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Cablegate: Zimbabwe Suspends All Ngo Activities

VZCZCXRO8603
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0503/01 1651051
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131051Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3015
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1307

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000503

AIDAC
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DCHA/AA FOR MIKE HESS
AFR/AA FOR KATE ALMQUIST AND FRANKLIN MOORE
AFR/SA FOR ELOKEN, LDOBBINS, JKOLE
DCHA/OFDA FOR KLUU, ACONVERY, TDENYSENKO, LTHOMAS
DCHA/FFP FOR JBORNS, JDWORKEN, LPETERSON, ASINK
PRETORIA FOR JWESSEL, GJUSTE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PHUM PGOV KHIV PGOV PREL ZI
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE SUSPENDS ALL NGO ACTIVITIES

REF: HARARE 475

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) On June 5, Zimbabwe's Minister of Public Service, Labor
and Social Welfare (MPSLSW) Nicolas Goche issued a letter addressed
to all Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Private Voluntary
Organizations (PVOs) advising them to "suspend all field operations
until further notice." (See paragraph 11 for complete text of
letter.) Post is assessing the impact of this blanket suspension on
its partners, but the United Nations Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has informally estimated that at least
two million beneficiaries would be affected by a strict enforcement
of the suspension. At present, most international NGOs and their
partners have suspended field operations and drawn staff back to
headquarters and the district level. PVO is the statutory
classification used by the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) to register
national/local NGOs, community-based organizations, and civil
society organizations (CSOs), and a few of these agencies are
attempting to resume low-visibility, partial operations on a
sectoral and case-by-case basis. Post and UNOCHA have requested a
meeting with Minister Goche to register concern and seek
clarification on the extent of the suspension. END SUMMARY.

----------
BACKGROUND
----------

2. (U) Since the March 29 harmonized elections and in the run-up
to the June 27 presidential run-off, NGOs, CSOs, and humanitarian
aid agencies have been increasingly denied access to beneficiaries
by a variety of official and un-official personnel acting on behalf
of the GOZ. The access restrictions began in those wards and
districts that had been strongholds of the ruling party, but voted
for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the
initial elections -- largely the same areas where
politically-motivated violence has been perpetrated. On May 28,
USAID partner CARE International was told to suspend all of its
activities (reftel), after weeks of negotiations concerning their
operations in Masvingo Province. This restriction coincided with a
partner report that all NGO operations had been restricted within
the Nyanga District as well as organization-specific suspensions in
random districts. The blanket suspension for all NGOs and PVOs was
therefore somewhat anticipated.

3. (U) One day prior to the announcement of the suspension, a
press release was issued by the Unite Nations (UN) Emergency Relief
Coordinator that xpressed "grave concern" over access restrictions
at that time. Though unmentioned in the press relase, UN agencies
-- particularly the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF), World Food Program
(WFP), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) --
have also experienced access restrictions and fild-level threats.
It appears that those enforcin access restrictions at the
field-level are not ecognizing UN immunity and therefore not
differentiating between NGOs and UN operations/vehicles.

-------------------------
NGO REACTION/UN FOLLOW UP
-------------------------

4. (SBU) At this stage, the response to the blanket suspension by UN
agencies, NGOs, and donors is still evolving. Most organizations,
at least through the upcoming run-off election, have chosen to
suspend field activities and concentrate instead on planning and
training, reducing staff levels to a skeleton size at the district
level, and moving vehicles and office equipment to more secure
locations.

5. (U) UNOCHA is seeking formal clarification from the MPSLSW
regarding the breadth of the suspension, and if NGOs/PVOs will be
required to re-register in order to resume operations. An informal
conversation between a GOZ department minister and an OCHA staff
member detailed that health clinic support is allowed to continue,
but that there should be no further food distributions or community
mobilization activities. Several health-focused agencies are
working closely with the Ministry of Health in an attempt to resume
operations, and the National Association for NGOs in Zimbabwe
(NANGO) has advised willing partners to resume "cautious"
operations. The network of Zimbabwe Red Cross agencies reported on
June 9 that they had received no access restrictions to date.


HARARE 00000503 002 OF 003


6. (SBU) Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has examined the
legality of the blanket suspension, and decreed it a "legal
nullity," contending that Goche lacked authority to issue the order
or suspension. ZLHR, working closely with the NGO representative
body NANGO, are pursuing legal remedies.

--------------
DONOR GUIDANCE
--------------

7. (SBU) Donor guidance to partners in light of the suspension is
largely informal and situational. The prevailing donor guidance
seems to be to continue activities where security of staff is not
threatened. This same guidance has been provided by USAID to its
partners. In practical terms however, little space exists now to
conduct field operations. NGO and UN vehicles are being stopped and
detained in rural areas; officials have been given authority to
confiscate NGO computers, motorbikes, and other equipment at
checkpoints; and local partners are at risk of targeted violence.
(NOTE: In an exception to the suspension, the Ministry of Health
has encouraged HIV/AIDS NGOs to continue their programs. END NOTE.)


--------------------
USAID PARTNER IMPACT
--------------------

8. (U) USAID held a partners meeting on June 11. Below is a
rundown on USAID partner actions:

--C-SAFE partners (CARE, Catholic Relief Services, and World Vision)
have suspended all field activities/food distributions. Their
district offices are open but only a skeleton workforce is in place.
Travel is being limited.

--Mercy Corps has suspended field-level operations; only a skeleton
presence remains in the field.

--Oxfam has three sub-offices open but has suspended distributions.

--John Snow Inc. operations (supply chain management support and
anti-retroviral procurement and distribution) continue as normal.
It is unaffected by the suspension as it is not registered as an
NGO.

--PSI and Abt are attempting to obtain permission from the Ministry
of Health to continue counseling and testing services. To date,
their clinics remain open but community outreach events are on hold.


--World Education is still in start-up mode for its new orphan and
vulnerable children program and therefore is affected minimally by
the suspension. It continues to focus on drafting/negotiating a
memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health.

--Elizabeth Glaser Foundation, our partner for prevention of mother
to child transmission, is continuing its programs in training and
support of MOH PMTCT programs although it will be closed over the
week of the run-off election.

--Democracy and Governance (DG) partners continue their work in the
run-up to the election through their local partners. Zimbabwe
Election Support Network and SUNY, e.g., are unaffected as they are
considered trusts; and, the Counseling Services Unit is registered
as a health institution. Other local DG partners are heeding
NANGO's advice and are proceeding with caution.

9. (U) Post and UNOCHA have requested a meeting with Goche
requesting clarification on the suspension. To date, we have
received no response from his office.

10. (U) COMMENT: The restrictions will have a severe impact on
programs and beneficiaries. Cessation of food aid will result in
431,072 beneficiaries affected in June while cessation of non-food
humanitarian assistance will result in 348,980 beneficiaries
affected in June. We are still compiling the effects on our
HIV/AIDS program. Post will continue to monitor and report upon the
situation as it develops, and as the effect of the suspension
becomes clearer.

11. (U) BEGIN TEXT OF GOCHE LETTER

Reference: SW/21/3

HARARE 00000503 003 OF 003

4 June 2008

TO: ALL PRIVATE VOLUNTARY ORGANISATIONS (PVOs)/NON GOVERNMENTAL
ORGANISATIONS (NGOs)

It has come to my attention that a number of NGOs involved in
humanitarian operations are breaching the terms and conditions of
their registration as enshrined in the Private Voluntary
Organisation At [Chapter 17:05], as well [sic] the provisions of the
Code of Procedures for the Registration and operations of Non
Governmental Organisations in Zimbabwe (General Notice 99 of 2007).

As the Regulatory Authority, before proceeding with the provision of
Section (10), Subsection (c), of the Private Voluntary Act [Chapter
17:05], I hereby instruct all PVOs/NGOs to suspend all field
operation [sic] until further notice.

Hon. NT Goche (MP)_
MINISTER OF PUBLIC SERVICE, LABOUR AND SOCIAL WELFARE

END TEXT OF LETTER

MCGEE

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