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.
Viewing cable 03HARARE2310, ENCOUNTER WITH THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE
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
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
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
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
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.”
¶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.
¶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