Cablegate: Ga-Ga for Gono
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 001110
STATE FOR AF/S
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
USDOC FOR AMANDA HILLIGAS
TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW
PASS USTR FLORIZELLE LISER
STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON
E. O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAID BTIO EINV ECON PGOV ZI
SUBJECT: GA-GA FOR GONO
1. (SBU) Summary: During their visit to Harare, the
Staff Delegation lunched with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
(RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono. The conversation touched upon
the local economy and the international community, land
nationalization, food security and recent food deals,
electoral reform, and Zanu-PF rivalries. End summary.
LOCAL ECONOMY AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
2. (SBU) Gono repeated his goals of reducing inflation to
200% by year-end and accounting for every penny of
foreign exchange. RBZ has US$30 million (about two weeks'
cover) in reserves.
3. (SBU) Gono appealed for help from the international
community, stating Zimbabwe's economy could do a lot
better with financial assistance. In his meetings with
Treasury and IMF in Washington, he was encouraged by
praise for recent RBZ actions to stabilize the economy.
He congratulated Treasury for being forthright and laying
their cards on the table. This is his nice way of
acknowledging both USG skepticism and his understanding
the message- the need for political and economic reforms.
4. (SBU) Gono confirmed that 99- and 25-year leases
applied only to land acquired through fast track land
reform. He agreed the 25-year lease term was insufficient
both for profit generation and as collateral for loans.
He is working to move the leases to 50 years or more.
(The American conservancy owner has secured a meeting
with Gono for July 7 and will discuss this point.) Gono
also stated that farmers would be compensated for
improvements after expiration or termination of a lease.
(Note: The old commercial farmers are still waiting for
promised compensation for their improvements and
equipment. Gono called this an "administrative issue".
End Note.) GOZ continues to list properties for
acquisition a year after declaring land reform complete.
There is, therefore, no end yet to the amount of land
that would be nationalized.
5. (SBU) The Land Ministry's Permanent Secretary's
(PermSec) recent statements to the German Charge
partially contradict Gono's assessment of the
nationalization plan. The PermSec asserted that GOZ
policy was to take all designated land regardless of
court orders or bilateral investment agreements. GOZ will
acquire all land owned by MDC supporters. Although not
news policy wise, it is surprising that a GOZ official
would state the policy so baldly to a foreign diplomat.
FOOD SECURITY AND RECENT FOOD DEALS
6. (SBU) Gono again dismissed the 2.4 million tones of
maize as fantasy, adding that the RBZ was conducting its
own assessment to be completed in two weeks. Preliminary
results suggest 1.3 million tones of maize. Gono
conducted his own study because the RBZ would be expected
to provide foreign exchange to cover any deficit from the
official figures. Gono instructed the acting Finance
Minister to present the findings to Cabinet, threatening
to speak publicly if he does not. Gono also distanced
himself from recent statements by Minister Chombo
regarding kicking NGOs out of the country.
7. (SBU) Gono recognizes that donors must decide where to
deliver assistance. If WFP tears down its infrastructure,
rebuilding could not occur overnight. He hopes RBZ's food
assessment will force Cabinet to change its position and
allow continued donor assistance, especially to rural
school children and the HIV/AIDS affected.
8. (SBU) Gono explained the news reports of a food deal
between GOZ and Sentry Financial. In 1999, GOZ struck a
five-year deal to pre-sell Zimbabwe tobacco in exchange
for financing maize purchases. GOZ committed 80 million
tons of tobacco each year to Diamond, the largest tobacco
purchaser in the world. Sentry financed the deal with
US$700 million. This year, due to land reform-induced
production declines, GOZ allocated 30 million tons. The
current maize shipments are actually deferments from last
year. Apparently, GOZ deferred receipt of the maize due
to the over-worked Mozambiquean ports, the over-taxed
Zimbabwean railroad system, and storage charges. Gono was
exasperated with Agricultural Minister Made's deal
denial, wondering aloud why he felt the need to hide it.
9. (SBU) Gono claimed a lack of expertise in this arena.
(Note: An unusual admission for someone who has his hands
in everything). However, he highlighted the most recent
election reforms announced by the Politburo. These
reforms include an independent Election Commission that
Gono hopes to change from a president-appointed
chairperson to an independent one. Congressional Staff
emphasized that the commission must be able to timely
receive complaints, make decisions, and have the means to
enforce those decisions. The new policies could be
implemented for the March 2005 parliamentary elections.
Gono also suggested that constitutional reforms and
simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections
next year were still a possibility despite Mugabe's
recent statements that he intended to serve out his term.
10. (SBU) Governor Gono equated reports of use of GOZ
food as an election weapon with GOZ claims that donors
inserted pamphlets in maize bags promoting the MDC-
largely hearsay and founded in deep suspicion. This
seemed a bit flippant. There is no doubt that individuals
have often had to show their Zanu-PF identity card before
they can access GOZ maize. He also suggested Zimbabweans
are independent-minded and will simply take assistance
from whoever offers while voting for who they want to
anyway. Congressional Staff responded that it is pretty
hard to remain independent when your stomach is empty.
11. (SBU) Gono suggested Zanu-PF extremists (read
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo) were the main
obstacle to press freedoms. The problem could be resolved
in approximately two months, although he made no mention
of the The Daily News or The Tribune (both independent
dailies GOZ closed down).
12. (SBU) The extremists give Gono headaches and prevent
him from doing his job. He cannot engage with civil
society, the MDC, and the international community with
some of their public statements. Their misrepresentations
also force him to cover their mistakes.
13. (SBU) Daggers are drawn over food security,
especially with RBZ's assessment showing 1.3 million tons
of maize. Gono stated this issue would be heated in up-
coming Cabinet meetings and he hopes that GOZ will revise
its estimates to allow donors to continue their work.
14. (SBU) Information Minister Jonathan Moyo is
apparently in trouble. There is recognition that he has
become a liability rather than an asset. Moyo apparently
has been called before a Zanu-PF disciplinary committee
to explain recent attacks on several party elders like
Vice-President Msika, Land Minister (and Zanu-PF party
chairman) Nkomo, Matabeleland heavy Damiso Dabengwa, and
Zanu-PF Information Officer Nathan Shamuyarira.
15. (SBU) Gono continued his charm offensive. He
emphasized the need for engagement with the international
community, between Zanu-PF and MDC, and within the
differing Zanu-PF factions, especially his unique ability
to facilitate all of the above. He repeated several
stories of his crucial involvement in brokering deals
between the World Bank and both Made and Nkomo as well as
his friendships with the MDC leadership (growing up with
Morgan Tsvangirai, giving Welshman Ncube a leave of
absence from the University of Zimbabwe, and teaching
most of the leadership as college students). Gono also
emphasized his role with civil society through his RBZ
policy board. (Note: Gono failed to mention that ZCTU
declined to participate without significant governmental
reform. End Note.) Gono claims the confidence of
President Mugabe as his personal banker.
16. (SBU) Gono is some combination of Uriah Heep in
describing his humble beginnings and "modest influence"
and show-off in listing his hundreds of friends and close
access to the President. He describes himself as
resisting every evil and fighting every good fight. The
test is how many good fights he can win.
17. (SBU) Gono mentioned he served both as the Chair of
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and Chair of the
Economics Department at the University of Zimbabwe. He
repeatedly mentioned his study of American presidents and
produced tapes of President Ronald Reagan's speeches that
he said he listens to in his car. He recently received a
copy of President Clinton's autobiography.
18. (SBU) Note: Staffdel left post prior to reviewing
this message. End Note.