Nkomo says headmen know their communities better than NGOs


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Minister of Special Affairs John Nkomo told a visiting United States official that the government had decided to let village headmen distribute food because they knew their communities better than non-governmental organisations.

He told the official, Malik Chaka, that the policy requiring humanitarian food relief to be administered through village headmen and rural councils was intended to enhance transparency and local involvement.

Nkomo reported that there had problems in local distribution efforts, including efforts by some relief workers to politicise the distribution.

Headmen knew the local communities most closely and were best situated to administer distribution in a manner that would fully address the beneficiaries’ needs.

Chaka and United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan expressed concern that the policy would disrupt and politicise food distribution.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 03HARARE1712, ZIMBABWE WAFFLING ON EFFORT TO CONTROL FOOD RELIEF

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1712

2003-08-28 15:01

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001712

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

NSC FOR SENIOR DIRECTOR FRAZER

LONDON FOR GURNEY

PARIS FOR NEARY

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI SA ZI

SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE WAFFLING ON EFFORT TO CONTROL FOOD RELIEF

EFFORTS

 

 

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In meetings with House International

Relations Committee Africa Subcommittee staffer Malik Chaka

August 20-21, Minister for Special Affairs (and ZANU-PF Party

Chairman) John Nkomo and Minister of Public Service, Labor

and Social Services July Moyo emphasized the government’s

priority on assuring smooth relations with the international

humanitarian relief community. They maintained that a

recently announced policy requiring food assistance to be

channeled through village headmen was meant to assure broader

and more transparent distribution, and not to disrupt or to

politicize distrubution. During the past week, the

government appears to be softening its stance, at least in

response to the donors. WFP/UNDP is currently negotiating an

MOU with the government that will clarify policy. END

SUMMARY.

 

2. (SBU) Nkomo told Chaka on August 20 that a new GOZ policy

issue on August 14 requiring humanitarian food relief to be

administered through village headmen and rural councils was

intended to enhance transparency and local involvement.

(NOTE: The government quietly promulgated the policy in July

but only publicized and began attempting to implement it in

August. The policy, which was announced in provincial level

meetings with NGOs, severely limits NGO involvement in

selecting beneficiaries and undertraking physical

distrubtion, both of these functions being transferred to

headmen and rural councils dominated by ZANU-PF. The initial

meetings were attended by Minister of Social Welfare Moyo and

Foreign Minister Mudenge, who reportedly spoke to the NGOs

present in harsh and confrontational terms. END NOTE)

 

3. (SBU) Nkomo reported that there had problems in local

distribution efforts, including efforts by some relief

workers to politicize the distribution. Headmen knew the

local communities most closely and were best situated to

administer distribution in a manner that would fully address

the beneficiaries’ needs. Nkomo emphasized that the headmen

were not in the government; district administrators and other

government representatives could monitor distributions but

could not control application of eligibility criteria. He

emphasized that transparency and broader distibution were the

policy’s principal objectives. Nkomo said that he understood

Chaka’s and Ambassador Sullivan’s concerns that the policy

would disrupt and politicize food distribution and assured

them the government would work with relevant donors on

details.

 

4. (SBU) Moyo essentially echoed Nkomo’s points in a meeting

with Chaka and Ambassador Sullivan on August 21. He

maintained that the policy was not new, it merely

memorialized practices already in effect — a catalogue of

best practices in effect. He assured that donors would

maintain control over their programs by setting criteria and

closely monitoring distributions undertaken by headmen. He

noted the value of international efforts but asserted that

they generated numerous local complaints — more so than

government food distributions. The new policy was intended

to minimize such complaints. Moyo reported that, discounting

WFP commitments and government purchases, Zimbabwe may still

be 600,000 tons short of meeting its food needs, underscoring

the importance of continued close collaboration with the

international community.

 

4. (SBU) Chaka’s visit to a World Vision distribution event

in rural Matabeleland South on August 25 disclosed no

disruption in the donor’s control of its operation but UNDP

reported that its staff had begun to get pressure related to

the policy. UNDP and WFP have met with Mugabe and with the

Ministry and reported that the government appears prepared to

back-track. Donors will seek to secure control over

distribution operations through a WFP/UNDP MOU with the

government. The MOU expired in November 2002 and is being

renegotiated. The bilateral MOUs between the GOZ and our

three C-SAFE partners also will need to be signed again for a

one-year period before the new year.

 

5. (SBU) COMMENT: The policy document appears to have been a

clumsy government effort to get the upper hand in MOU

negotiations that were underway before its promulgation. The

government has backed down from similar attempts to gain

control of food distribution in the past, but UNDP has

expressed concern that GOZ attitudes seem to be hardening

(septel). Sharpening the GOZ’s imperative now is that the

Grain Marketing Board, the government’s food distribution

organ, now lacks sufficient resources to begin to feed

traditional constituencies in its politically driven domestic

relief efforts. The government is loath to turn over such

constituencies to international relief and thereby relinquish

ZANU-PF influence over its heartland. The donors have told

UNDP that the proposed new rules of the game are not

acceptable and have urged the UNDP to take a tough line in

negotiating the MOU. Proposed USG policy position will

follow septel.

SULLIVAN

 

(5 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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