Jonathan Moyo sends NGOs panicking


Information Minister Jonathan Moyo sent jitters within Non-Governmental organisations when he reportedly said NGOs that did not cooperate with the government “would be cut off at the knees”.

United Nations Development Programme resident representative Victor Angelo was so worried about the hardening attitude of the government that he was scared to talk about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe even when there were no government officials around.


Full cable:



If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID






2003-08-29 06:16

2011-08-30 01:44


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 03 HARARE 001713











E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2008






Classified By: DCM REWHITEHEAD DUE TO 1.5 (b) and (d).


1. (c) Summary. In a somber August 28 meeting, UNDP resrep

Victor Angelo commented on the accelerating downward spiral

of the Zimbabwean economy and increasingly difficult UN/NGO

relations with the GOZ. The WFP Regional Director described

a discouraging exchange with President Mugabe on NGO

involvement in food distribution. Although there was no GOZ

representative present to listen, donors hewed to the common

position that GOZ demands to cede food recipient selection

and physical distribution to local councils and headmen

(reftel) is unacceptable, both for WFP-controlled and

bilateral food pipelines. Angelo telephoned DCM after the

meeting to say that he was expecting some difficult

negotiations on a renewed MOU that would permit food

distribution to continue and counted on strong U.S. support.

We think that letting the UNDP take the lead at this moment

is the correct approach, although this may need to be

reviewed if the GOZ does not back away from unreasonable

demands. It is our view that if they will not yield to

reason, we must draw a line in the sand and halt further U.S.

contributions until they agree to a status quo approach that

will not politicize and fatally taint humanitarian food

donations. End summary.



Gloom and Doom in the Room



2. (u) An unusually restrained Victor Angelo kicked off the

meeting by reciting a list of dismal statistics about the

Zimbabwean economy, none of these news to those in attendance.


— GDP was down one-third since 1999 and stood to plunge at

least another 20 percent in 2003.


— Zimbabwe was 550,000 MT short of fertilizer for the

upcoming agricultural season, with an equally serious seed

shortages looming.


— There would be little if any irrigated tobacco production

during the coming cropping year.


— Foot and mouth disease had enveloped Harare and moved

north to the Norton/Chinhoyi areas. The GOZ had procured

some HMD vaccine and taken other measures, such as decreeing

that all buffalo on game farms and conservancies would be

moved to national parks. How the latter might be

accomplished is a mystery.


— In the past three weeks, the GOZ had listed for seizure

375 additional farms to include plantations, export producing

operations, and even some indigenous-owned farms.


— The formal economy was withering.


— The GMB claimed that it had procured 150,000 MT from the

last harvest, a dubious figure. (Angelo told us last week

that GMB probably had acquired no more than 40,000 MT.) The

GMB also claimed that they would import another 340,000 MT,

another questionable figure given the paucity of forex.


— The brain drain continued apace.



Moving the Goal Posts



3. (sbu) Angelo said that there appeared to be a hardening

of attitude by the GOZ toward the UN and cooperating partners

involved in humanitarian feeding. The most obvious

manifestation was the August 14 promulgation of new GOZ rules

that shunted the NGOs aside and ceded food beneficiary

selection and physical food distribution to local councils

and headmen, most of whom are in ZANU-PF’s pocket. In an

August 20 meeting with Minister of Labor and Social Welfare

July Moyo, Angelo said that he had warned that there was a

low level of donor response to the UN EMOP (for Zimbabwe) to

date — pushing ahead with the new rules would make it very

difficult for UNDP/WFP to enlist sufficient donor support to

meet the appeal. He said that Moyo had backtracked, stating

that the new rules did not signify a meaningful change from

existing procedures. Angelo said that this line ran counter

to reports he had received of Moyo and other ministers

meeting with NGOs in the provinces, where they stressed that

the new rules would go into force. Minister of Information

Jonathan Moyo, according to one press report, went so far as

to say that NGOs that did not cooperate “would be cut off at

the knees.” Angelo said that negotiations were underway for

a renewed one-year MOU between the UNDP/WFP and GOZ on

modalities for humanitarian food operations for 2003 and

2004. The outcome of these negotiations would be critical to

assuring sufficient and timely donor response.



The Donor Response



4. (sbu) The assembled donors responded in turn and in close

harmony. There was universal agreement that the new NGO

rules as now written would be unacceptable and would

complicate donor participation. Policy clarity was essential

before those present could speak definitively to their

governments’ response to the EMOP. No one said outright that

they would refuse to contribute to a program stage-managed by

GOZ/ZANU-PF proxies, but no one piled grain futures on the

table either. The Angolan High Commissioner responded that

there were positive signs on the political front and queried

if a forward-leaning donor response might provide incentive

for further progress. The DCM pointed out that the U.S.

bases its contributions on humanitarian need and not

political criteria. We seek a depoliticized program and need

a similar commitment from whatever government we engage on

this issue. Policy clarity referred to food distribution

mechanisms and food security issues, not the political




President Mugabe’s Views/UN Counterpoint



5. (sbu) After the representatives of locally based UN

specialized agencies delivered their set pieces, visiting WFP

Regional Director Mike Sackett and WFP Representative Kevin

Farrell offered some worthwhile insights. Sackett said that

he had accompanied a visiting OPEC delegation (reportedly

offering a package of USD 9 million for the regional appeal)

to Zimbabwe and had participated in a meeting with President

Mugabe. Mugabe had heard OPEC out and then turned to Sackett

and brusquely demanded what WFP intended to do. Sackett had

replied that WFP faced a “Herculean task” of sourcing 450,000

MT of food and moving it through the pipeline expeditiously.

The August 14 announcement on NGOs had not helped. When

Mugabe pled ignorance, July Moyo clarified, and Mugabe picked

up the theme with “not encouraging” comments:


— we cannot undermine local Zimbabwean structures.


— NGOs have a political agenda.


— Many NGOs are staffed with callow foreign youth.


— Religious NGOs give food only to those of their own

religious persuasion.


— Mugabe himself had personally assured WFP’s Jim Morris

that food distribution would be apolitical, so there was

nothing to worry about.


6. (sbu) Sackett said that following the meeting WFP had

decided to send Mugabe a strong letter from Morris, the

afternoon of August 28, stating the following, among other



–“for WFP, NGOs are crucial to distribution of food relief”


— “It would be a SERIOUS (underlined) mistake to make

changes to established procedures.”


WFP’s message to other parts of the GOZ were equally clear:

WFP will tolerate no abuses and will cease all food

distribution in areas where there are abuses. He said that

WFP had instructed its field staff and NGO partners to be

especially vigilant and diligent in reporting any changes.

He concluded by noting that he hoped that recent developments

would not halt planning for food pledges in donor capitals,

since this could seriously imperil the food pipeline in the

crucial January to March 2004 time frame.


6. (sbu) Farrell said that he too had prepared a strong

letter to July Moyo urging that the GOZ maintain the status

quo. He reported that August distributions were ongoing and

that so far, “it is business as usual.” He concluded by

explaining WFP policy reasons for rejecting a prescribed GOZ

food for work program for the able bodied, since GOZ control

of public work projects could translate into preventing those

the GOZ does not favor from working, and thus eating.



7. (c) Angelo called DCM after the meeting to thank him and

other donors for their solidarity and the implicit support

this would give him as he went into further MOU negotiations

with the GOZ. He said that he depended on strong donor

support, and especially from the U.S. as the largest

contributor, as he undertook what he expected to be bruising

negotiations. He agreed that the EU had made a tactical

error in publicizing significant food donations to Zimbabwe

even before the GOZ appeal was released, thereby leading GOZ

officials to assume that food would be forthcoming, whatever

the prevailing climate.






8. (c) The U.S. has important bilateral as well as

multilateral interests at play here, since the outcome of the

UNDP/WFP MOU negotiation will provide a template for our own

C-SAFE MOUs that must also be renegotiated before the end of

the year. We agree that the best strategy for now is to let

the UNDP take the lead and provide strong public and private

support as needed/requested, both here and in Rome. Angelo

is clearly aware of the stakes and does not want a failed

humanitarian relief effort on his watch. Accordingly, he

will not cut a deal that the donors cannot accept. Our

principal interests here are to see that the vulnerable are

fed, to continue unpublicized planning for U.S. contributions

that will keep the food pipelines intact, and not to count

coup on the GOZ/ZANU in a public tit for tat. If the UN does

not prevail, however, we may still need to become directly

involved and publicly pull back from any further food aid

until the GOZ agrees to acceptable terms. One thing is

clear. From a policy and from a humanitarian point of view,

we cannot allow the GOZ to win a game of food relief chicken

and replace USAID’s clasped hands logo with ZANU/PF’s

clenched fist.



Don't be shellfish... Please SHARETweet about this on Twitter
Share on Facebook
Share on LinkedIn
Email this to someone
Print this page

Like it? Share with your friends!

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.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *