US ambassador threatens Zimbabwe after farm seizure


United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan said his country could review Zimbabwe’s trade benefits under the General Schedule of Preferences because Zimbabwe had seized two properties belonging to American citizens.

He said respect for property rights and prompt or fair compensation were the norm under both international and United States regulations so the issue could be raised when the review of GSP beneficiaries, which received preferential access to US markets in the form of lower duty, came up.

The ambassador said Zimbabwe had earned $26 million the previous year under the programme.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2002-11-21 07:36

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

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 002628







E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/21/2004





REF: A) HARARE 2487 B) HARARE 2529




1. (c) Summary. The Ambassador and DCM met with MFA

Division Director for Europe and the Americas, Joey Bihma,

and acting desk officer Henry Mukonoweshuro on November 20 at

Bihma’s invitation. A cordial, almost conciliatory, Bihma

stated that he wished to address the shooting by police of

Richard Gilman in Mutare and the detention of two Embassy

staff by war vets on farm near Melfort (ref b). On the

Gilman incident, Bihma handed over a more thorough police

report, as requested by the Ambassador in an earlier meeting

with Fonmin Mudenge (ref a). On the Melfort episode, Bihma

pointed out that the MFA would find it easier to protect

traveling American diplomats if the Ministry were informed in

advance of their movements and destinations, to which the

Ambassador was non-committal. The Ambassador also raised two

de facto expropriations of properties owned by American

citizens and explained that this could become a factor in the

annual selection of the list of countries that may benefit

from the General Schedule of Preferences (GSP). Bihma

expressed optimism that this issue could be resolved.

Negative commentary in the GOZ press following the release of

an Embassy statement on the Melfort incident has continued

through November 21, but Bihma’s buttery comportment leads us

to believe that the GOZ is still reluctant to tackle us in

person head on. End summary.



The Gilman Shooting



2. (sbu) Bihma had very little to say on the shooting of

Richard Gilman, other than to note that both sides had agreed

on the need for a thorough investigation. He noted that the

MFA had requested the police to do this, and that the ZRP had

completed and submitted the report on November 19. He passed

a copy of the report to the Ambassador, who acknowledged our

satisfaction that the GOZ had respected our requests for

access to the vehicle in which Mr. Gilman was killed and the

presence of a medical representative of the Gilman family

present during the autopsy. The report, which was not all

that thorough, has been transmitted septel. We will relay

our views to the GOZ on the report, and the use of lethal

force over a question of documentation, in a note verbale.



The Melfort Detention



3. (sbu) Bihma said that Fonmin Mudenge had asked him to

point out that the MFA had in the past circulated a memo

advising diplomats to inform the MFA in advance of travel,

supplying information on timing and destination. Bihma

hastened to add that this was for purposes of notification,

not asking permission. It would allow the MFA to inform

local security officials to ensure the safety of traveling

diplomats, and would be a proper and helpful gesture. Bihma

said that such notice would not be necessary for recreational

visits, only normal official business. The Ambassador asked

if there had been any progress on our request that personal

belongings and documents taken from USG employees be promptly

returned. Bihma replied that there was no report on this

yet. The Ambassador stressed that the incident remained of

great concern to us. Although we had managed to contact an

MFA and police officials when we were informed of the

detention, we had a hard time getting the MFA secretariat to

accept our note verbale on the incident during Ministry

working hours. We were also unwilling to lodge a complaint

with police near Melfort, who were acting as if this were a

routine police matter when it was, in fact, a political and

diplomatic incident. Bihma agreed that matters affecting

diplomats were to be handled by the MFA and said that the MFA

would be sure that we were in possession of a valid telephone

contact number for the Ministry’s duty officer. DCM rejoined

that this mechanism had not proven particularly reliable in

the past.



Expropriation of Amcit Property



4. (sbu) The Ambassador took the occasion to raise two

documented expropriations of Amcit properties, a ranch and a

farm. Both had received two or more of the Section 5, 7, and

8 notices under the land reform legislation, and the Amcit

owners had been dispossessed of their properties. In one

other case, the expropriation mechanism was underway although

the amcits in questions retained control of their respective

properties. The Ambassador said that we had at various

points delivered notes verbale on these cases — he passed

copies to Bihma — but since June de facto expropriation had

occurred nonetheless. The Americans in question had

exhausted legal remedies. The Ambassador noted that under

both international and U.S. regulations, the respect for

property rights, or prompt and fair compensation, are the

norm. He continued that the U.S. legislative schedule will

soon begin its annual review of GSP beneficiaries, which

receive preferential access to U.S. markets in the form of

lowered duty. Last year, Zimbabwe had benefited from this

program to the tune of USD 26 million. One aspect of this

qualifying for this program, however, is whether property

owned by U.S. citizens has been expropriated.


5. (c) Bihma said that he had been unaware of the listing of

the properties in question. There had been a Cabinet

decision to delist properties owned by foreign investors. In

the event that overriding national interests were at stake,

the owners must be compensated fully for the property. He

said that the current financial situation made such

compensation impossible, and thus delisting is the norm. He

offered to look into the issue and return to us with a more

definitive response.






6. (c) Bihma had clearly received instructions to break no

eggs in his dealings with us. Following the release of the

Embassy’s strongly worded November 19 press statement on the

Melfort incident, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo engaged

in his usual braying performance in the GOZ written press,

and on November 21 the GOZ Herald ran an article claiming

that U.S. diplomats were under order to give 48 hour

notification for travel outside of Harare, a statement that

directly contradicts what Bihma stated. The article further

claims that the Ambassador was apologetic — he was not —

and characterized our press statement on the Melfort as

“undiplomatic and defamatory.” Whatever the GOZ propaganda

machine may churn out, face to face Bihma and his handlers

appear unwilling to take us head on. We have implemented new

measures to minimize the risk of Melfort incidents in our

travel into the field, but we have no intention of abandoning

these missions. We also do not intend to provide the MFA

forty-eight hour notice — only the British have been ordered

to do so — unless expressly told to do so in writing. At

that moment, we will request reciprocal treatment of

Zimbabwean officials posted in Washington and New York.





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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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