United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan failed to pin down Special Affairs Minister John Nkomo who was also the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front chairman on the progress or way forward on the inter-party talks with the Movement for Democratic Change.
Nkomo said fast-tracking the talks could be hazardous. When told by the ambassador that this could equally apply to land redistribution, Nkomo said there were no formalised structures in place yet.
There were teams on both sides seeking to define structures that would eventually permit issues to be collated. He stressed that this should be the central focus of the dialogue. A merger of the MDC and ZANU-PF should not be the focus.
Nkomo said that it would be necessary to address root causes and not dwell on the symptoms, as in the past.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1782, MINISTER OF STATE NKOMO ON INTERPARTY TALKS: HASTE
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
110714Z Sep 03
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001782
STATE FOR AF, A/S KANSTEINER AND PDAS SNYDER; AF/S FOR
DELISI AND RAYNOR
NSC FOR SENIOR DIRECTOR FRAZER
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/11/2008
SUBJECT: MINISTER OF STATE NKOMO ON INTERPARTY TALKS: HASTE
REF: A) HARARE 1711 B) PRETORIA 4820
Classified By: DCM REWHITEHEAD DUE TO 1.5 (B) AND (D).
¶1. (c) Summary. The Ambassador met with Minister of State
for Special Affairs John Nkomo on September 10 as a follow up
to last month’s meeting (ref a). The talks centered on
HIV/AIDS programs, the role of NGOs in distributing
humanitarian food assistance, the status of interparty
dialogue, and a snippet on ZANU-PF internal mechanisms.
Nkomo was long on bonhomie but short on substance. His take
on interparty dialogue — there is no hurry here — was not
reassuring. We should consider how we can best use the South
Africans to prod the GOZ to speed up its go-slow approach to
political reconciliation. End summary.
¶2. (sbu) Nkomo kicked off the meeting by expressing GOZ
appreciation for the USG’s “mildly positive” statement on the
recent mayoral and urban council elections. The Ambassador
responded that our goal for any statement is objectivity. He
turned the conversation to Mopane Junction, a popular
USAID-funded radio serial dealinig with HIV/AIDS issues that
was peremptorily taken off the air by the Ministry of
Information (MOI) two months ago. The Ambassador reported
that there were positive indications that the MOI would
relent and resume Mopane Junction broadcasts in October.
Nkomo said that strong support from the Minister of Health
had turned the tide and commented that “the troubled waters”
had complicated this issue, referring to an embassy press
release critical of the MOI decision. The Ambassador replied
that we had taken a patient approach to the MOI decision and
had gone public only as a last resort. The important thing
was that the program would be back on the air. Nkomo
Humanitarian Food Aid
¶3. (sbu) The Ambassador recounted the meeting (ref a) in
which Minister of Labor and Social Welfare July Moyo had
assured House staffer Malik Chaka that there would be no
changes in food distribution procedures this year. Moyo had
passed similar assurances to WFP/UNDP in separate meetings.
It was a fact, however, that the written policy from his
ministry did not say this. We had also received reports of
NGOs being “strongly warned” about their field activities.
WFP was presently negotiating an MOU with the ministry, and
we hoped that it would reflect a continued central role for
NGOs that respected the need for distributing food on an
¶4. (sbu) Nkomo replied that President Mugabe had repeatedly
assured WFP Director James Morris that food distribution
would be impartial. He added the caveat that some NGOs had
in the past not respected “understandings” with the
government. They hired representatives with their own
agendas who were not always properly behaved. The Ambassador
said that in practice food distribution on the ground so far
looked like last year’s. We hoped that it would remain so.
Nkomo asked that the donors report when and where problems
crop up — the GOZ could be of help. The Ambassador agreed
that we should work together to assure that no local
government official or individual NGO employee deviates from
the criteria of providing food to those who most need it.
¶5. (c) The Ambassador recalled reassuring statements Nkomo
had made (ref a) on the dialogue, a comment that sent Nkomo
into a convoluted circumlocution, the bottom line being that
“fast-tracking can be hazardous.” The Ambassador observed
that this could well be said of the land redistribution
exercise. Nkomo pressed on that he had explained to the
Ambassador that there was not yet in place any formalized
structures. There were teams on both sides seeking to define
structures that would eventually permit issues to be
collated. He stressed that this should be the central focus
of the dialogue; an MDC/ZANU-PF merger should not be the
¶6. (c) Nkomo continued that it would be necessary to address
root causes and not dwell on the symptoms, as in the past.
Pre-eminent issues should be brought to the forefront. He
noted that the constitution was under debate by both sides
and stated that this was a proper starting point. The
Ambassador asked if the mechanism for transition to a
government operating under a new constitution would be one
constitutional issue under examination. Nkomo dithered,
noting that general elections were only a year away,
obviating the need to focus on transition arrangements. The
Ambassador replied that the elections were in fact scheduled
for 2005. Nkomo said that in addition to discussing the
constitution, the dialogue would ideally result in
identifying and correcting past abuses. He was encouraged by
new laws that explicitly recognized the existence of the
opposition. The atmosphere was much improved, In fact, he
expansively noted, when the environment came right, he
suspected that neither side would find that there was much to
talk about. The Ambassador asked Nkomo what the timing for
all this might be. Nkomo dithered further and concluded that
the constitution was a good starting point.
Developments in ZANU-PF
¶7. (sbu) The Ambassador queried Nkomo on the significance of
announced internal ZANU-PF elections in advance of the
December party congress: party districts in September,
district coordinating committees in October, and provincial
level elections in November. (Note. One independent
newspaper optimistically attempted to portray these as a
prelude to Mugabe’s retirement in the near future. End
note.) Nkomo explained these as an upward cascade that would
eventually lead to the election of the most senior officials,
including the party presidency. Nkomo noted that major
migrations within Zimbabwe have wreaked havoc with local
party structures. The upcoming elections would rectify this.
Presidential Secretary Willard Chiwewe and an MFA official
backstopped Nkomo; the DCM accompanied the Ambassador.
¶8. (c) We score Nkomo 9.8 on form and 2 on substance. His
comments, unfocused as they were, seemed to confirm MDC
President Morgan Tsvangirai’s concerns, reported septel, that
ZANU-PF is in no hurry to press ahead with the interparty
dialogue. We are getting hints from numerous ZANU-PF sources
that 2005 is the soonest that any significant change might
take place. This is obviously not acceptable from either an
economic or a social point of view. We believe that it would
be worthwhile to suggest to the South Africans in our
pre-UNGA consultations (ref b) the need for them to prod the
GOZ to move much more expeditiously toward meaningful
dialogue with MDC as the best way to break the political