Chief Charumbira, who was deputy Minister of Local Government at the time of Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri’s suspension, said Mudzuri was his own worst enemy.
The problems he was facing were not representative of other Movement for Democratic Change mayors who had swept most of the urban councils. Instead, they were typical of mayors of Harare, regardless of political affiliation.
Charumbira said more than one ZANU-PF mayor of Harare had been fired for malfeasance.
He said Mudzuri’s abrasive style alienated even those from his own party and he refused to be reasoned with by the Ministry.
“Instead of responding to explicit Ministry overtures to address problems face to face, he preferred to take everything to the newspapers. And like many of its ruling party predecessors, Mudzuri’s administration showed evidence of corruption that bore investigation,” the chief said.
Viewing cable 03HARARE2095, CHAT WITH A CHIEF
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002095
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/08/2008
SUBJECT: CHAT WITH A CHIEF
Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5(b)(d)
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In a meeting with poloff October 8, ZANU-PF
MP (appointed by the President) and Deputy Minister of Local
Government, Public Works and National Housing Chief Fortune
Charumbira identified weaknesses in the nation’s municipal
administration and outlined efforts to improve them. He
stressed the need for the international community to make due
allowance for the central political importance of land
ownership in its relations with Zimbabwe. The Chief made a
predictable pitch for the lifting of USG’s individually
targeted sanctions (to which he is subject) in order to send
a positive signal that could be reciprocated in some
unspecified way. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) Chief Charumbira explained that he sits on the
National Council of Chiefs and is one of 10 chiefs selected
by President Mugabe to sit in Parliament. He was elected
president by the Council a couple of years ago but declined
because of the press of business obligations — his
consultancy work had him tied up with an institutional reform
program for the World Bank in Tanzania at that time.
Nonetheless, the other chiefs relied heavily on him on a host
of issues facing the Council. He noted that chiefs in
Zimbabwe historically had a reputation of supporting the
government in power — ZANU-PF now and the Smith regime
before it. He said this was generally true, although he
considered himself and some others to be independent
¶3. (C) Charumbira elaborated on some of his priorities as
Deputy Minister of Local Government, Public Works and
National Housing. He recognized the potential for political
friction between MDC municipal governments and the central
government. A key to minimizing these would be collaboration
on municipal strategic plan frameworks on which work
commenced last March. The concept called for parties to
agree on priorities, values, implementation issues in advance
so as to promote a depoliticized buy-in from relevant players
before opportunities for finger-pointing emerged.
Municipalities were now submitting their strategic plans,
which would be circulated for peer review before undergoing
further revision and eventual implementation.
¶4. (C) More problematic than potential political friction
were poor planning capacity and incompetence among municipal
authorities, according to Charumbira. The interaction among
peers and with central government in the framework review
would help, but under the Urban Council Act responsibility
ultimately devolved to the local level. The government had
considered legislating performance standards for
municipalities, but ultimately concluded such an approach
would be anti-democratic and likely unworkable. For the
foreseeable future, the central government’s posture toward
towns would be “hands off, eyes on.”
¶5. (C) Charumbira cautioned against assuming that the
problems of MDC Harare Mayor Mudzuri would be representative
of other MDC mayors. Instead, they were typical of mayors of
Harare, regardless of political affiliation. He noted that
more than one ZANU-PF mayor of Harare had been fired for
malfeasance. Mudzuri was his own worst enemy, Charumbira
maintained. His abrasive style alienated even those from his
own party and he refused to be reasoned with by the Ministry.
Instead of responding to explicit Ministry overtures to
address problems face to face, he preferred to take
everything to the newspapers. And like many of its ruling
party predecessors, Mudzuri’s administration showed evidence
of corruption that bore investigation.
¶6. (C) The Chief emphasized the importance of the land
ownership issue in Zimbabwe, particularly for the institution
of chief. Land and soil traditionally have been perceived as
central to nearly everything that mattered: rains, luck,
prosperity, and authority. The MDC’s inadequate appreciation
of this was a serious liability with the rural masses; the
party’s belated and limited conversion to land reform came
across as politically opportunistic and disingenuous. The
chief acknowledged that land reform was fraught with many
unspecified problems that the government would have to
address, and urged that the international community recognize
domestic political factors constraining GOZ land policies.
¶7. (C) Charumbira complained that USG policy on Zimbabwe was
ill-advised and unnecessarily detrimental to bilateral
relations. He conceded that the “sanctions” cited by the GOZ
as impeding development did not have a large impact per se,
but that they sent an influential message to international
investors that adversely affected Zimbabwe’s prospects for
foreign direct investment. He asserted that USG lifting of
sanctions (i.e. travel and financial sanctions against named
individuals, including himself) would be an excellent
confidence-building measure that could engender a more
constructive posture by the GOZ toward the USG and the
domestic opposition. We gave him no grounds to expect any
such USG move in the absence of major changes in the
political landscape here.
¶8. (C) COMMENT: Charumbira is among ZANU-PF’s numerous
erudite, well-educated technocrats, apparently comfortable
with domestic and international interlocutors alike.
Unfortunately reflecting the ruling party’s current culture
of conformity, though, he is likely to be more chary of
frankly sharing the insights of his education and experience
with his own party superiors than he is with his Tanzanian
clients. The Chief keeps a much lower profile than his
immediate superior, Minister Ignatius Chombo, in a ministry
that will be potentially instrumental in the opposition’s
performance in municipal administration. In any event,
individuals like Charumbira are a potential springboard for
evolution or moderation of ruling party policies given the
right changes in environment. We have heard pleas for “good
faith” from similarly situated party principals affected by
USG sanctions but continue to doubt that adjustment of
targeted sanctions would positively influence the ruling
party in any way at this time.