The Minister of Small and Medium Enterprise Development Sithembiso Nyoni was put in a fix when the organisation that she founded, the Organisation for Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP), was accused by both her own Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change of being partisan.
ORAP had been contracted by the World Food Programme to distribute food in Insiza District just before a parliamentary by-election in the constituency.
ZANU-PF activists seized three metric tons of food from ORAP and began distributing it.
Both ZANU-PF and the MDC accused ORAP of being partisan in its relief activities but checks by WFP showed that it was diligently implementing WFP distribution guidelines.
Viewing cable 02HARARE2311, INTERNATIONAL FOOD AID SEIZURE
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 002311
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER
LONDON FOR CGURNEY
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
PARIS FOR NEARY
ROME FOR FODAG
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: INTERNATIONAL FOOD AID SEIZURE
¶1. (U) SUMMARY. The seizure on Thursday, October 17 of 3
metric tons of food by ZANU-PF activists in Insiza was the
first documented incident of international food aid theft and
partisan redistribution. The Government has denied the
allegations and tried to divert attention from ZANU-PF food
aid theft to British involvement in food distribution. END
¶2. (SBU) On Friday, October 18, the World Food Program
indefinitely suspended food distributions in Insiza district,
Matebeleland South, where a parliamentary by-election is
scheduled to take place October 26-67. ZANU-PF activists
seized 3 metric tons of food from WFP,s implementing
partner, Organization of Rural Associations for Progress
(ORAP), on Thursday October 17 and began distributing it in
an unauthorized manner. A relatively small portion of the
food seized was U.S.-donated cooking oil. (NOTE: Mrs.
Sithembiso Nyoni, who is now Minister of Small and Medium
Enterprise Development, founded ORAP in 1981. Both political
parties have accused ORAP of being partisan in its relief
activities but checks by us and WFP have shown ORAP to be
diligently implementing WFP distribution guidelines. END
NOTE) Explaining WFP’s decision to suspend operations in
Insiza, WFP country director Kevin Farrell told journalists
that WFP will only distribute its food on the basis of need
without regard to political affiliation. He said WFP is
seeking assurances from the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) that
such incidents will not take place again.
¶3. (U) ZANU-PF dismissed the report as false and tried to
paint WFP as not being nonpartisan. In the government
controlled newspaper, The Herald, Jonathan Moyo, Minister of
State for Information and Publicity insisted that the WFP was
being used t further British political interests in Insiza
and challenged the WFP to assure the country that the British
are not directing it. “While we appreciate assistance from
well-meaning quarters, whether from WFP or anyone else,” Moyo
said, “we are not going to allow it to compromise our
sovereignty.” The state media, controlled by Moyo, also
claimed implausibly that ORAP was controlled by MDC activists
bent on distributing food in a partisan manner.
¶4. (U) The raid on the food distribution depot occurred the
day after Jonathan Moyo told journalists that the British
High Commissioner was ordering all NGOs to distribute food to
MDC supporters ahead of the Insiza by-election but the same
day the story appeared in the state-run newspaper. Moyo
reiterated that the British High Commissioner should desist
from meddling in Zimbabwe internal affairs. The British High
Commission issued a statement on October 17 denying these
¶5. (SBU) The GOZ is appropriately concerned about the WFP
food suspension and public statements. WFP Director Kevin
Farrell and Minister of Social Welfare July Moyo will travel
to Insiza October 21 to address the issues.
¶6. (U) ACTION: Post recommends State issue a statement
expressing outrage and concern about the seizure and partisan
use of international food aid and we plan to issue a
statement in Harare as well. We are sending proposed
language to the Department separately. We are also urging
WFP to insist on return of the food, although we do not
recommend making this point public as yet.