Mukoko said ZANU-PF was manipulating food distribution


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Jestina Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, told United States embassy officials two weeks before the 2008 elections that access to food from the state-run Grain Marketing Board was reserved for the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front members.

ZANU-PF candidates and traditional leaders were the only ones permitted to buy GMB food, which they later distributed or sold to ZANU-PF supporters at the ward level.

This was one of the ways that ZANU-PF was using to manipulate voters in the run-up to the 2008 elections.

According to the embassy, ZANU-PF was trying to buy the support of security forces, civil servants, traditional leaders, and rural voters with handouts of money and goods.

It had paid out security forces a pay raise of between ZW$1-ZW$3 billion (about US$50-US$150 at the parallel market rate at the time) depending on rank in their bank accounts.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 08HARARE206, ZIMBABWE’S PRE-ELECTION CONDITIONS NOT FREE AND

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

08HARARE206

2008-03-14 11:01

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO4962

PP RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0206/01 0741101

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 141101Z MAR 08

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2589

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1874

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1815

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1939

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0518

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1216

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1573

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1995

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4426

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1066

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC//DHO-7//

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK//DOOC/ECMO/CC/DAO/DOB/DOI//

RUEPGBA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE//ECJ23-CH/ECJ5M//

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 HARARE 000206

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S DESK OFFICER S. HILL

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E. LOKEN

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2018

TAGS: ASEC KDEM PGOV PHUM PREL ZI

SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE’S PRE-ELECTION CONDITIONS NOT FREE AND

FAIR

 

REF: A. HARARE 00180

 

B. HARARE 00162

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR JAMES D. MCGEE FOR REASONS 1.4 (B & D)

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (SBU) Prospects for a free and fair election in Zimbabwe

on March 29 are problematic. Voter rolls are suspect and

have not been audited. Prospective voters, particularly in

urban areas, have reported difficulties in registering.

Voter education has been minimal. The number of polling

places may be inadequate for urban voters, who favor the

opposition. Media access has favored the ruling party.

Violence and intimidation, while not as intense as in past

elections, continues against the opposition, particularly the

MDC. ZANU-PF, through the control of the state apparatus and

resources, is attempting to buy support with massive handouts

of money and goods such as farm equipment. On the positive

side, the opposition has been given more space than in past

elections to campaign, including the holding of rallies. And

the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network has been issued an

invitation for over 11,000 observers to apply for

accreditation. END SUMMARY.

 

———————————————

Severe Shortcomings In Electoral Preparations

———————————————

 

2. (C) The opposition and civil society groups have expressed

concern that the voter rolls were in “shambles.” To date,

Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN), an independent

local NGO, and the opposition parties have been unable to

secure a complete and useable electronic copy of the voters

roll to conduct an audit as allowed by the Electoral Act.

ZESN Director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava told us that a limited

analysis of the voter rolls for a few areas shows duplicate

names and names of voters that do not live in the area.

Tsvangirai MDC formation Secretary of Elections Ian Makone

 

SIPDIS

told us that he purchased a copy of the voter rolls for his

constituency and was given an electronic copy of scanned

images of the paper version. (NOTE: Although a complete

audit is impossible, the USG through NDI is conducting

analysis of the voters roll; results will be reported when

available. END NOTE.)

 

3. (U) ZESN has repeatedly complained to the Zimbabwe

Electoral Commission (ZEC), the government body responsible

for conducting elections, that the government’s voter

registration and education efforts have been inadequate.

ZESN claimed that mobile voter registration activities were

not well publicized or widespread. Opposition officials have

complained that documentation requirements for voter

registration were obstructive and meant to disenfranchise

opposition voters. For instance, urban citizens required

proof of residence such as a deed title or a letter from a

landlord. Many poor urban citizens do not own homes, and

getting a letter from a landlord was often difficult. Rural

citizens required a letter from the village headman, which

was routinely denied to suspected opposition supporters.

There also have been numerous reports that citizens who have

voted in past elections discovered their names had been

deleted from the voter rolls. As such, they were forced to

re-register, and in many cases, were not provided a receipt

as proof of registration (reftel A).

 

4. (C) As for the process of voting, ZESN pointed out that a

 

HARARE 00000206 002 OF 005

 

 

shortage of polling stations in urban areas disadvantaged

opposition voters. Harare, an opposition stronghold, has 379

polling stations for over 766,000 registered voters.

According to ZESN’s calculations, the average voter in

Harare, who like voters throughout the country will have four

ballots to contend with, will have 22 seconds to vote if all

expected voters are attended to. Cities like Mutare,

Bulawayo, and Gweru similarly have an inadequate number of

polling stations. By contrast, Mashonaland West, a ruling

party strong-hold, has 1,100 polling stations for 582,989

registered voters. In response, the Tsvangirai MDC formation

has asked the High Court to order ZEC to add more polling

stations in the urban areas to ensure that all voters have a

responsible opportunity to vote; there has been no response

to date.

 

———————–

Lack Of Voter Education

———————–

 

5. (U) In early February, despite not offering its own voter

education program sufficient to address the massive electoral

undertaking of holding four elections simultaneously, the ZEC

ordered ZESN to cease conducting voter education activities

until the group had sought and received permission. Until

that point, ZESN had deployed teams throughout the country to

conduct voter education and had found that many citizens were

not well-informed about voter registration procedures, the

boundaries of new constituencies, and the manner in which the

harmonized elections would be conducted. ZESN also noted

discrepancies and errors in information ZEC had distributed.

For instance, a ZEC brochure distributed in the Norton area

of Mashonaland West province incorrectly stated that proof of

residence would be required to vote on Election Day. After

ZESN complained, the ZEC apparently stopped distributing the

brochure.

 

——————–

Media Access Limited

——————–

 

6. (U) Although the Electoral Act provides that all political

parties should have equal access to public media, several

independent NGOs have reported that the state media

demonstrated partisan tendencies in its coverage of the

elections. The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)

reported that during the month of February the state

television station ZTV afforded during its main news

bulletins a total of 202 minutes to ZANU-PF electoral

preparations, 26 minutes to Independent presidential

candidate Simba Makoni, and only nine minutes to the two MDC

formations. During this same period, ZTV aired 93 reports

about ZANU-PF (86 positive, seven neutral, and zero

negative), 15 reports about Makoni (five neutral and 10

negative), and four reports about the MDC formations (one

positive, one negative, and two neutral). The state radio

stations aired 118 stories about ZANU-PF (117 positive and

one neutral), and five reports about the MDC formations (one

positive, two neutral, and two negative). The main state-run

newspaper The Herald published 54 stories about ZANU-PF (all

positive), 24 stories about the MDC formations (12 neutral

and 12 negative), and 19 stories about Makoni (all negative).

 

7. (U) Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) released a

press statement on March 4 noting trepidation over the state

media’s biased reporting. Over the month of February, ZLHR

noted, the ZBC has shown “dissatisfactory and unlawful” bias

in favor of the ruling party candidates and activities. For

example, the ZBC carried a live broadcast of ZANU-PF’s launch

 

HARARE 00000206 003 OF 005

 

 

of its manifesto on March 29, but did not do the same for the

MDC formations or Independent presidential hopeful Simba

Makoni. In another instance, a ZBC news report informed its

audience in Masvingo province where to find transport that

would bring them to Harare for a ZANU-PF event. In news

bulletins, ruling party candidates were shown and named,

while opposition candidates in the same constituencies were

not mentioned. In many cases, ZLHR noted that the little

coverage given to the other parties was opinionated and

negative, and was meant to present them as disjointed.

 

8. (U) Another restriction on the media has been the

inability of independent journalists to acquire

accreditation. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)

– Zimbabwe reported that the ZEC had refused to accredit any

journalists to cover the elections unless they had been

already accredited by the state-controlled Media and

Information Commission (MIC). However, the MIC ceased to

exist when the amended Access to Information and Protection

of Privacy ACT (AIPPA) was signed into law on January 11, and

its functions will not be assumed by the yet-to-be created

Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) until after the elections.

It therefore appears that foreign journalists who cover the

election will have to enter the country as tourists, without

accreditation as journalists, and will be precluded from

attending “public events.”

 

——————————

A Hostile Political Climate…

——————————

 

9. (C) While wholesale violence may be down; the opposition

formations reported that arrests, abductions, beatings, and

intimidation were on the rise. The Tsvangirai MDC formation

provided us a list of over 100 arrests and assaults of its

candidates and supporters since the beginning of February.

Most incidents involved campaign workers being arrested for

allegedly tearing down ZANU-PF campaign posters, creating a

public nuisance by “toyi-toying” (dancing and singing) while

handing out flyers, and holding “illegal” meetings.

Mutambara MDC formation MP Job Sikhala told us that police in

the St. Mary’s constituency in Chitungwiza, a high-density

suburb of Harare, were arresting opposition supporters from

both formations for the slightest infraction as a form of

harassment. In most cases, the arrestees paid a fine and

were released.

 

10. (C) According to Reverend Ray Motsi, head of the National

Pastors’ Conference (NPC) and member of Christian Alliance,

violence has been taking place more on an individual basis/

local level rather than as a “directed” campaign. He added

that violence and intimidation were now so institutionalized

that police and youth groups did not need direct orders from

above to know that beating up one person strikes fear in

many.

 

————————————–

…But With Increasing Political Space

————————————–

 

11. (C) MDC leader and presidential candidate Morgan

Tsvangirai told us that there had been some opening of

 

SIPDIS

political space for campaigning since the beginning of the

year. He noted that his formation has held several large,

well-attended rallies without incident. For instance, the

Tsvangirai MDC formation campaign launch in Mutare on

 

SIPDIS

February 23 was attended by over 20,000 people and a campaign

rally in Bulawayo on March 8 was attended by an estimated 20

– 25,000 supporters. Embassy officers on pre-election trips

 

HARARE 00000206 004 OF 005

 

 

in Mashonaland provinces, traditional ZANU-PF territory, were

told by MDC candidates they have been able to hold rallies

and campaign. For example, on a pre-election assessment trip

to Mt. Darwin, a ruling party strong-hold and home to vice

president Joyce Mujuru, EconOff observed MDC campaign posters

throughout the area. MDC candidates from both formations

said that there had been less violence and intimidation than

in past elections.

 

—————————–

And Also On The Positive Side

—————————–

 

12. (U) Although the government refused to invite independent

international observers, ZESN learned on March 13 that the

Ministry of Justice had invited it to submit requests for

accreditation for almost 12,000 observers. These observers

will include such groups as the Christian Alliance and ZLHR.

With 8,200 polling stations, ZESN should be able to be an

effective presence throughout the country.

 

——————————-

Voter Manipulation And Pressure

——————————-

 

13. (U) There have been widespread reports that the ruling

party, through control over the state apparatus, has been

attempting to buy the support of security forces, civil

servants, traditional leaders, and rural voters with handouts

of money and goods. In order to pay for this largess, the

government has been printing money non-stop and further

fueling runaway inflation (reftel B). In February, for

example, security forces reportedly received a surprise pay

raise of between ZW$1 – ZW$3 billion (about US$50 – US$150 at

the parallel market rate at the time) depending on rank in

their bank accounts. On February 29, teachers, upset that

they had not received their entire negotiated retention bonus

and pay raise, went on strike throughout the country. In the

week that followed, the rest of the civil servants threatened

to strike for better pay as well. On March 12, facing a

complete shut down of government two weeks before the

elections, the government relented and announced a large

raise for civil servants. Teachers’ salaries reportedly

increased by a factor of 10.

 

14. (C) As during past elections, there have been numerous

reports that the government has tried to limit food aid and

other assistance to those with ZANU-PF party cards and to

deny assistance to suspected opposition supporters. Jestina

Mukoko, director of Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), told us

that access to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), the state-run

monopoly for mealie meal and grain distribution, was reserved

for ZANU-PF members. She said that ZANU-PF candidates and

traditional leaders were the only ones permitted to buy GMB

food, which they later distributed/sold to ZANU-PF supporters

at the ward level.

 

15. (C) There also have been reports that the ruling party is

once again pressuring traditional leaders throughout the

country to deliver support on Election Day. George Feza, an

election observer for ZESN told us that chiefs around the

Kadoma area of Mashonaland West province had received new

vehicles, farm machinery, and fuel from the government. In

exchange, they were expected to register all their

constituents to vote and to ensure they voted for the ruling

party. Tsvangirai MDC formation MP Amos Chibaya told us that

the chiefs in his constituency of Vungu in Midlands province

had told village headmen that they must bring their subjects

to polling stations at certain times to vote.

 

HARARE 00000206 005 OF 005

 

 

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

16. (C) The outcome of the March 29 elections will be

influenced by actions carried out well in advance, such as

registration obstruction, tinkering with the voters roll,

intimidation, and manipulation through handouts. Moreover,

the GOZ, through control of the ZEC and its country-wide

network, maintains capacity to creatively alter vote totals

after voting is complete. But there are some silver linings.

Simba Makoni’s candidacy has increased the strength of the

opposition by tapping into disaffected ZANU-PF supporters.

The presence of Makoni supporters in the ZEC and ZANU-PF

party structures throughout the country will make rigging for

Mugabe more difficult. Finally, although the presence of

independent international observers would have been highly

desirable, ZESN apparently will have observers at most, if

not all, polling stations throughout the country. These

factors will not necessarily prevent Mugabe from stealing the

election, but they will make it more difficult for “friendly

observers” like the SADC observation mission to ignore large

scale rigging. END COMMENT.

 

MCGEE

 

(6 VIEWS)

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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.

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