AREX estimates are generally

within 20 percent of the final Central Statistical Office

statistics. Other estimates for the 2004 season range from

600,000 MT to 1.2 million MT, with total maize consumption

needs at approximately 1.8 million MT.

 

6. (U) President Robert Mugabe has directed his ministries

and the Reserve Bank to import 800,000 metric tons of grain

this year at a cost of USD$240 million (Ref C). Such a

procurement will challenge the GOZ’s budget given the other

urgent demands on foreign exchange such as electricity and

fuel imports, and seems to rely on unrealistic expectations

of economic turnaround. Last year, GOZ efforts to import

maize were stymied by foreign exchange shortages. Although

negative growth may slow modestly this year, most local UN,

IMF and World Bank economists expect the economy to contract

5-10 percent, which does not bode well for increased foreign

exchange earnings. Furthermore, the punitive nature of the

auction system is a disincentive for exporters and will not

stimulate export revenue (Ref A). We are estimating that

exports fell to US$1.4 billion in 2003, of which the GOZ kept

only US$350 million by withholding the mandatory 25 percent

of revenue from exporters. This year’s tobacco crop–the

major foreign exchange earner–could be as low as 45 million

kilograms. Last year, Zimbabwe exported between 80 and 103

million kilograms worth US$248 to US$318 million.

 

7. (SBU) PolOff asked a FEWS representative about the GMB,s

purported 240,000-300,000 metric tons of maize stock. The

representative had acquired a GMB spreadsheet showing GMB

sales and stock drawdowns, which showed that the GMB had sold

about 100,000 tons of the 300,000 tons it had in January.

The representative suggested that the GMB was continuing to

sell its stocks and was not hoarding the stash for future

political benefit. He also stated that the GMB would not be

able to retain grain stored now until February 2005.

 

—————————–

INDEPENDENT MEDIA CONTRACTING

—————————–

 

8. (U) With the apparent demise of the nation’s only

independent daily and growing regulatory constraints against

the few surviving weekly independent newspapers, independent

coverage of news events in Zimbabwe is limited. Absent

unexpected changes in the media environment, the vast

majority of Zimbabweans will receive coverage of election

candidates and issues through the prism of ZANU-PF editors at

heavily biased official media organs. The GOZ can be

expected to continue its exclusion of foreign reporters, who

for the most part have been expelled or systematically denied

visas. The ongoing saga of the Associated Newspapers of

Zimbabwe court case and the dismissal of three Herald

newspaper journalists who freelanced for Voice of America

also play into this effort to close off observation of the

electoral process to Zimbabweans and outsiders alike.

Statements by the Media and Information Commission that the

conduct of the journalists is a threat to national security

further evince GOZ intent to tighten control of all media

sources for the foreseeable future–controlling information

flow into and out of the country.

 

————-

NGOS TARGETED

————-

 

9. (SBU) Over the last few years, the GOZ has become

increasingly suspicious and hostile towards nongovernmental

organizations. In 2002, the GOZ tried to enforce elements of

the Private Voluntary Organizations Act that restricts the

activities of some PVOs and NGOs. As several loopholes

within the law allowed some of the GOZ’s most ardent critics

to still operate, the GOZ is threatening to limit the

remaining organizations, movements with the NGO Bill, which

is in the draft stages.

 

10. (C) More recently, the GOZ has threatened to step up

harassment of local NGOs. Within the last few weeks, an NGO

working on democracy and governance issues received three

visits from police and a call from the Central Bank warning

of increased scrutiny, and a director of one of the local

human rights NGOs recently told PolOff that the organization

had been tipped that they would be raided soon. The human

rights NGO was habitually harassed before, during, and after

the 2002 presidential elections. In addition, GOZ officials

have accused several international NGOs of being anti-state

and thus against the Zimbabwe people. Indeed, such

accusations against food-related NGOs at the recent UN-GOZ

meeting in Victoria Falls highlights the nexus between food

and politics in the GOZ’s world view. Also at the Victoria

Falls meeting, the GOZ targeted the International

Organization for Migration, which provides assistance to

displaced ex-farm workers.

 

11. (S/NF) Indications in sensitive reporting that the GOZ

intends again to embark on an effort to dismantle the NGO’s

“parallel structures” of food distribution manifest the depth

of GOZ suspicions and desire for control.

 

——————————————— ————–

COMMENT: ELECTORAL PROCESS TO REMAIN INSULATED AND ISOLATED

——————————————— ————–

 

12. (SBU) The GOZ seems poised to keep the electoral

environment restrictive in preparation for the March 2005

parliamentary elections. Its continued mistrust of NGOs and

priority on controlling the election environment are most

likely the principal reasons behind GOZ reluctance to accept

international assistance with the elections and to entertain

the continued need for emergency food aid. Scaling down the

international relief effort would reduce the international

presence in Zimbabwe enhancing GOZ control of food

distributions for electoral advantage and reducing the

international window to aspects of election administration.

Eliminating the independent press and firing or expelling

journalists who work with international news agencies would

advance the same purpose. That said, the GOZ is cognizant of

its need for international aid as administered by NGOs though

and will often act more gingerly than its truculent words

might suggest. Late last year, for example, the GOZ backed

down from threats to require that all food assistance go

through official channels. The extent to which it will go

beyond harassment and regulatory constraint of NGOs and the

media will hinge largely on how confident the party

leadership feels toward elections–they will do what they

feel they have to in order to come out on top. END COMMENT.

SULLIVAN

 

(10 VIEWS)

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