Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front secretary for Information Nathan Shamuyarira was reported to have scored another victory against Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, described by the United States embassy as “rabidly anti-Western”, by forcing the ministry to admit 13 British journalists to cover the English cricket team’s tour of Zimbabwe.
The government had barred the journalists from covering the tour but the English team threatened to cancel the tour if they were barred.
The Information Ministry reversed its decision but announced that the journalists would be permitted to enter the country to cover the matches but “not to meddle in the politics of Zimbabwe”.
Reports said Moyo had been overruled by Shamuyarira to avoid embarrassing the government with a cancellation of the publicised tour.
This was said to be Shamuyarira’s second victory over Moyo after having scored another in May when he allowed Sky News to interview President Robert Mugabe.
This was also viewed as a waning of Moyo’s influence since the Tsholotsho debacle in which he was reported to have been part of the group that tried to block Joice Mujuru from becoming party vice-president.
Viewing cable 04HARARE1963, ZIMBABWE’S CRICKET DIPLOMACY
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
030929Z Dec 04
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001963
AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2009
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE’S CRICKET DIPLOMACY
REF: (A) HARARE 1913 (B) HARARE 1770 (C) HARARE 882
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: A visit by England’s cricket team is
exposing conflicts inside the ruling party and may evidence
further impetus within the GOZ to moderate its anti-Western
posture. The GOZ’s decision to admit 13 originally barred
journalists to cover the tour suggests the waning influence
of Information Jonathan Moyo and coincides with curious
contemplation in the official press of possible rapprochement
with the UK. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (U) The English cricket team arrived in Zimbabwe November
26 for a ten-day, four match tour. The controversial tour
appeared to be derailed just days before its originally
scheduled commencement November 24 when the team refused to
travel in response to the GOZ’s barring of 13 British
journalists from entering the country to cover the matches.
After reportedly heavy lobbying by the director of the
England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the Information
Ministry reversed itself and announced that the journalists
would be permitted to enter the country to cover the matches,
but “not to meddle in the politics of Zimbabwe.” The
journalists reportedly were going to be required to sign
statements upon entry undertaking not to stray from sports
themes in their reporting, but we are unaware that they were
asked to do so or actually did so. Indeed, we understand
that the Sky News crew has been reporting on the ZANU-PF
Party Congress underway this week. The cricket boards
reportedly are continuing to spar over who will bear losses
associated with the cancellation of one match as a result of
the delayed entry.
¶3. (U) Articles in The Independent and the Daily Mirror
portrayed the Ministry’s volte face as a defeat for combative
Information Minister Moyo engineered by ZANU-PF Secretary for
Information Nathan Shamuyarira. According to press reports,
Shamuyarira overruled the Ministry in order to avoid an
embarassing the GOZ with a cancellation of the publicized
tour. The official press reported nothing about the
flip-flopping and announced only that all 78 of the
journalists applying to cover the tour had been accredited.
Focused principally on sports themes, official Zimbabwean
coverage of the tour featured English players’ positive
comments about Zimbabwe and occasionally contrasted this
visit with last year’s tour, which was cancelled over
purported security concerns.
¶4. (U) Much more eyebrow-raising was an unrelated Herald
op-ed piece the same date, “Jack Straw’s handshake turns into
an olive branch,” in which the rabidly anti-Western columnist
Donald Charumbira lays out evidence of purported UK interest
in “burying the hatchet” with the GOZ. Charumbira argues
that the UK has accepted the inevitability of ZANU-PF rule
and needs better relations with all countries, including
Zimbabwe, to advance larger priorities such as Iraq and the
Middle East. He forecasts British attempts at harmonization
but warns that “clandestine machinations” will continue and
that the UK would shift efforts from the MDC to “tackling
ZANU-PF from within.” The ZANU-PF-aligned but unofficial
Daily Mirror published an article on November 24 that gave
prominent play to the British Ambassador’s urging of more
cordial bilateral ties.
¶5. (C) A British diplomat here confirmed to poloff that HMG
did not support the cricket tour but had protested the
barring of the journalists. An unnamed minister in London
had called in the Zimbabwean charge in London and the British
DCM visited working level counterparts at MFA here to express
displeasure and to urge a policy reversal. The British
diplomat attributed the reversal, however, not to the
demarche but to anti-Moyo sentiments within the Government
and Mugabe’s strong desire to have the cricket tour.
Commenting on the Charumbira piece, the diplomat reiterated
that HMG had not changed its Zimbabwe policy at all but that
the new British Ambassador’s more outgoing style might be
“puzzling” the GOZ.
¶6. (C) Shamuyarira’s reported triumph over Moyo, if true,
reprises his successful contest with the mercurial
Information Minister over the admission of a Sky News team to
interview President Mugabe (ref C) in May. It is one of
several indicia that Moyo’s influence finally may be running
out. He is a candidate to be scapegoated over party
divisions and rancor that flowed from a meeting he reportedly
assembled to thwart the Joyce Mujuru Vice-Presidential bid
last month (septel). We are hearing growing rumors that the
President himself, on whose favor Moyo had relied for so
long, is dissatisfied with Moyo’s divisiveness and plans to
sack him from the cabinet after the election. Certainly
there are many in the ruling party who would welcome his
departure from the scene, but predictions of the adept
bureaucratic operator’s imminent political demise now have
proven no more than wishful thinking for more than a year.
¶7. (C) The GOZ’s reversal on the journalists’ accreditation
contrasts with the hard line shown just last month in
deporting the COSATU delegation (ref B) and suggests the
growing ascendancy of more outward oriented elements in the
ruling party. Certainly, the GOZ is being more attentive to
its international image and is trying to convey a sense of
growing normalcy to domestic audiences. We expect the UK
will continue to be the regime’s principal bogeyman through
the elections (ref A), but the Charumbira piece may
foreshadow a softening after that.