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Cablegate: Government of Zimbabwe Cancels Critically

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000768

SIPDIS

AID FOR DCHA/FFP LANDIS, CRUMBLY, MUTAMBA,
PETERSEN
DCHA/OFDA FOR PRATT, BARTON, KHANDAGLE,
MENGHETTI, BORNS, MARX, HALMRAST-SANCHEZ
AFR/SA FOR FLEURET, LOKEN, COPSON, MACNAIRN
EGAT FOR HOBGOOD, THOMPSON
STATE/AF FOR RAYNOR
PRETORIA FOR DISKIN, HALE, SINK, REYNOLDS
ROME FOR FODAG FOR LAVELLE, DAVIS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL US ZI
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT OF ZIMBABWE CANCELS CRITICALLY
NEEDED CROP AND FOOD SUPPLY ASSESSMENT MISSION WITHOUT
EXPLANATION.

Refs: (a) Harare 00569 (b) Harare 00646

1. Summary. Less than a week after it started, the
Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) canceled the World Food
Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization's
FAO) long-awaited crop and food supply assessment
mission (CFSAM), which was expected to provide the most
authoritative estimates to date of the country's grain
harvest. The GOZ orally informed the UN Agencies of
the cancellation and has yet to confirm it in writing,
although the UN has requested written confirmation
several times. The GOZ has provided neither an
explanation nor justification for its decision.
Speculation abounds amongst donors as to the reason.
The implications for this action are far reaching, both
in terms of the lack of credible data on which any
potential food appeal can be based, and in terms of
prospects for GOZ-donor coordination of humanitarian
assistance. End summary.

2. Despite initial rumors that the GOZ would not
allow the CFSAM, the GOZ requested in writing in late
March that the UN agencies conduct the assessment. In
fact, a number of donors congratulated the GOZ on its
decision to move forward with the CFSAM at a UN
sponsored meeting on March 31st between the donors and
the GOZ (see Reftel A). Donors noted to Minister of
Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare, Paul
Mangwana, who represented the GOZ at this meeting, that
the CFSAM would, hopefully, reveal authoritative data
on the country's harvest, based on which donors would
be able to begin initial planning regarding possible
support for food and other humanitarian assistance.
With the cancellation of the CFSAM, all major donors
agree that it is difficult, at best, to justify the
need for continued food assistance.

3. WFP/FAO started field work on the CFSAM on
Saturday, May 1, 2004, almost two weeks after UN
agencies and the GOZ began field work on a
vulnerability assessment (which just concluded). The
day before the CFSAM field work was scheduled to begin,
however, the Ministry of Agriculture refused to let
donors participate as observers, contrary to long-
standing practice in Zimbabwe and other countries. The
GOZ proffered no real explanation for this decision.
Several days after UN agencies and donors complained
about the decision to exclude donor officials as
observers on the CFSAM, the GOZ announced the
cancellation of the assessment.

4. The GOZ continues to maintain publicly, and in
private meetings with UN officials, that the grain
harvest will be sufficient to meet the country's needs
- approximately 1.8 million metric tons. If the
harvest is less than projected, the GOZ insists that it
will import grain to fill any gap from its own
resources. Most donors believe that the GOZ's harvest
projections are wildly inflated and that the GOZ has
significant financial constraints that would impair its
ability to import substantial amounts of grain. [Note:
European Unions (EU) officials in country assert that
the GOZ has obtained a US$60 million line of credit
backed by tobacco futures, with which it has already
contracted to import approximately 210,000 metric tons
of grain. End Note.] In addition to the domestic
harvest and imports, the GOZ's existing grain stockpile
will be an important factor to consider. At this
point, however, the GOZ has still refused to offer any
information to confirm the reported 200-300,000 metric
tons of grain in its silos or plans for distribution.
Most donors believe that the GOZ has been releasing
stocks from the silos of its Grain Marketing Board, in
anticipation of the upcoming harvest and imports. This
belief is consistent with the relatively good
availability of maize on the open market. EU officials
speculate that current stocks may only be as high as 50-
60,000 metric tons.

5. Speculation varies amongst donors as to the
reasons for the GOZ's latest obstinacy. Some believe
that the 4 days of research the CFSAM had concluded
thus far was indicating a significantly lower harvest
than the GOZ's public pronouncements. Faced with
potential embarrassment, the GOZ decided to cancel the
assessment mission. Post believes this explanation is
unlikely. The GOZ's harvest projections have been way
off the mark for several years running and the risk of
embarrassment has never seemed to be motivating factor
for the GOZ. The more likely explanation is that this
current action is part of the GOZ's electioneering
strategy. With the scheduled March 2005 Parliamentary
elections approaching, the GOZ has an interest in
controlling the vast majority of food stocks. For the
same reasons, the GOZ would be reluctant to have
substantial numbers of international and NGO staff in
the field who would be positioned to observe its
election tactics. This analysis is consistent with
increasing reports of NGO harassment in rural areas.

6. Comment: Whatever the reasons for the GOZ's
decision, it signals to donors that the GOZ is
uninterested in cooperation with the international
community on humanitarian assistance, even to assess
the state of the country's crop. Although all major
donors express concern about the prospect of the GOZ
controlling most grain stocks as we enter the
Parliamentary election cycle, at the same time, the
lack of any credible data on the harvest and the GOZ's
unwillingness to collaborate on even the simplest
actions mean that the international community is unable
at this time to mount or even plan for food assistance
for the coming season. The UN, for its part, intends
to express strong public disappointment at the GOZ
decision. The recently concluded vulnerability
assessment may reveal some useful information to enable
initial planning, but a number of observers and
analysts have questioned the quality of the data -
apparently due to inadequate training of the surveyors.
For the immediate future, donors will have to take a
wait and see position on food assistance. We are
working closely with other donors to examine options to
do a comprehensive assessment or to pull together crop
assessments that some NGOs conducted recently in the
districts in which they work. End Comment
SULLIVAN

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