Cablegate: Zim Notes 12-07-2009
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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 070944Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5186
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 3190
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3299
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1726
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2560
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2929
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 3347
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5795
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2478
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000944
AF/S FOR B. WALCH
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND J. HARMON
COMMERCE FOR ROBERT TELCHIN
TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM ECON ZI
SUBJECT: ZIM NOTES 12-07-2009
Topics of the week:
South Africans Mediate Talks...
ZANU-PF Congress Rescheduled for December 8...
Disunity in the Unity Government...
Ambassador's Vehicle Detained by Police...
Threats Escalate in Mudzi...
Cholera Epidemic Less Severe...
Uncertainty for Chiadzwa Residents Continues...
Journalists' Union Holds Congress, Venue Kept Secret...
Zimbabwean Wins Prestigious Literary Award...
No Women Allowed...
Biti's Budget Blowout...
High Gold Price Spurs Production...
Tourist Arrivals Increase...
On the Political and Social Front
2. South African mediators representing President Jacob Zuma were
in Harare this week to talk to ZANU-PF and the two MDCs. We
understand they were mostly in listening mode. Zuma will report to
the SADC Troika which will obviously not meet its goal, established
in Maputo at the Troika Summit on November 5, of resolving
outstanding issues by December 5. With the ZANU-PF Congress
beginning next week and the Christmas season approaching, it's
unlikely there will be any resolution before January.
3. The ZANU-PF Congress, held every five years to elect party
officials and set policy, was originally scheduled for December 8. A
couple of weeks ago, party officials announced they were postponing
it a week. The ostensible reason was a conflict at the venue with an
already-scheduled international civil aviation conference. Some
suspected the delay was motivated by the inability of the party to
raise the necessary funds. Now the Congress has been rescheduled for
the original date of December 8. The reason: President Robert
Mugabe, who never misses, in the face of travel bans, an opportunity
to travel to the West, intends to attend the United Nations Climate
Change Conference in Copenhagen the following week. The civil
aviation conference has been moved.
4. According to a Danish diplomat in Harare, Mugabe and Prime
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai will lead separate delegations to
Copenhagen. Zimbabwe will be the only country represented with two
5. Ambassador Ray's vehicle was detained at a police roadblock in
Harare for over an hour on November 28 (he was not in the car). The
LES driver of the vehicle immediately notified the embassy and the
ARSO arrived on the scene. Police at the roadblock admitted that
they couldn't search the vehicle, but said they had been ordered to
do so by a superior officer who passed the roadblock just ahead of
the Ambassador's car. After numerous phone calls, the driver and
vehicle were eventually allowed to leave. We protested to the MFA,
where officials appeared to be unaware of the incident when meeting
with Ambassador Ray this week. See Harare 929.
6. There were disturbing reports this week from Mudzi, Mashonaland
East, that villagers were called to a venue supposedly to be given
seed only to find on arrival that it was a ZANU-PF meeting, with no
Qseed only to find on arrival that it was a ZANU-PF meeting, with no
seed in sight. Those gathered were threatened they must "surrender"
from the MDC, and that the MDC and Tsvangirai are rubbish. They were
also told that they must vote for the Kariba draft constitution.
7. USAID-funded cholera prevention measures, such as provision of
water purification kits, have contributed to a dramatic decrease in
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cholera incidence and mortality versus last year. The total number
of cases of cholera reported this year is only 1.5% of that reported
at the same time last year: 146 cases, compared to 9,908 in November
2008. Similarly, only five have died from cholera this season,
compared to 412 deaths by the end of November 2008. The good news is
tempered by the fact that the case fatality rate for those
contracting cholera has not declined as dramatically, just a 19%
decrease, suggesting the health system's capacity to treat cholera
has not improved as much as cholera prevention over the same period.
8. Despite reports in The Herald this week that investors in
Chiadzwa have allocated US$10 million to relocate roughly 4,000
villagers living near the lucrative Chiadzwa diamond fields,
Chiadzwa residents remain in the dark about their future. Local NGOs
told us the community has appealed to the government to request
artisanal mining plots and for formal communication about the
government's plan to move them. However, their letters remain
9. The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists' (ZUJ) elective congress
begins December 4, but ZUJ has kept the venue secret to members
"because some politicians have sponsored candidates in a bid to
undermine the union's independence." A committee member from the
previous executive did not have information about the venue late on
December 3 and said he had given up on the organization. ZUJ is the
largest union of journalists with membership from both
government-controlled and privately-owned media.
10. Petina Gappah, a Zimbabwean single mother working in Geneva as
a trade lawyer, received The Guardian's First Book Award this week
in recognition of her impressive collection of short stories, "An
Elegy for Easterly." Gappah's collection of stories has been praised
for its heart-warming, tragic, endearing, and often funny accounts
of Zimbabweans' every day struggles.
11. During a recent visit to Bulawayo (see Harare 938) we were
dismayed that our beautiful hotel, the Bulawayo Club, refused to
allow women in the bar. During our visit, hotel staff enforced the
archaic rule by forcing an Australian diplomat also staying there to
leave the bar, despite her diplomatic protests. The gentlemen's club
was founded in 1895 and fell into serious disrepair until it was
restored as a hotel, partly in preparation for the 2010 World Cup.
When we booked our stay, we didn't realize the colonial architecture
also meant a step back in time to colonial-era gender-based
discrimination. We joined our Australian colleague in complaining to
the hotel management.
On the Economic and Business Front
12. Finance Minister Tendai Biti presented his 2010 budget to
Parliament on December 2. Spending is set to rise by 57 percent over
2009, driven by a 50 percent increase in the public-sector wage bill
Q2009, driven by a 50 percent increase in the public-sector wage bill
and an ambitious investment budget. The projected deficit is over 14
percent of GDP by Biti's estimates and even bigger if the IMF's
projection for GDP is used. Biti plans to close the gaping budget
hole with donor commitments and by selling more than half of the
Reserve Bank's SDRs. So much for fiscal prudence. See Harare 941.
13. The price of gold continues to rise, underpinned by high demand
for the metal amid fears brought about by Dubai's debt problems.
Demand for gold is also buoyed by persistent hopes that more central
banks, especially China, will diversify reserves by buying gold from
the International Monetary Fund. Such developments bode well for
local gold producers who are benefiting from the liberalization of
gold marketing after years of unfavorable operating conditions. As a
result, the country is expected to produce 4.5 tons of gold in 2009
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compared with 3.5 tons produced in 2008.
14. Following the formation of the transitional government and an
improvement in the socio- economic environment, the number of
tourist arrivals has started to climb. Figures from the Zimbabwe
Council of Tourism show that 362,000 people visited Zimbabwe in the
first eight months of 2009 compared with 200,000 visitors in the
corresponding period of 2008. With the soccer world cup tournament
in South Africa fast approaching, the number of tourist arrivals is
expected to rise further in 2010.
Quote of the Week
15. "We know that they (Botswana and the U.S.) have recently
completed upgrading a transmitter site with the specific intention
of upgrading the media terrorism against Zimbabwe and its people."
-- George Charamba, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Media,
Information, and Publicity, accusing the U.S. and Botswana of using
Voice of America and its Botswana-based transmitter to 'beam hate
messages' into Zimbabwe, The Herald, December 4, 2009.