President Robert Mugabe reappointed most of the ministers he had referred to as “the worst one (cabinet) he has ever had” to the inclusive government.
The cabinet included what were termed by the West as hardliners such as Emmerson Mnangagwa, Nicholas Goche, Didymus Mutasa, Joseph Made, Sydney Sekeramayi and David Parirenyatwa.
The United States embassy said these individuals had been integrally involved in some of the country’s most disastrous economic, social, and humanitarian policies.
Viewing cable 09HARARE119, ZIM NOTES 02-13-2009
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R 130957Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4044
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 2202
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2633
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RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1232
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RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000119
AF/S FOR B. WALCH
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN
TREASURY FOR D. PETERS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN
COMMERCE FOR ROBERT TELCHIN
SUBJECT: ZIM NOTES 02-13-2009
Topics of the week:
– Tsvangirai and Deputies Sworn Into Government…
– Tsvangirai Picks Fill New Ministerial Posts…
– While Mugabe Resorts to the Usual Suspects…
– National Security Council Bill Passed…
– Little Progress for Detainees…
– Cholera on the Decline?…
– White Farmers Report Numerous Summons…
– Update on Arrested USAID Employee…
– Civil Servants Promised US$100 Vouchers…
– Banking Sector Still Struggling…
– RBZ Staff Ordered to Put Squeeze on Shopkeepers…
– Duty-Free Status On Basic Commodities Extended…
– Keep Sanctions on, Business Leaders Tell Ambassador…
– Poor Outlook for Grain Crops…
– No Diamond Megadeal in Sight…
– Requiem for the Zimbabwe Dollar…
On the Political/Social Front
¶3. Tsvangirai and Deputies Sworn Into Government… MDC president
Morgan Tsvangirai assumed the office of Prime Minister after being
sworn in by President Mugabe on February 11. Also sworn in were his
deputies Thokozani Khupe of the MDC-T and Arthur Mutambara of the
MDC-M. The ceremony was attended by the leaders of South Africa,
Mozambique, and Swaziland, AU chairman Jean Ping, former South
African president Thabo Mbeki, SADC executive secretary Tomaz
Salomao, as well as numerous diplomats and other dignitaries.
Following the ceremony, Tsvangirai held a rally attended by an
estimated 20,000 MDC-T supporters at a Harare stadium. Among the
highlights of his speech was a promise to pay all civil servants,
soldiers, teachers, and health personnel in forex by the end of the
month. He also stressed the importance of immediately freeing
political detainees and establishing a cooperative relationship with
ZANU-PF. See Harare 111.
¶4. Tsvangirai Picks Fill New Ministerial Posts… Morgan
Tsvangirai named 14 people to fill the ministerial and deputy
ministerial posts he was granted under the power-sharing agreement.
His most significant appointments included MDC negotiator and lawyer
Tendai Biti as Finance Minister, and Giles Mutsekwa to co-chair the
Home Affairs ministry. An interesting development was naming white
farmer and long-time ZANU-PF adversary Roy Bennett Deputy Minister
of Agriculture. See Harare 107.
¶5. While Mugabe Resorts to the Usual Suspects… Mugabe prepared
to reappoint many of the members of his old Cabinet that he referred
to last year as “the worst one he has ever had.” While he had not
yet assigned the individuals to specific ministerial or deputy
ministerial posts, the list of 39 people released on February 12
included such ZANU-PF stalwarts as Emmerson Mnangagwa, Nicholas
Goche, Dydimus Mutasa, Joseph Made, Sydney Sekeramayi, and David
Parirenyatwa. These individuals have been integrally involved in
some of the country’s most disastrous economic, social, and
¶6. National Security Council Bill Passed… Parliament passed
legislation on February 10 creating a National Security Council
(NSC) whose responsibility it will be to review national security
policies and “direct appropriate action.” The NSC legislation
HARARE 00000119 002 OF 003
passed both the House of Assembly and the Senate easily and awaits
President Mugabe’s signature before becoming law. The legislation
was amended from an earlier draft produced by the MDC-T to include
the service chiefs as well as leading government figures. The
function of the NSC as stated in the legislation appears to be more
oversight-based than operational. Mugabe will chair the council and
all decisions will be based on consensus. See Harare 117.
¶7. Little Progress for Detainees… Despite assurances that
Tsvangirai would not be inaugurated until political prisoners were
released, about 29 remain in custody. Encouragingly, on February 12
three detainees–including Jestina Mukoko–were granted access to
medical care at Avenues Clinic, where they remain. On Tsvangirai’s
first day as Prime Minister, he visited Chikurubi Maximum Security
Prison and met with detainees for about 45 minutes. Separately,
eight WOZA women and two ZLHR lawyers were arrested on February 10
and held for 48 hours before being released on bail. Three were
beaten by an officer; all 10 face charges of disturbing the peace
and are due to reappear in court on March 4. See Harare 115.
¶8. Cholera on the Decline?… As of February 12, cholera has
caused more than 3,500 deaths out of nearly 73,400 reported cases,
according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO). Promisingly,
between February 1 and 7, WHO reported a 15 percent decrease in new
cholera cases and a 35 percent decrease in cholera deaths compared
to the previous week. The decrease in cases and deaths reversed a
trend of steady increases in weekly new cholera cases through the
end of January. However, WHO noted that the current decreases may
result from a lack of reporting from several districts.
¶9. White Farmers Report Numerous Summons… The Commercial Farmers
Union (CFU)-a body that represents the interests of the remaining
commercial farmers as well as past evicted farmers-reported that
approximately 40 white farmers received summons demanding they
appear in court for violating orders to vacate their properties.
The CFU tells us the Attorney General gave instruction to
prosecutors to commence and complete as many land cases as possible
before the end of February. The CFU suspects an effort to take as
many farms as possible prior to a possible shift in land policy as a
result of the new government.
¶10. Update on Arrested USAID Employee… On February 12, USAID
driver Frank Muchirahondo-arrested on January 22 on dubious charges
of involvement in the attempted assassination of Air Force Chief
Shiri-appeared before the magistrate’s court in Bindura. Because
the prosecution was not prepared to respond to the defendant’s
complaints about abuse suffered while in police custody, the court
hearing was postponed until February 19. The judge ordered the
prosecution to be prepared to address the defendant’s complaints on
Qprosecution to be prepared to address the defendant’s complaints on
February 19 and to hand over to Frank’s lawyer the State’s paperwork
summarizing charges. The Mission is working with USAID/GC and DOJ
to determine how to fund continued legal representation for Frank.
On the Economic and Business Front
¶11. Civil Servants Promised US$100 Vouchers… Acting Minister of
Finance Chinamasa announced February 13 that all civil servants
would get vouchers worth US$100 later this month. He said the
vouchers will be securitized, tradable, and redeemable for goods in
participating shops or for cash. It conflicts with Tsvangirai’s
promise to pay civil servants in foreign currency by the end of
February. The Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe told us its members
will redeem the vouchers at a discount because of uncertainties
surrounding the underlying securities, given the dire shortage of
foreign currency in the country.
HARARE 00000119 003 OF 003
¶12. Banking Sector Still Struggling… Dollarization has brought
some relief to the banking sector, where local currency revenue no
longer covered rising foreign currency costs. But problems related
to foreign currency shortages, the introduction of statutory
reserves on foreign currency accounts, and ceilings on lending rates
still undermine profitability at most banks. See Harare 118.
¶13. RBZ Staff Ordered to Put Squeeze on Shopkeepers… An RBZ
employee told us that much of the bank’s 12,000 staff had been
ordered out onto the streets to pressure shopkeepers to buy a
license to trade in hard currencies. The mood is grim at the RBZ,
where salaries have gone unpaid, CIO presence is pervasive, and the
cafeteria is now serving only cabbage and greens.
¶14. Duty-Free Status On Basic Commodities Extended… To augment
the supply of goods on the local market, government this week
extended duty-free status on most imported basic commodities to June
30, 2009. Prices of most commodities held steady this week, helped
by the formation of an inclusive government.
¶15. Keep Sanctions on, Business Leaders Tell Ambassador… At a
luncheon hosted by Ambassador McGee this week, heads of the major
business associations called on the U.S. to keep sanctions in place
to force the new government to implement sensible policies.
Ambassador McGee advised the group on the prerequisites for our
re-engagement with the GOZ. For their part, the businessmen
promised to help set up the checks and balances necessary to avoid
the abuse of power by government ever again.
¶16. Poor Outlook for Grain Crops… Zimbabwe’s 2008 winter wheat
harvest is forecast at the lowest level since independence-38,900
MT, according to the USDA’s Zimbabwe Grain and Feed Quarterly
Update. The GOZ estimates a maize planting area this season of
about 890,000 hectares, with production at last season’s low level
of 400,000 MT. South Africa dispatched seed and fertilizer worth
around R300 million (about US$32 million), according to the report,
mostly arrived past the optimum planting date.
¶17. No Diamond Megadeal in Sight… A megadeal to sell the mineral
rights to the disputed diamond deposit near Mutare and quickly fill
the GOZ’s forex coffers has apparently stalled. See Harare 110.
¶18. Requiem for the Zimbabwe Dollar… The Z$100 trillion note
appeared on the street in very limited circulation ths week-it
presents a huge problem in making change. In addition, hardly any
shops accept the local currency.
Quote of the Week
¶19. “As Prime Minister I make this commitment that, as from the end
of this month, our professionals in the civil service, every health
worker, teacher, soldier and policeman will receive their pay in
foreign currency until we are able to stabilize the economy.” —
Morgan Tsvangirai speaking at a MDC rally in Harare following his
QMorgan Tsvangirai speaking at a MDC rally in Harare following his
swearing in on February 11.
¶20. “The job is the worst in the world but I will have to look the
job in the eye and I have no doubt that I will be equal to the task
and will prevail.” — Tendai Biti referring to his nomination as
Minister of Finance on February 11.