Cablegate: Business and the Stayaway
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 000619
STATE FOR AF/S
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
USDOC FOR 2037 DIEMOND
PASS USTR ROSA WHITAKER
TREASURY FOR ED BARBER AND C WILKINSON
STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON
E. O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EINV ETRD ZI
SUBJECT: Business and the Stayaway
1. Summary: Zimbabwe's business sector remained mostly
neutral during the opposition-led stayaway March 19-20.
Most companies sympathize with many opposition aims, but
are unwilling to test the wrath of the GOZ. End summary.
2. We have spoken to over a dozen multinational and local
company heads about the stayaway. These firms paid
employees who were prevented from working during the
stayaway. Company reps acknowledged their operations
suffered losses but none seemed overtly hostile to the
opposition tactic. However, several businessmen were
uncomfortable with the prospect of further stayaways,
arguing that industry could not sustain additional
Cost of Stayaways
3. Local economists agree that the cost of stayaways is
formidable. Using very crude data of 70 percent
production stoppage for two of 250 annual workdays, an
industry economist suggested the stayaway may have shaved
as much as .4 percent from 2003 GDP. Since many
companies are already operating at less than full
capacity, however, they may be able to recoup production
losses over the next weeks, mitigating any negative
impact on national output.
The Discomfort of Taking Sides
4. A senior Barclays executive received a phone call from
a high MDC official urging that Barclays not open on the
strike's second day. In part due to its British origins,
this made Barclays extremely uncomfortable, although the
bank was largely closed on the second day anyway.
Another businessman, Anthony Mandiwanza, head of the
Dairiboard as well as the Confederation of Zimbabwe
Industries, said the stayaway was not relevant for
businesses the day before the strike. He took heavy
criticism in the independent press for this remark.
5. Contending with a government that intuitively
distrusts the private sector, companies are loath to
publicly support stayaways or other political protest.
White commercial farmers paid dearly for backing the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in last year's
elections. GOZ officials have already argued that pro-
MDC firms "shut out" employees from work. Where
possible, we expect the private sector will continue to
steer clear of open political engagement.