Cablegate: Sadc Secretariat Stands by Its Zimbabwe
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GABORONE 000560
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ZI BC SADC
SUBJECT: SADC SECRETARIAT STANDS BY ITS ZIMBABWE
1. (U) Summary: In an April 7 meeting with AF/S
Director Mozena, SADC Executive Secretary Ramsamy was
adamant that he stood by the SADC observer assessment
of the Zimbabwe election as `peaceful, well managed,
credible and transparent.' Ramsamy suggested cost
sharing between donors and public and private sector as
ways to circumvent the mutual U.S. and SADC bans on
development assistance without Zimbabwe. He seemed to
regret the minimal degree of US-SADC engagement. End
2. (U) AF/S Director Dan Mozena and SADC Executive
Secretary Dr. Prega Ramsamy met on Thursday, April 7,
2005, at the SADC Secretariat. Also attending were DCM
Aroian and Pol/Econ Chief Butterman as note taker.
Ramsamy emphasized that he attached sufficient
importance to this meeting that he had in fact
specifically delayed his departure to Cape Town for a
SADC defense issues meeting.
DEFENDING THE ZIMBABWE ELECTION
3. (SBU) They first discussed the recently-concluded
Zimbabwe elections. Ramsamy defended SADC's assessment
of the elections as "peaceful, well managed, credible
and transparent." Ramsamy's argued that two weeks had
been plenty of time for the 55 SADC observers to assess
the elections. Moreover, ambassadors from SADC
countries had witnessed the run-up. He refused to be
drawn into a discussion as to whether they were "free
and fair," saying this was charged language from the
West. He further continued that "the Americans and
Europeans already declared the Zimbabwe election in
advance as unfree and unfair." Ramsamy insisted the
SADC-Parliamentary Forum had been invited, under the
larger SADC umbrella invitation. Any complaints about
irregularities in the election process had recourse to
a court of appeal, said Ramsamy. In any case, he stated
the elections were a great improvement over those of
4. (SBU) When Mozena suggested the 2000 elections
might not be the best benchmark to use, Ramsamy grew
visibly annoyed. He did admit, however, that some
voters were turned away for valid technical reasons and
that there is `much to be done' with regard to access
to state media by the opposition. Ramsamy also thought
further investigation needed to take place on the role
of food as a political weapon during the election.
"Appropriate action must be taken," he said.
SADC-U.S.COOPERATION: AROUND THE ZIMBABWE OBSTACLE
5. (SBU) The impasse on U.S.-SADC cooperation came up.
Ramsamy maintained what has been SADC's stance for
several years: SADC favored closer collaboration with
the U.S. only if the entire membership of SADC was
included, calling it "our unchangeable position."
Mozena mentioned current areas of cooperation, such as
counter-terrorism, combating trafficking in persons,
and HIV/AIDS, as well as enhancing food security. How
best to expand these was the creative challenge.
Ramsamy regretted that the U.S.-SADC Forum, which he
had helped to launch, had lapsed. He urged that SADC
and the U.S. find a way of "helping each other without
flouting regulations." He cited the example of the
SADC region upper air space study, where private sector
funding is used to support the Zimbabwe component while
USG funding is utilized for the other countries. He
suggested that joint financing, with the EU, or other
cooperating partners, might be a useful mechanism.
6. (SBU) Free trade agreements, as well as food security and
ITC, were also discussed as areas in which the U.S. could
assist SADC. Ramsamy reiterated that the SADC FTA is scheduled
for 2008 implementation and a customs union by 2012, but
because of supply problems in the region, implementation of
both might be staggered. Mozena reminded Ramsamy that the U.S.
was unlikely to support a sequential approach to the U.S. -
Southern African Customs Union FTA currently under discussion.
7. (SBU) Ramsamy, a Mauritian, pointed to Mauritius, which is
turning itself into a virtually duty-free country as a possible
regional model. He noted that SADC will soon have a forum with
India, and consultations with China are to take place in the
future. The discussion concluded cordially, with Mozena
expressing his appreciation for the frank exchange. Ramsamy,
alluding to Zimbabwe, stated that by trying to be more
flexible, situations could change. "It doesn't help to push
people against the wall."
8. (SBU) Comment: Ramsamy is finishing out the last five
months of his contract as SADC Executive Secretary but, to our
knowledge, has never before so strongly defended his
organization on the topic of the Zimbabwean election. We
suspect that, always cautious about speaking for SADC, Ramsamy
knows well that the SADC observation exercise in Zimbabwe was
flawed and sought to make the best of a difficult situation in
which Zimbabwe did not ease the path for the SADC observers.
Ramsamy favors enhanced US-SADC engagement but has no mandate
from SADC governments to do more. End comment.