Cablegate: Zimbabwe Waffling On Effort to Control Food Relief

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





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In meetings with House International
Relations Committee Africa Subcommittee staffer Malik Chaka
August 20-21, Minister for Special Affairs (and ZANU-PF Party
Chairman) John Nkomo and Minister of Public Service, Labor
and Social Services July Moyo emphasized the government's
priority on assuring smooth relations with the international
humanitarian relief community. They maintained that a
recently announced policy requiring food assistance to be
channeled through village headmen was meant to assure broader
and more transparent distribution, and not to disrupt or to
politicize distrubution. During the past week, the
government appears to be softening its stance, at least in
response to the donors. WFP/UNDP is currently negotiating an
MOU with the government that will clarify policy. END

2. (SBU) Nkomo told Chaka on August 20 that a new GOZ policy
issue on August 14 requiring humanitarian food relief to be
administered through village headmen and rural councils was
intended to enhance transparency and local involvement.
(NOTE: The government quietly promulgated the policy in July
but only publicized and began attempting to implement it in
August. The policy, which was announced in provincial level
meetings with NGOs, severely limits NGO involvement in
selecting beneficiaries and undertraking physical
distrubtion, both of these functions being transferred to
headmen and rural councils dominated by ZANU-PF. The initial
meetings were attended by Minister of Social Welfare Moyo and
Foreign Minister Mudenge, who reportedly spoke to the NGOs
present in harsh and confrontational terms. END NOTE)

3. (SBU) Nkomo reported that there had problems in local
distribution efforts, including efforts by some relief
workers to politicize the distribution. Headmen knew the
local communities most closely and were best situated to
administer distribution in a manner that would fully address
the beneficiaries' needs. Nkomo emphasized that the headmen
were not in the government; district administrators and other
government representatives could monitor distributions but
could not control application of eligibility criteria. He
emphasized that transparency and broader distibution were the
policy's principal objectives. Nkomo said that he understood
Chaka's and Ambassador Sullivan's concerns that the policy
would disrupt and politicize food distribution and assured
them the government would work with relevant donors on

4. (SBU) Moyo essentially echoed Nkomo's points in a meeting
with Chaka and Ambassador Sullivan on August 21. He
maintained that the policy was not new, it merely
memorialized practices already in effect -- a catalogue of
best practices in effect. He assured that donors would
maintain control over their programs by setting criteria and
closely monitoring distributions undertaken by headmen. He
noted the value of international efforts but asserted that
they generated numerous local complaints -- more so than
government food distributions. The new policy was intended
to minimize such complaints. Moyo reported that, discounting
WFP commitments and government purchases, Zimbabwe may still
be 600,000 tons short of meeting its food needs, underscoring
the importance of continued close collaboration with the
international community.

4. (SBU) Chaka's visit to a World Vision distribution event
in rural Matabeleland South on August 25 disclosed no
disruption in the donor's control of its operation but UNDP
reported that its staff had begun to get pressure related to
the policy. UNDP and WFP have met with Mugabe and with the
Ministry and reported that the government appears prepared to
back-track. Donors will seek to secure control over
distribution operations through a WFP/UNDP MOU with the
government. The MOU expired in November 2002 and is being
renegotiated. The bilateral MOUs between the GOZ and our
three C-SAFE partners also will need to be signed again for a
one-year period before the new year.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: The policy document appears to have been a
clumsy government effort to get the upper hand in MOU
negotiations that were underway before its promulgation. The
government has backed down from similar attempts to gain
control of food distribution in the past, but UNDP has
expressed concern that GOZ attitudes seem to be hardening
(septel). Sharpening the GOZ's imperative now is that the
Grain Marketing Board, the government's food distribution
organ, now lacks sufficient resources to begin to feed
traditional constituencies in its politically driven domestic
relief efforts. The government is loath to turn over such
constituencies to international relief and thereby relinquish
ZANU-PF influence over its heartland. The donors have told
UNDP that the proposed new rules of the game are not
acceptable and have urged the UNDP to take a tough line in
negotiating the MOU. Proposed USG policy position will
follow septel.

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