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Cablegate: Staffdel Visit Illuminates Election Reforms,

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

150513Z Jul 04





E. O. 12958: N/A

REF: (A) HARARE 1110 (B) HARARE 1067

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Staffdel comprised of Majority
Professional Staffperson Joan Condon and Democratic Party
Professional Staffperson Pearl-Alice Marsh of the House
International Relations Committee and USAID Congressional
Liaison Susan Williams met with a host of interlocutors
during a June 29-July 5 visit to Zimbabwe. GOZ officials
charted parameters of recently proposed electoral reforms
but were vague on how such reforms might address difficult
issues such as politically motivated violence and access to
media. Opposition MDC leaders and representatives of civil
society generally recognized that the proposed reforms
offered some opportunity for positive change but were
pessimistic on prospects for adjusting fundamental flaws in
electoral environment and administration. ACTION REQUEST
follows in paragraph 32. END SUMMARY.

Election Commissioner: Unresolved Issues

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2. (SBU) In a meeting in his office June 30, Electoral
Supervisory Commission (ESC) Chairman Sobuza Gula-Ndebele
told the staffdel that he had yet to see a formal draft of
the proposed electoral reforms reportedly approved by the
ZANU-PF Central Committee June 25 (reftel). However, he
said that he had been told that the approved version adopted
in most respects confidential recommendations made by the
ESC. The elements reported in the official press
substantiated this. He noted that his commission had
recommended the Chief Election Officer be appointed by an
independent body, not the president as reportedly designated
in the reported reform package. He predicted this would be
the source of additional debate, and asserted that in any
event the integrity of the appointment(s) could overcome the
manner of selection if tenure and resources were secure.

3. (SBU) Gula-Ndebele confirmed that the changes were
expected to be implemented in time for parliamentary
elections currently scheduled for March. Timing would
present a quandary, however - a constitutional amendment
would be required in order to establish a truly independent
commission with powers contemplated by the reported reforms.
Passing the law and effecting a constitutional amendment in
time to prepare for an election by March would be "a tall
order" regardless of political will. He was unaware of a
set date for implementation but had heard it would be in
August. Difficulties might require postponement of the
election by a few months, a delay to which the parties might
agree. He said study was being given to establishment of a
new commission under existing law, but such an approach
would be "untidy" and could yield a commission of inadequate
authority and compromised independence.

4. (SBU) The Chairman emphasized that sanction power
reportedly being accorded the new commission would
distinguish it positively from his ESC. He said that the
new commission could pursue complaints filed by any party or
pursue matters on its own initiative. The Chief Election
Officer would have administrative authority but could not
overturn any decision of the commission, which would report
to the Parliament, not the President. He expected that the
new commission would be able to draw from a range of
sanctions, including "deduction of votes" for violations by
a party. He said that announced electoral reforms did not
explicitly address "environmental" issues such as
suppression of political violence and access to media but
asserted that the new commission would have authority to act
on such issues. The Chairman said he favored as inclusive
an approach as possible with respect to international
observers, although he conceded that others in the GOZ
disagreed. He noted that deep ruling party suspicion of
donor-funded NGOs was driving efforts to consolidate voter
education efforts under supervision by the ESC or a new
5. (SBU) According to Gula-Ndebele, the new commission
would still have to rely on police to carry out some of its
enforcement orders. He expected that electoral courts
mentioned in media reports would likely not be standing
courts but would be composed of existing High Court and/or
Supreme Court judges and sit on an ad hoc basis. Commitment
of adequate resources to support operation of the
contemplated mechanisms would be a key test of the
government's political will and central to their

6. (SBU) Gula-Ndebele lamented Zimbabwe's highly polarized
political climate, for which he asserted each party bore its
share of blame. He expressed hope that the parties, civil
society and the international community would give the new
commission a fair chance to gain the confidence of all.

Mutasa: No American Observers (and an Aside on Food)
--------------------------------------------- -------

7. (SBU) In a July 2 meeting in his office at ZANU-PF Party
Headquarters (where he is Party Secretary for External
Affairs) Minister for Anti-Corruption and Anti-Monopolies
Didymus Mutasa underscored the great attention being given
electoral reforms by the party leadership. He did not
elaborate on details of the reforms but advised that they
would be consistent with African standards.

8. (SBU) The Minister asserted that Zimbabwe was one of the
most democratic of African nations by any standard and
criticized the USG for applying a double standard against
Zimbabwe. He noted that the same day the USG condemned a
Zimbabwean parliamentary by-election (Zengeza) during which
one person was killed, it accepted the results of a Nigerian
election in which more than two hundred reportedly were
killed. Mutasa said that Zimbabwean voters had "wised up"
to the opposition's ineffectualness and subservience to the
West and predicted a clean sweep for the ruling party in
free and fair elections in March.

9. (SBU) Mutasa reported that the GOZ no longer intended to
submit its elections to Western scrutiny and would not
include "British and Americans" among those invited to
observe its March elections. He proffered an article that
reported U.S. senators calling for regime change in Zimbabwe
as evidence of malign USG intentions. When pressed by Marsh
on the issue of American observers, he chuckled that he
would make an exception only for her.

10. (SBU) When questioned about Zimbabwe's food security,
Mutasa said that the GOZ was confident it had enough
production to meet domestic demand for food. He conceded
that estimates could prove wrong, however, and urged that
the international community be prepared to respond quickly
should the country later find itself unable to meet its food

The Speaker: Give New Commission a Chance

10. (SBU) At a meeting July 5 in his office at ZANU-PF
Headquarters (where he is Party Secretary for
Administration), Speaker of the Parliament Emmerson
Mnangagwa opened with a long and familiar exposition on the
history of land reform and bilateral relations. He
acknowledged that "mistakes had been made" in the
implementation of land reform but that the GOZ was working
hard to redress injustices and maladministration identified
by the Utete Commission report. The country was not in the
process of consolidating gains and focusing on restoring
production levels through support to new farmers.

11. (SBU) Turning to elections, Mnangagwa emphasized that
Zimbabwe had always conducted its elections in timely manner
and accordance with the Constitution. He conceded that the
MDC had presented ZANU-PF with a serious challenge in the
last national parliamentary elections but that the ruling
party had responded well. After recovering four
parliamentary seats in by-elections since then, the party
was confident it would do better this time. Blair's
statement on the floor of Parliament that exposed his
government's collaboration with the MDC would hurt the
opposition's prospects. Mnangagwa asserted that reversal of
the country's economic decline would further boost the
ruling party's prospects.

12. (SBU) The Speaker briefly described anticipated
electoral reforms that were consistent with the package
described by Gula-Ndebele. He said that the government had
adopted the proposals, which would be forwarded to the
appropriate parliamentary portfolio committee before being
considered by the full legislature. The committee would
conduct public hearings on the proposals, on which all
stakeholders would get an opportunity to offer input.

13. (SBU) Mnangagwa conceded that there had been security
problems in the conduct of some elections, particularly
since the rise of the opposition in the late 1990's. Even
so, elections were much more peaceful than those in the
early days of independence. He expressed confidence that
electoral reforms would address such problems. The
independent election commission would deal with
environmental issues like media access and an election court
would thresh out disputes fairly and quickly. He urged that
the new system be given a chance. He observed that many
Zimbabwean families had members from both major parties and
predicted that Zimbabwe would eventually achieve a non-
polarized polity like America's, given time.

Opposition: Borrowed Election Reforms Inadequate
--------------------------------------------- ---

14. (SBU) In a July 1 meeting in the Ambassador's office,
MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Secretary General
Gift Chimanikire briefed the staffdel on the opposition's
situation and posture with respect to elections. Tsvangirai
judged that the election's outcome was predetermined,
regardless of reforms. The imploding economy, a compromised
judiciary, inadequate access to media, and a government
defiant to national and international opinion stacked the
deck against the MDC.

15. (SBU) According to Tsvangirai, the government's
announced electoral reforms were an admission that the
existing framework was unfair. He noted that many of the
reforms were taken from the MDC's playbook. Nonetheless,
the proposals appeared not to address fully the five
conditions laid out in the MDC "RESTORE" election demand
document: rule of law (disbanding of militia, de-
politicization of police); independent election commission;
restoration of basic rights (repeal of AIPPA, POSA); popular
confidence in system (adjustments to voting process; and
integrity of voting secrecy. The party would continue to
mobilize domestic and international support for
implementation of SADC standards. Tsvangirai reiterated
that participating in elections without the MDC's conditions
being met would be futile, and the party would reserve
decision on a potential boycott. In the meantime, it would
continue to collaborate on a platform with civil society,
whose support he considered crucial.

16. (SBU) Tsvangirai recognized the potentially important
role of churches in effecting change. He reported that the
Mutare bishops troika had informed the party of ruling party
plans on electoral reforms. The troika had acted as a
conduit in conveying to ZANU-PF the MDC's election demands
as set out in RESTORE.

17. (SBU) Chimanikire reported on a meeting the previous
week in South Africa between MDC Secretary General Welshman
Ncube, Vice President Gibson Sibanda, himself, and South
African President Mbeki. The MDC delegation told Mbeki that
there had been no movement on talks with ZANU-PF. They
urged the need to have a joint parliamentary-presidential
election and for Mugabe to commit to step down. (Note: The
next presidential election is slated for 2008. End note.)
Mbeki had told them he expected the ZANU-PF politburo by the
end of June would authorize a negotiating delegation.

18. Tsvangirai asserted that Mbeki remained potentially
crucial but lamented that Mbeki never used the personal
channel established between them. He observed that Mbeki
tended to use indirect means to communicate and had made
misrepresentations in the past, leading to an "uneasiness"
between them. Tsvangirai noted that the party would
continue to reach out to other African leaders, and that
Sibanda was seeking meetings with the leaders of Senegal,
Ghana, Kenya, and the AU. He urged that the USG maintain
pressure on Mbeki and others in the region, particularly
with an eye to next month's scheduled SADC Summit in

19. (SBU) In a July 3 meeting with the staffdel in his
home, MDC MP and Secretary for Legal Affairs David Coltart
elaborated further on election themes. Some of the proposed
election reforms would be helpful to the MDC but not
decisively so. The party was very cash-strapped and
handicapped by the ruling party's exploitation of state
machinery for campaign purposes. Despite intimidation and
other challenges, the MDC was remarkably healthy, albeit
quiet for now. It was mobilizing for elections, and he
reported that he had received 100 percent support in a local
caucus to confirm his candidacy in the upcoming election.

20. (SBU) Coltart asserted that the ruling party had no
intention of allowing the opposition to win more than a few
token seats in March. According to Coltart, ruling party
fears of retribution over massacres during the 1980s and
vested interests accumulated during the past four years of
land reform squelched any hope that the party could reform
itself. He predicted that its pervasively oppressive
character would not change regardless of the outcome of
elections or the health of the opposition. Even government
institutions such as the legislature and judiciary would
remain incapable of exerting independent checks and
balances. Only decisive internal and external pressure
could force change.

21. (SBU) Coltart characterized ZANU-PF's election platform
as built on four central lies: the economy was improving; a
bumper harvest was in; the GOZ was attacking corruption; and
the MDC was finished. He claimed that much of the
international community had bought into some or all of these
lies. He emphasized the importance of the international
community remaining resolute in the face of growing stasis.
Given the centrality of food manipulation to ruling party
control of the populace, it was essential that donors
planned an effective response to the inevitable GOZ plea for
food aid once the elections were concluded to the ruling
party's satisfaction. In this vein, Coltart recognized that
the truly needy had to be supported but urged that donors
use their leverage to force the GOZ to open their books, de-
politicize food, and establish more effective and
transparent political and economic policies. He noted that
the generosity of countries like the United States had
allowed the regime to survive to date.

22. (SBU) In closing, Coltart urged the USG to use United
Nations organs to press the GOZ. He sought support for a
"responsibility to protect" doctrine advocated by the
Canadian Prime Minister at the most recent UNGA as a
foundation for responsible humanitarian intervention.

Civil Society: International Community Must Press
--------------------------------------------- ----

23. (SBU) At a lunch with the staffdel June 30 at USAID, a
group of prominent NGO representatives offered perspectives
on the upcoming elections. Many cast outside engagement as
potentially decisive in balancing the electoral playing
field and some credited South African pressure with ZANU-
PF's proposed reforms. The upcoming SADC summit could prove
pivotal to the ruling party's ability to sell its election
to domestic and international audiences; as such, it
offered the international community a point of leverage that
should be exploited. Specifically, the USG should press
individual SADC members to adopt meaningful standards in
Mauritius. Of central importance was going beyond election
administration to address environmental issues like media
access, freedom to campaign, and political violence.

24. (SBU) One participant cited growing tensions within the
party as contributing to some impetus for reform. Old
ideologues who were not genuine reformists were supporting
reforms for short-term political gain within the context of
internal personality-driven power struggles. While Mugabe's
supremacy was unchallenged, internal party elections and
power shifts could have a tremendous impact on the conduct
of future elections and the health of civil society. That
said, the ruling party lacked any genuine constituents for
reform and the witch-hunt atmosphere prevailing under the
party's counter-corruption efforts was chilling open
discussion and fueling counter-productive posturing.

25. (SBU) Echoing Gula-Ndebele, some noted potential
constitutional complications associated with the reform
proposals. Postponement of elections until June - permitted
by the Constitution and not without precedent - might be
advisable. Representatives recounted a familiar litany of
problems in the election environment: a climate of impunity
for violent ruling party supporters, opposition's
inaccessibility to media outlets, contraction of the
independent media, Tsvangirai's outstanding treason trial
verdict, and abuse of food. Placement of National Youth
Service graduates ("Green Bombers") throughout the civil
service and economy to spy on and intimidate the general
populace was cited as a growing systemic problem. Domestic
politics in South Africa presented an additional
complication: the land issue's continued importance there
and the fact that many South Africans regarded Mugabe as a
"messiah" had to weigh heavily in any South African
politician's calculations on policy toward Zimbabwe.

Bishops: Still Engaged

26. At a dinner with the staffdel at the Ambassador's
residence June 30, Bishops Trevor Manhanga and Patrick
Mutume (Bishop Bakare, the troika's third pillar, was unable
to attend) described their views on elections and related
issues. They advised that ZANU-PF Party Chairman John Nkomo
outlined for them the previous week elements of planned
electoral reform essentially consistent with reported
versions. They also met at length with ZANU-PF Information
Secretary (and Mugabe confidant) Nathan Shamuyarira at

length. Nkomo had conceded the procedural and timing
difficulties presented by the apparent need for a
constitutional amendment in order to establish an
independent election commission. The bishops said any issue
implicating a schedule for Mugabe's departure appeared

27. (SBU) The bishops concluded that the reforms were
"serious" but said that Nkomo was unable to offer specifics
on key issues, such as the commission's actual independence.
"Chinamasa (Minister for Justice) is still working on them."
The bishops were led to believe that current Registrar-
General Mudede and Minister for Home Affairs Mohadi would
have no meaningful role in implementing the reformed system.
28. (SBU) The bishops advised that they would seek to meet
with Mbeki and Tanzanian President Mkapa in an effort to
stimulate more pressure on Mugabe within the SADC community.
They characterized Mbeki as frustrated; he realized that
Mugabe did not view him as a peer. The bishops suggested
that on a personal level, Mozambican President Chissano and
Kenneth Kaunda would have better rapport with Mugabe. Mbeki
remained a potentially pivotal player, however, and had
suggested earlier that Mugabe agreed to move a Presidential
election up to 2005.

29. (SBU) The bishops explained that the ruling party's
proposed electoral reforms were intended principally for
external consumption but could be complicated by succession
politics within the ruling party. ZANU-PF remained a united
party to the outside world but conflicting aspirations to
the presidency were fragmenting and paralyzing it within.

Other Meetings

30. (SBU) During their visit here, the staffdel also met
separately with Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono (ref A);
local directors of from World Food Program, World Vision,
CARE, and Catholic Relief Services; displaced farm workers;
representatives of Justice for Agriculture; members of the
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN); and a bipartisan
group of parliamentarians. They also visited a number of
USAID-funded projects, including business opportunity
centers, a center to support AIDS orphans, and a clinic that
promotes the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of


31. (SBU) The staffdel visit presented a timely opportunity
to canvass major players on proposed electoral reforms that
occupy center political stage here. The wide-ranging
discussions confirmed our assessment that the government
assembled its proposals without much formal input from the
outside but drew significantly from outside ideas - indeed,
the ESC, the MDC, and South Africa all appear to be in
position to take some credit. The opposition and civil
society appear prepared to engage seriously on the issues
but are not optimistic that the playing field will be

32. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: We share the view that the ruling
party's efforts in this area are geared largely to a
regional audience. Treatment of election standards at the
August SADC Summit in Mauritius appears to be a diplomatic
priority for the GOZ and, as such, a potential point of
leverage. In that vein, we would urge renewed USG efforts
to engage SADC members to have SADC endorse the so-called
SADC-PF election norms and standards and, either
individually or as a group, to undertake efforts to press
the GOZ to address election environment issues (media
access, freedom to campaign, political violence) beyond the
proposed electoral reforms.

33. (U) The staffdel did not have the opportunity to clear
this message.


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