A confidante of President Robert Mugabe, Father Fidelis Mukonori, told United States embassy officials that Mugabe had decided not to sign the non-governmental orgnisations bill in its current form because he thought it was part of the Tsholotsho plot.
The Tsholotsho plot was supposedly engineered by a group led by former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and was aimed at blocking Joice Mujuru from becoming party vice-president at the 2004 congress.
The group reportedly favoured Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mukonori said he had approached Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Mnangagwa to kill the bill but when he failed he went to meet Mugabe and presented to him the views of the United Nations, the church and non-governmental organisations.
The catholic priest said Mugabe was appalled by the content and had decided not to sign.
It was unclear what the fate of the bill was as some reports said Mugabe would have to send the bill back to Parliament because he had not signed it within the stipulated 21 days.
Viewing cable 05HARARE395, IS THE NGO BILL DEAD?
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
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 000395
AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/11/2010
SUBJECT: IS THE NGO BILL DEAD?
REF: 2004 HARARE 2003
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires a.i. Eric T. Schultz under Section 1.4
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The controversial NGO bill (reftel),
passed by the Parliament in December, appears to have
effectively expired due to President Mugabe’s failure to sign
it by the constitutionally prescribed deadline. Some NGOs
remain concerned that Mugabe may yet sign the bill into law
and are acting accordingly. However, the bill’s quiet death
could be Mugabe,s latest sop to domestic interests and
international audiences in the run-up to parliamentary
elections. That said, the GOZ also signaled continued
pressure on the NGO community with the announcement that it
was investigating the accounts of 30 organizations. END
NGO Bill Signing Deadline Passes
¶2. (SBU) Section 51 of Zimbabwe,s Constitution provides
that the President shall assent, or withhold his assent, of a
bill within 21 days of its presentation to him by the
Parliament. If he withholds his assent, the bill must be
returned to the Parliament and cannot be presented to him
again without the support of “not less than two-thirds of the
Parliament.” Parliamentary staff has confirmed to us that
the NGO bill was date-stamped upon delivery to the President
on January 24 and that the 21 day period therefore ended on
¶3. (SBU) On March 1, Father Fidelis, the Jesuit provincial
for Zimbabwe (and a liberation veteran who still has regular
access to Mugabe), told the Ambassador that President Mugabe
had decided not to sign the bill in its current form.
Fidelis said he had unsuccessfully lobbied Speaker Mnangagwa
and Justice Minister Chinamasa to kill the bill and had
finally approached Mugabe personally. He said he had given
Mugabe UN, church and NANGO (an NGO umbrella organization)
critiques of the bill to read and that Mugabe had been
appalled by the content. Fidelis said Mugabe had concluded
that the NGO bill was a part of the “Tsholotsho” plot of
disgraced former Information Minister Moyo. Fidelis
predicted that Mugabe would either send the bill back to
Parliament for amendment or just let it die.
¶4. (C) Neither the GOZ nor the NGO community has given any
publicity to the bill’s fate since the expiration of the
signing deadline, and many in the NGO community still
consider the bill in play regardless of the constitutional
deadline. A representative of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights, for example, told us that they had been unable to
verify the date of transmission to the President (we are
seeking tangible evidence, e.g., a copy of the date-stamped
instrument). Moreover, some in the NGO community are
convinced that if Mugabe were to decide to sign the bill
belatedly, the Supreme Court would uphold his action
regardless of its unconstitutionality. Some have also
asserted that the President could effectively implement the
bill by Presidential decree even if a constitutional debate
were to hold up the legislation.
More GOZ Threats
¶5. (U) Meanwhile, the GOZ has publicly announced it will
investigate 30 NGOs for suspected misappropriation of US$88
million mobilized through UNDP after the GOZ made a
consolidated appeal to the international community for
assistance in 2003. The report asserted that the funds were
“deemed public funds because they were raised on behalf of
the Government and the people of Zimbabwe.” According to the
March 10 edition of the official Herald newspaper, Minister
of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare Paul Mangwana
announced further on March 9 that the GOZ was going to
require all NGOs to account for all funds received from
¶6. (SBU) Among the 30 reportedly being investigated are
seven USAID partners — World Vision, Care, CRS/Strive, PSI,
Advance Africa, JSI, and DAI/Lead. Only two (World Vision
and Care) were involved in the consolidated appeal. All are
involved in overt humanitarian assistance in consultation
with relevant ministries, and would have no problem
disclosing programmatic and financial reports to substantiate
their ongoing work.
¶7. (C) Mugabe,s “pocket veto,” if it stands, may be another
in a series of conciliatory gestures on the part of the GOZ’s
in the run-up to the election. The Ambassador had made clear
in several meetings with GOZ officials late last year that a
veto of the bill would be seen by Washington as a positive
development. He had also intimated that ascribing it to
Moyo, Mangwana and other disgraced “young Turks” would give
Mugabe a face-saving way to kill the bill.
¶8. (C) However, the confusion and official silence
surrounding the bill,s fate may also reflect continued
divisions within the ruling party. Reserve Bank Governor
Gideon Gono has been an outspoken public and private critic
of the bill and even the ZANU-PF-dominated parliamentary
portfolio committee opposed its more draconian provisions.
Minister Mangwana, who was the bill’s principal architect,
lost his ZANU-PF primary and appears on his way out of the
Cabinet. His long-term influence is waning, which is further
undermining support for the bill. In any event, the NGO bill
already has served important ruling party purposes by sharply
chilling the pre-election environment for democracy and
governance NGOs even if it does not become law. Moreover,
many of these organizations are continuing to self-censor
given the uncertainty surrounding the bill,s fate — not a
bad outcome for the ruling party.
¶9. (C) Whether the NGO bill becomes law or not, GOZ attempts
to cow the NGO community will continue. However, given GOZ
concerns about its international image and Zimbabwe’s ongoing
humanitarian needs, there are limits. The latest development
appears to be more low-level harassment rather than a serious
investigation. In any event, it is consistent with
long-standing GOZ efforts to bring humanitarian assistance in
particular under more official control.