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Cablegate: Idps--Fear and Loathing in Zimbabwe

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 002625

SIPDIS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER, DCHA/OFDA/ARO FOR RILEY, MYER AND
CHIKODZORE
USAID/W FOR DCHA/OFDA FOR HAJJAR, HALMREST-SANCHEZ,
KHANDAGLE AND MARX
DCHA/FFP FOR LANDIS, BRAUSE, SKORIC AND PETERSEN
AFR/SA FOR POE AND COPSON
AFR/SD FOR ISALROW AND WHELAN
REDSO/ESA/FFP FOR SENYKOFF
GENEVA PLEASE PASS TO UNOCHA, IFRC
PRETORIA FOR USAID/DCHA/FFP FOR DISKIN
DCHA/OFDA FOR BRYAN AND MUELLER, AND FAS FOR HELM
ROME PLEASE PASS TO FODAG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL EAID ECON ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: IDPS--FEAR AND LOATHING IN ZIMBABWE

REF: A. HARARE 2529

B. HARARE 2403
C. HARARE 2318
D. HARARE 2310

Summary:
--------
1. On November 13 - 15 together with UN Senior Humanitarian
Affairs Officer, Andrew Timpson, Poloff visited ex-commercial
farm workers and their families in Tete province, Mozambique,
northern Mashonaland Central province in Zimbabwe, and on a
commercial farm near Harare. The lack of food security in
all three locations merits food assistance. Although the
reception for ex-workers in Mozambique seemed to be friendly,
those remaining in Zimbabwe live in fear and are trying to
stay out of sight, complicating the relief response effort.
End Summary

Displaced in Mozambique
-----------------------
2. Poloff interviewed about fifteen ex-commercial farm
workers in the Mozambican towns Chikafa and Goho who reported
that they knew of about sixty ex-farm worker families (about
300 people) who had moved into those areas since September
2002, and that more were arriving daily. Justice for
Agriculture (JAG), a Zimbabwe-based commercial agriculture
advocacy organization, estimates that about 900 ex-commercial
farm worker families, or about 4,500 people, have already
moved into Tete province.

3. All of the ex-commercial farm workers interviewed in Tete
were born in other parts of Mozambique (none were from the
Chikafa / Goho area), but had moved to live and work on
commercial farms in Zimbabwe from between 1958 and 1986. All
had Zimbabwean identity cards, had voted in recent elections
in Zimbabwe, and most said they had Zimbabwean-born wives and
children (now with them in Mozambique). All said war
veterans forced them out of their residences on commercial
farms, mostly in Guruve district, Mashonaland Central
province, and told them to "go back where they came from".
They said they heard rumors that village heads in Mozambique
were granting land, so they hired private trucks to ferry
them into the area.

4. All the ex-workers had been granted twelve acres which
they had cleared, erected traditional round mud-brick African
huts with grass thatch roofs, and planted cotton, maize and
tobacco. (Note: Poor soil quality, and insufficient rainfall
result in low agricultural productivity in the area off the
Zimbabwean escarpment on both sides of the border. End
Note.) Many had done day labor for their new neighbors, and
community work for a food-for-work program with
WFP-Mozambique, but, the expected WFP food delivery was
already three weeks behind schedule. In Chikafa, there was
no electricity, no phone anywhere in the area, no running
water, no paved roads, and no school. The nearest health
clinic and school were on the Zimbabwean side. The nearest
school in Mozambique was about twenty kilometers north. They
said they used their severance packages, anywhere between
ZWD$150,000 and ZWD$340,000 (about US$88 - 200), to finance
their transport, seeds and food, but all said those funds
were essentially exhausted. Their clothing was in average
condition, and most of our interlocutors appeared thinner
than average, but not wasting. They reported that they
bought basic foodstuffs and supplies on the Zimbabwean side
with severance money, but these were sometimes confiscated by
Zimbabwean police on the walk back to Mozambique. (Note:
When asked, the Zimbabwean police justified these
confiscations as an attempt to combat smuggling, and insisted
that only very small, personal amounts of foodstuffs could be
exported. End Note.)

5. Although our interlocutors said they were hungry, and that
there was hunger in this area, they said the people in
Mozambique were friendly. Some said they could send their
children to school on the Zimbabwean side (which has
instruction in Shona and English), if they had the school
fees. Others said they would try to send theirs to the
Mozambican school (where instruction is in Shona and
Portuguese). The interviews were conducted in Shona; no
ex-commercial farm workers spoke fluent English or
Portuguese. They seemed comfortable with their
circumstances, and expressed disinterest in moving elsewhere.
They described their exodus and current hunger with a tinge
of sadness, and seemed bitter at being forced out of
Zimbabwe. Due to that experience, and political tension,
they said they would never move back to Zimbabwe even if jobs
became available.

Displaced in Zimbabwe
---------------------
6. Although WFP reports that as many as 1000 ex-commercial
farm worker families are already displaced in Mashonaland
Central province (Ref C), near the border with Mozambique,
and interviews were scheduled with dozens, Poloff was only
able to interview two. The others reportedly feared
reprisals by war veterans for talking to international
officials, and stayed away. The two interviewed had been
forced off a commercial farm near Guruve having received no
severance packages, traveled by public bus to Chikafa (on the
Zimbabwean side) and been allotted twelve acres under similar
circumstances described above.

7. They were born in Zimbabwe of Zimbabwean parents and had
first tried to move back to their ancestral communal area in
September, but were rejected by the community who said that
as ex-commercial farm workers, and suspected MDC supporters,
they could not accept them. Although the village head in
Chikafa had allotted them land, they could not buy maize or
seed from the local Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depot, and
reported a generally unfriendly and threatening reception by
fellow Zimbabweans. They said they had been eating forest
fruit primarily these days. Their compounds were mud-brick
and thatch dwellings, and they seemed to be in the same
physical condition as ex-workers in Mozambique--thinner than
average, but not wasting.

Eating Termites and Forest Fruit
--------------------------------
8. On November 15, Poloff interviewed about fifteen
ex-commercial farm workers on the Thanner farm in Melfort
(about 25 kilometers southeast of Harare) who were eating
dried termites and unripe forest fruit to survive. (Note:
Although dried caterpillars can be found in street markets in
Zimbabwe and are occasionally eaten in a fried sauce over
maize meal, these are not considered a staple. End Note.)
The ex-workers laid out mats on the ground and were drying
what appeared to be a few kilos of termites in the sun, some
with wings still on, others de-winged and ready for
consumption. During the interview, children were gnawing on
small green forest fruit; the workers reported that these
were the only food they had been eating in recent days. They
reported that they were not prevented from buying maize at a
nearby GMB depot for political reasons, but rather, could not
because they simply didn't have the money.

9. There had originally been about 120 farm worker families
at the Thanner farm; twenty had already left. Those
remaining were living in their original dwellings, simple
mud-brick and tin roof huts with no electricity. Some were
working two days a week for ZWD$290 per day (about US$0.17)
for the new settlers who had divided the farm into sixteen
individual plots. The ex-workers had only small vegetable
garden-sized plots around their houses, far too small to
support the annual food needs of a whole family, and no maize
seed. Six of the settlers, mostly civil servants living and
working in Harare, had started to farm their 50 - 160 acre
plots, but ten had never visited the location. The
ex-workers appeared to be in similar physical condition as
their compatriots elsewhere--thin, but not wasting. They
complained of hunger and asked Poloff and his companions for
food assistance. Five to seven war veterans arrived from a
nearby farm, and violently halted the interview beating the
other members of Poloff's party, one severely (Ref A).

Comment:
--------
10. This is the first in a series of reports to characterize
the situation for IDPs. Due to time constraints, Poloff was
unable to confirm the total numbers of ex-commercial farm
workers recently resettled in the Tete province of
Mozambique. Based on the density of villages just across the
border it could easily number into the hundreds of families,
possibly even the JAG reported figure of 900 (4,500 people).
Due to effective intimidation, Poloff was unable to confirm
the plethora of independent reports suggesting that thousands
of families have already moved to other locations within
Zimbabwe. (Note: We have no reason to doubt this estimate
and the likelihood that it is increasing. End Note.) No one
whom Poloff interviewed had been transported by GOZ vehicle,
or involuntarily, though all said they had been "forced" off
the commercial farms.

11. Although the environment in Mozambique was friendly, it
did not seem to be easy. There was little infrastructure,
and people seemed tired of all the work involved in moving,
building a house, and planting on meager nutrition. They
moved and spoke lethargically. They were not dying on their
feet, but without some food assistance in the coming months,
their plights will become dire.

12. The situation for ex-workers in Dande (northern Zimbabwe)
was worse. They had huts, compounds, and farmland, but could
not buy maize or seed from the GMB, and in the politically
threatening environment could not rely on anyone to help.
With meager resources at present, their need for food
assistance seems more acute, and without seed this year, more
prolonged.

13. The situation for ex-workers in Melfort was also very
bad. Their biggest problem seemed to be that they didn't
have enough land on which to grow their own food. Working
for US$0.34 a week was simply not enough to cover their
family food needs. They need food assistance, but, as Poloff
and his party experienced, war veterans controlled the farm
completely. It would seem difficult to design a feeding
program which did not account for the war veterans' control.

14. The fear demonstrated by ex-workers who failed to appear
for interviews with us, and the desperation and tension
experienced on the Thanner farm suggest that the situation is
bad for any ex-commercial farm worker in Zimbabwe. This fear
complicates response planning, as it appears ex-workers would
rather remain unseen than identify themselves for
international assistance, and the unwanted attentions of
neighboring ZANU-PF zealots. End Comment.
SULLIVAN

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