Chinamasa said USA had lost credibility as an honest broker


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Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told a United States embassy official that although Washington had a great potential to influence events in Zimbabwe it had lost credibility with the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front as an honest broker.

He said the US had dialogue with many governments that were much worse by its own standards than Zimbabwe’s, and yet it effectively refused to engage with the government of Zimbabwe.

ZANU-PF leaders were now convinced that Washington was not interested in pluralistic democracy but in simply getting the Movement for Democratic Change into power.

Its financial and other support for the MDC deepened the conviction that the US government wanted to oust ZANU-PF “at all costs”.

Chinamasa said that the government of Zimbabwe was open to more engagement with the US but had a sense that Washington “had wool in its ears”, making engagement pointless.

Moments after the exchange ended cordially, a white opposition lawyer confronted the United States embassy official, expressing dismay that a western diplomat would engage Chinamasa at all.

The unnamed lawyer was said to be a former friend and classmate of Chinamasa and grandson of a Rhodesian Minister of Justice.

He cast Chinamasa as “ungrateful” for the opportunity he was given as one of the nation’s first black lawyers, noting that he would not have been allowed to attend such functions in earlier days.

He credited Chinamasa as the man most responsible for the demise of Zimbabwe’s judicial system and pointed out that the Minister’s administration of justice had resulted in the police beating of two female attorneys present at the event.

Ironically, according to the embassy, the two prominent women spent more than 15 minutes joking and laughing with Chinamasa.

National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku, who had been arrested ten times, including twice within the past month, also engaged the Minister separately in jocular banter.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE2310, ENCOUNTER WITH THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

03HARARE2310

2003-11-26 14:45

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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 002310

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. DELISI, M. RAYNOR

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/26/2013

TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON ZI

SUBJECT: ENCOUNTER WITH THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE

 

Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5(b)(d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: During a chance encounter at a social event

on November 25, Minister of Justice, Legal, and Parliamentary

Affairs Patrick Chinamasa elaborated privately to poloff

about ruling party views of the MDC and the USG. Chinamasa

suggested that the USG had the potential stature to influence

events in Zimbabwe but had lost credibility with the ruling

party as an honest broker. The extent of its open support of

the MDC only stiffened ZANU-PF political resolve and

undermined prospects for any compromise. Chinamasa

acknowledged that the government’s economic policies needed

significant reform to restore market dynamism — all subject

to the overall priority of land reform. He gave little

indication that the government was prepared to soften its

posture toward the opposition or reach out to the West. END

SUMMARY.

 

Deep Suspicion of Washington/Commercial Farmer/MDC Cabal

——————————————— ———–

 

2. (C) Cordial upon introduction, Chinamasa soon became

quite animated in a familiar critique of USG policy toward

the GOZ. He complained first that American “sanctions” and

relentlessly negative rhetoric poisoned Zimbabwe’s image with

the international community, warding off investors and

tourists that were especially critical now in light of the

disruptions of land reform. Sanctions constrained travel by

certain key businesspeople, further hamstringing Zimbabwe’s

economic recovery. Travel restrictions on senior officials

prevented the government from making its case and engaging

with the USG or international financial institutions.

 

3. (C) The Justice Minister asserted that the USG had

dialogue with many governments that were much worse by its

own standards than Zimbabwe’s, and yet effectively refused to

engage with the GOZ. That MDC officials traveled freely to

meet USG officials in Washington but ZANU-PF leaders could

not convinced most in the ruling party that USG was not

interested in pluralistic democracy so much as simply getting

the MDC into power. USG financial and other support for the

MDC deepened the conviction that the USG wanted to oust

ZANU-PF “at all costs,” which only made moderation by the

ruling party impossible. Zimbabwe’s history made its

citizens very leery of foreign control, and outside support

made the MDC unacceptable foreign agents in the eyes of many.

The USG wanted to “ignore history” and did not sufficiently

understand the political need to redress the legacy of

colonial injustices. Washington “couldn’t help itself” from

identifying too closely with the interest of white farmers.

Chinamasa maintained that the MDC’s reliance on support from

white farmers and overseas interests assured that it would

roll back land reform, although he conceded that opposition

posture on land reform belatedly was moderating.

 

4. (C) Chinamasa said that the United States had the stature

and potential influence to facilitate political stability in

Zimbabwe, but would have to overcome its severe credibility

problems with the ruling party. He noted the USG’s key role

as broker in facilitating the Lancaster House accord and

singled out the contributions of President Carter and Andrew

Young as especially crucial. The GOZ was open to more

engagement with the USG but had a sense that Washington “had

wool in its ears,” making engagement pointless. He inquired

what the GOZ could do to help get the bilateral relationship

on a more constructive footing and said he would be receptive

to meeting the Ambassador “if there was anything to talk

about.”

 

Candor on Economic Plight

————————-

 

5. (C) Turning to the economy, Chinamasa acknowledged that

the government’s macroeconomic policies needed significant

reform. He maintained that Zimbabweans were at least as, if

not more capitalistic than Americans and that the free market

was operating in Zimbabwe notwithstanding government

controls. He advised that policies would be changed to make

things easier for both foreign and domestic investors, but

did not indicate when. After asserting that economic changes

would have to precede any political reform, he paused and

concluded that they would go “hand in hand.”

 

Postscript

———-

 

6. (C) Moments after the exchange ended cordially, a white

opposition lawyer confronted poloff, expressing dismay that a

western diplomat would engage Chinamasa at all. A former

friend and classmate of Chinamasa and grandson of a Rhodesian

Minister of Justice himself, the lawyer asserted that he

would no longer speak to him. He cast Chinamasa as

“ungrateful” for the opportunity he was given as one of the

nation’s first black lawyers, noting that he would not have

been allowed to attend such functions in earlier days. He

credited Chinamasa as the man most responsible for the demise

of Zimbabwe’s judicial system. He pointed out that the

Minister’s administration of justice had resulted in the

police beating of two female attorneys present at the event.

Ironically, the two prominent women spent more than 15

minutes joking and laughing with Chinamasa later in the

party. National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore

Madhuku, who has been arrested ten times (including twice

within the past month), also engaged the Minister separately

in jocular banter.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

7. (C) A hard-line architect and executor of the

government’s campaign to marginalize and silence the

opposition, the Minister was right on message with his

historical rendition and comments about sanctions and land

reform. His casual inquiry about improving bilateral

relations probably did not reflect real interest from a party

that remains very introspective, suspicious, and insecure of

itself. That Chinamasa’s private discourse was so consonant

(politically, at least) with the party’s public posture

testifies in part to the depth of party discipline. Perhaps

more problematically, it highlights the extent to which the

insulated party leadership may believe much of its seemingly

disingenouous rhetoric. ZANU-PF’s self-consciously

xenophobic posture — part politics, part party nature — is

a barrier to meaningful engagement with the opposition and

western nations. Nonetheless, the party’s historically

centralized power structure suggests it could dissipate on

command. As long as Mugabe remains in power, though,

anti-western rhetoric is likely to remain a supporting pillar

of ruling party strategy.

 

8. (C) Chinamasa’s negative characterization of GOZ economic

policy was uncharacteristic and surprising. It suggests

first that the hard-line moniker in the political sphere does

not necessarily apply in the economic realm. In addition,

his comments and the recently released budget’s failure to

discuss any of the country’s root economic problems indicate

a possible internal stalemate on economic policy, even as

“hard-liners” maintain the upper hand on political tactics.

 

9. (C) The different postures toward Chinamasa among those

aggrieved by his maladministration of justice exemplify the

significance of emotion in domestic politics here. Deep

polarization on the surface contrasts curiously with social

relations that, shaped by varying degrees of realpolitik,

cultural norms, intimidation and hope, often can be

surprisingly civil — offering potential purchase for

political dialogue should will at the highest level ever be

mustered.

SULLIVAN

(3 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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