Mpofu, Nkomo say chiefs to distribute food


The governor for Matebeleland North Obert Mpofu and Minister for Special Affairs John Nkomo said chiefs would distribute food relief after they learnt that most of the food meant for the villagers was being diverted.

Chief Sinansengwe of Binga said he had met the two to discuss food distribution in his area and told United States embassy officials who were also visiting the area that corruption and inadequate aid distribution operations by local ZANU-PF officials were to blame for the food shortage in the area.

He said food was being diverted for personal gain and some was being smuggled to Zambia.

After the meeting Mpofu and Nkomo had said from then on food was going to be distributed by chiefs.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2002-12-30 10:55

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 05 HARARE 002871









E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/18/2012









1. SUMMARY: (U) Ambassador, USAID Officer, State Zimbabwe

Desk Officer and Political Officer visited Matabeleland North

province December 3 to December 6 to meet with people

affected by the food and HIV/AIDS crises. Food issues

dominated discussions as scarcities intensified across the

country. The food situation remains tenuous, although there

are signs the situation may improve in the next few weeks, in

Binga. Recent steps by the GOZ to allow WFP to mill

biotechnology derived corn at two mills in Zimbabwe and to

accredit additional NGOs to distribute food will help

throughout the country, but the half-full WFP pipeline and

delays caused by slow GOZ decisions will offset the positive






2. (U) Ambassador, USAID Officer, State Zimbabwe Desk Officer

and Political Officer visited Matabeleland North province

December 3 to December 6 to meet with beneficiaries, NGO, UN,

private sector and GOZ representatives. The primary concern

of the people we met was the food crisis.


3. (U) On 3 December, the group visited National Foods’

Bulawayo mill, a major milling company hired by the World

Food Program (WFP) to mill biotechnology derived (BT) corn,

in Bulawayo to learn about the challenges facing the milling

industry. (NOTE: National Foods was at that point the sole

company permitted to mill BT corn. National Foods milled all

the imported corn for the country during the 1992 drought.

END NOTE.) At the time of our meeting, National Foods had

just received a fax from the GOZ stating that the Government

would not allow additional imports of BT corn into the

country. (NOTE: Poloff and Deskoff learned in a 9 December

meeting with WFP country director that the GOZ had since

agreed to allow the National Foods mill in Bulawayo to

continue milling and its mill in Gweru to also grind BT corn.

See Reftel. The daily milling capacity of National Foods,

other mills are: Harare 800 MT, Gweru 220 MT, Masvingo 120

MT, Mutare 170 MT.   END NOTE.)


4. (U) National Foods was completing its second contract to

mill 13000 MT of corn, which takes approximately one month.

The mill in Bulawayo has a maximum capacity of 450 MT per day

of which a minimum of 95 percent is final product corn meal.

Under normal circumstances, the by-product would be used as

animal feed, but the GOZ has forbidden this because of

concerns about beef exports to the EU and had ordered the

by-products burned. National Foods has appealed to WFP to

lobby the GOZ to allow National Foods to sell the by-products

to feed producers. In a separate meeting with us, the WFP

country director seemed amenable to the idea even proposed

shipping the by-products to South Africa.




5. (U) We saw a general food distribution in Manyane ward,

Matobo district, Matabeleland South. WFP through its

implementing partner, World Vision (WV), has been feeding

people in Matobo since April 2002. World Vision is providing

food to 50 percent of the people in Manyane ward, which has a

total population of 5025 people. During our visit,

beneficiaries learned that their rations would be reduced

from 12 kg to 5 kg of corn per person per month due to a gap

in the food pipeline. The beneficiaries also received 800 ml

of oil per household (a household comprising five people).

The recommended food basket provides 2100 calories per day

and includes 12 kg corn, 1 kg beans, and 600 ml vegetable oil

per person per month. (COMMENT: The beneficiaries were

surprisingly calm when informed of the reduced rations. When

the chief said &A half a loaf of bread(8 the villagers

replied, &(is better than no bread.8 END COMMENT.)


6. (U) In addition to Manyane, WV is feeding people in the

other 18 communal wards in Matobo. The Matobo district

population is approximately 111,000 people and WV is feeding

40-50 percent feeding coverage. In April, WV was feeding

70-75 percent of the population in just 5 wards, so more

residents in this district are now being fed.




7. (U) On December 3, Ambassador, DeskOff and PolOff met in

Bulawayo with Anglican Bishop Wilson Sitshebo who told us the

Anglican Church has been trying, unsuccessfully, to import

corn. Bishop Sitshebo told us the Church had applied for and

received the necessary import permits, met with Agriculture

Minister Joseph Made, and sourced the corn in South Africa,

only to have Made change his mind and revoke the import





8. (U) In addition to the Matabeleland North meetings

reported below, Poloff and Deskoff met with the Harare-based

directors of WFP, World Vision, and GOAL to discuss the food

situation. World Vision and GOAL are WFP implementing

partners with GOAL recently approved. WV also has bilateral

programs separate from the WFP effort.


9. (U) In a December 2 meeting with World Vision, country

Director Rudo Kwaramba said she had just returned from

Mashonaland East, where she had found the province in very

bad shape. She said this is unusual and hypothesized that

the policymakers do not know what is going on, or are

refusing to admit there is a problem. Kwaramba said people

were just happy to get vegetables and tea.


10. (U) When asked about recent allegations of

politicization, Kwaramba explained WV,s beneficiary

selection process and their 10 percent random sampling of

registered beneficiaries. She also told us WV had contracted

Deloitte and Touche to set up a monitoring system independent

from the United Nations, International Verification Unit

(IVU) whereby staff members and other stakeholders could

report misconduct, or behavior contrary to the aims of the

program, via a hotline.


11. (U) Kwaramba expressed concern about future food

supplies through its bilateral program because of the BT

issue. She also said the fuel crisis will affect

distributions. Kwaramba cited one incident where a WV driver

was denied fuel because he did not have a ZANU-PF card.



12. (U) On December 9, Poloff and Deskoff met with WFP

Director Kevin Farrell. Farrell told us he had noticed an

increased willingness within the GOZ over the last month to

engage on the food side. The GOZ had just told him to forget

about the 17500 MT corn swap and bring in the corn and mill

it with other donor funds. Farrell attributed the positive

shift on milling more to Social Welfare Minister July Moyo,s

trip to South Africa to assess that country’s milling

capacity than to donor pleas to allow BT food in. In spite

of this relaxation on in-country milling, the NGO

registration process is still a mystery, and some NGOs are

still awaiting clearance (Mercy Corps, World Relief).

Farrell said WFP would concentrate on the existing twelve

implementing partners and not direct resources to the NGOs

awaiting clearance.


13. (U) Farrell said some of the donor community’s advocates

in the GOZ’s civil service could not be counted on anymore

because of increased apathy among the cadre. Lack of a

living wage and fear of lay-offs or demotions have dulled the

initiative of some civil servants. Farrell cited an example

of a biosafety board employee who was berated for arguing for

the approval of BT corn.


14. (U) When asked about politicization of food aid, Farrell

said the level of interference by the GOZ was no worse than

what has occurred in many other countries. He stated that

the GOZ has never tried to prioritize districts along

political lines. Farrell said the frequency of problems with

the GOZ depends upon the implementing partners’ food aid

experience in general as well as their experience in

Zimbabwe. He admitted that political problems were hindering

deliveries in Mberengwa, Gwanda, Zaka and some of Christian

Care’s Mashonaland locations.



15. (U) Paul Brandrop, country prospects for GOAL, an Irish

NGO, seemed more optimistic than the WFP and WV directors

about prospects for successfully delivering enough food to

their beneficiaries. GOAL is responsible for Makoni and

Hurungwe districts. GOAL was still in the registration

process when Poloff and Deskoff met with Brandrop on December

9. Brandrop told us local government leaders have been very

helpful, and the provincial governors of Manicaland and

Mashonaland West even gave GOAL their cell phone numbers with

instructions to call if there are any problems. (NOTE: A few

weeks ago the governor of Manicaland, Oppah Muchinguri,

accused senior ZANU-PF officials of corruption in food

distribution. END NOTE) Brandrop told us a ZANU-PF District

Administrator made an announcement at one of the community

meetings that precedes registration reiterating that no

politics were to be involved in distributions. He also said

that neither the police nor the ZANU-PF youth has been a



16. (U) GOAL plans to begin distributions by December 25 but

admits there are pipeline problems. The objective is to

distribute 4500 MT of food per month. GOAL has also applied

to Irish Aid for more of the corn-soy blend (CSB) used in

school feedings in an effort to maintain school attendance,

particularly of girls. GOAL has suggested to the GMB that

they cover people who have assets and those living in wards

uncovered by international food assistance. Brandrop said

his GMB contacts seem willing to work with donors but they

probably have very little influence.





17. (U) To avoid or minimize the temptation to politicize

food distributions, WV suspended distributions in Matobo

during the September rural district council elections. WV

has tried to implement a system that minimizes opportunities

for abuse. Village heads select people to be placed on a

beneficiary list after going over the selection criteria with

the community. WV then verifies the list by taking a random

sample of the people on the list and performing spot checks.


18. (U) Anglican Bishop Sitshebo said people were still

selectively receiving food in Insiza and that the officials

were toeing the ZANU-PF party line and only giving GMB food

upon presentation of a ZANU-PF party card. (NOTE: At that

point distribution of WFP food had not resumed. END NOTE.)

The Bishop also told us that in Gwelutshena in Nkayi

district, people from neighboring Midlands province had to

present a ZANU-PF card even before they were allowed to queue

for corn, or else they could be beaten up. The Bishop also

said the green bombers, the euphemism given members of the

youth militia, were known to be directing corn deliveries in

Gweru in Midlands province.


19. (U) On 4 December, the group met with MDC Bulawayo

Executive Mayor J.Ndabeni-Ncube. Ncube said that the former

ministers, such as the former education minister, were the

worst ones in terms of politicizing GMB food deliveries in

the Bulawayo area. Ncube claimed that the Former Education

Minister has tons of food at his house and a sign over his

door that reads &No ZANU-PF card. No food.8 He also

claimed that Vice President Msika has a store in Bulawayo

where they bar MDC members from buying food.





20. (U) After local authorities blocked food aid deliveries

to Binga for several months, this district is primed to

become one of the better-served districts. According to

Member of Parliament for Binga, Joel Gabuzza, people were

eating caterpillars and sour fruit mixed with ash to stay

alive. Gabuzza also said people had money but there was

nothing to buy except beer, soft drinks, and Mazoe (a sweet,

concentrated fruit-flavored beverage that is mixed with



21. (U) During a December 5 meeting with representatives

from Save the Children-UK (SCF) and Catholic Development

Commission (CADEC), we learned that, although the situation

has been dire in Binga, the two NGOs are well positioned to

feed the entire population. SCF is poised to feed 124,000

people in Binga district (the entire population) and 6000

social welfare cases (elderly, disabled, sick, child-headed

households) in Kariba in Mashonaland West between

mid-December and the end of April. SCF has been feeding

30,000 social welfare cases in Binga since November. SCF

sourced food from South Africa in May and June and has had

its suppliers holding the food since the GOZ suspended aid

distributions in the district for the second time in October.

The monthly food basket for each person includes 10 kg of

corn meal, 2 kg of sugar beans, and 375 ml of vegetable oil.


22. (U) CADEC has been administering a child supplementary

feeding program in Binga for two years. They feed 63,000

children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years and 2000

pregnant women at more than 680 feeding points. CADEC would

like to extend school feeding to secondary school students

but needs to find sufficient resources to support the

project. CADEC food supplies are threatened because they

come from Makonde Industries in Harare, which is importing

inputs for the fortified porridge. CADEC plans to continue

feeding through May. When asked how they ensure that the

children are eating the porridge at school and not taking it

all home (as we saw in a Sinakoma village in Binga), and the

CADEC representatives replied that they have not monitored

consumption since their monitors were dismissed by the GOZ

from school feeding areas because the government thought them

to be political pawns. The CADEC representatives indicated

that they would try to have teachers act as monitors.


23. (U) A major concern for both NGOs is the fuel shortage

and the lack of spare parts. Both SCF and CADEC obtain fuel

through CALTEX but may look into getting it from South

Africa. According to the NGOs, CARE is already importing

fuel directly from South Africa, although CARE has not

confirmed this. The issue of spare parts may become an issue

too. SCF already has had to cancel a distribution because

three of the organization’s trucks broke down.


24. (U) During our visit to Binga, we met with local Chief

Sinansengwe and several of his headmen, where we learned

local government leaders, Minister for Special Affairs John

Nkomo, and Governor Obert Mpofu of Matabeleland North had met

on December 5 to discuss the issue of relief aid in the

district. (NOTE: We suspected a high-level meeting was

happening in Binga after we saw Minister Nkomo leaving our

hotel in Hwange early in the morning on December 5. END

NOTE.) The Chief told us corruption and inadequate aid

distribution operations by local ZANU-PF officials and

structures (food being diverted for personal gain, food

smuggled to Zambia, erratic GMB deliveries) were largely to

blame for the food problems in Binga. As a result of the

meeting with Nkomo and Mpofu, all government assistance would

henceforth be distributed directly to the Chiefs for final

distribution within their respective areas–taking this

function out of the hands of the established local

ZANU-PF-dominated task force structure.





25. (U) On December 4, Ambassador, USAID Officer, State Desk

Officer, and Political Officer visited St. Luke’s Mission

Hospital in Kenaur in Lupane district to discuss health

issues in general and HIV/AIDS in particular. The hospital

staff comprised one German doctor, one young Zimbabwean

doctor and several nuns who serve Lupane district in

Matabeleland North and Gokwe district in Midlands. The

health care providers we met seemed overwhelmed and exhausted

by the health problems besieging the community. The German

physician working at the hospital lamented the absence of

HIV/AIDS test kits even though many of his patients wanted to

be tested. He also said the clinic would begin a

mother-to-child-transmission prevention program in January.

When asked if the clinic had voluntary counseling and testing

(VCT), the German doctor said VCT was good in theory but too

complicated for rural areas because of a lack of counselors

and lab technicians. Ethics aside, he said he would prefer

to administer antiretroviral drugs to pregnant women without

testing or counseling if it would save children from being

born HIV-positive.


26. (U) The physician told us that 80 to 90 percent of his

patients were HIV-positive and that there has been an

increase in AIDS cases because of malnutrition. He also said

that 80 percent of the pediatric ward was malnourished but

that the clinic does not have enough high energy/protein

foods to save all of the children.


27. (U) Although the St. Luke,s visit focused specifically

on HIV/AIDS, the disease came up in our other meetings as

well. Bishop Sitshebo told us the Anglican Church is working

with Deseret International to promote behavior change. He

commented that stigma was still a big problem. Joel Gabuzza,

the MP for Binga, said that the HIV/AIDS situation is grave

and pointed out that tuberculosis (TB) cases have increased

so much that entire hospital wings are devoted to the

disease, whereas a few years ago only one or two beds would

house TB cases. Save the Children has several HIV/AIDS

programs concentrating on community support groups,

youth/peer groups, and the elderly in Binga.





28. (C) The information we gleaned from Matabeleland North

reinforced what we had read and heard about in the press.

Unlike the rest of the country, land redistribution did not

seem to be the concern for most of our interlocutors, most

likely because the lands are poor. The high HIV/AIDS levels

and severe food shortages were the most pressing concerns.


29. (C) The food security situation has deteriorated among

the entire population because of decreasing purchasing power

and unavailability of food. The recent resumption of food

aid distributions in Binga by SCF, which has its own food

pipeline apart from WFP, should result in gradual improvement

in the district. Elsewhere in Matabeleland South and North,

if the food pipeline is not bolstered soon, many residents

could starve to death. During our visit, implementing

partners had to reduce rations because of a lack of food

availability. To compound matters, HIV/AIDS lurks in the

background and as food for sex becomes more commonplace, safe

sexual practices will be a distant second if the choice is

food now or death later. The GOZ decision to permit

continued and increased milling of maize within Zimbabwe will

help, but the existing food pipeline is not full and running

late due to earlier GOZ constraints.


30. (C) Whether the food situation in Bulawayo will improve

is unclear. The city of Bulawayo is better off than the

rural areas, but the ZANU-PF led government has effectively

shut out Mayor Ncube from food and drought relief discussions

held by the Drought Task Force in spite of Ncube,s pleas to

the governor to include himself and the city council in the

process. Furthermore, NGOs traditionally have been reluctant

to include urban areas among their beneficiary areas or in

their assessments.




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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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