US embassy said Holland was a difficult character


The United States embassy said that Movement for Democratic Change secretary for International Affairs Sekai Holland was a difficult character.

It was concurring with Midlands governor Cephas Msipa who said that he generally had amicable dealings with the MDC but Mberengwa activist Sekai Holland was a difficult character.

He said that MDC was running real risks if it embarked on adventurous courses like mass action, given its likely penetration by the Central Intelligence Organisation.

Msipa had described his province as a model for peaceful land redistribution where commercial farmers were working harmoniously with resettled farmers.

He sharply criticised Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo for promoting a wildcat committee which had visited the Midlands and sought to force nature conservancy owners off their land in contradiction to national policy on nature conservancies recently agreed by Vice President Joseph Msika and Tourism Minister Francis Nhema.

Full cable:



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Reference ID






2002-10-25 08:11

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 04 HARARE 002342









E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/25/2012






Classified By: Political Officer Kimberly Jemison. Reasons 1.5(b) and



1. (C) SUMMARY: Ambassador and Political Officer visited

Midlands province October 17 and 18 to meet with USAID, CDC,

and WFP beneficiaries, NGO and UN staff, and GOZ officials.

Against the backdrop of the HIV/AIDS, land, and food crises

gripping the country, Midlands province seems to be the model

of moderation and cooperation. Government, community,

business, and NGO leaders are working together to tackle the

HIV/AIDS and food issues in a relatively peaceful and orderly

manner. The visit to Midlands also illustrated the internal

contradictions in the Zanu-PF leadership and the enourmous

pressures on those who would take a moderate course. END






2. (U) Ambassador and Political Officer visited Midlands

province October 17 and 18 to meet with USAID, CDC, and WFP

beneficiaries, NGO and UN staff, and GOZ officials. The

overarching concerns of the people we met were the HIV/AIDS

and food security crises. (NOTE: Midlands has been held up

as the model province in the government land redistribution

exercise. On the morning of October 17, BBC Radio

interviewed a white, commercial and newly resettled, black

farmer in a highly favorable report on the land

redistribution in Midlands. A few weeks prior to our visit,

the GOZ showed off the land redistribution in theis province

to a group of African Ambassadors. END NOTE.)


3. (U) In a meeting with Cephas Msipa, provincial governor of

Midlands, Ambassador and PolOff learned about his efforts at

land redistribution in his province. Msipa said unlike some

of his colleagues, he was resisting the call to take more

land from the whites and that he personally had taken far

less land himself than the law allowed. He also added that

he had sought to resolve land disputes amicably and that the

land exercise in Midlands had brought blacks and whites

together and forced them to get to know one another. In

fact, the white farmers in Midlands were helping the newly

resettled farmers with their crops to minimize the reduction

in crop production. The Ambassador asked if lack of seeds or

the cost of seeds would be a problem for next season,s

agricultural production to which Msipa replied that inputs in

general would be a problem. Communities were pooling their

resources to buy seeds so seed acquisition was not a problem.


4. (C) Msipa claimed that his, along with Vice President

Joseph Msika, Social Welfare Minister July Moyo, also the

ZANU-PF Chairman for Midlands, and Speaker of Parliament

Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is from the Midlands, was the voice

of moderation regarding the land issue among the party elite.

(See REFTEL for Mnangagwa,s comments on land redistribution

in Midlands.) Msipa said he had successfully stopped the

acquisition of the dairy farms, arguing that to seize the

farms would adversely affect milk production. (NOTE: There

is currently a milk shortage in the country. END NOTE.) He

also claimed to have convinced national authorities to delist

a successful game lodge in Midlands, although the owners have

not received confirmation of this.


5. (C) Governor Msipa said that Zimbabwe’s political impasse

was profound. ZANU-PF leaders recognized that President

Mugabe needed to retire, but were anxious that a ZANU-PF

succession be secured. He sharply criticized Ministers

Jonathan Moyo and Ignatius Chombo, ministers of information

and local government respectively, and cited a &wildcat8

committee promoted by Chombo, which had visited Midlands and

sought to force nature conservancy owners off their land in

contradiction to national policy on nature conservancies

recently agreed by Vice President Msika and Tourism Minister

Francis Nhema. Governor Msipa said he had intervened to

expel this committee and get the necessary political backing

for his position. Regarding the MDC, Msipa claimed he had

been generally able to ensure amicable dealings with the MDC,

although Mberengwa MDC activist Sekai Holland was a difficult

character. (COMMENT: We agree with his characterization of

Holland. END COMMENT.) He claimed that MDC was running real

risks if it embarked on adventurous courses like mass action,

given its likely penetration by the Central Intelligence

Organization (CIO).





6. (C) Msipa was very concerned about the food situation and

dismayed at the level of obstructionism by his government. He

said that even though politicization of food aid is not

tolerated at the higher levels of government, he knew it was

happening on the ground and was visibly disturbed by this

fact. Msipa seemed excited that we were traveling to his

home district of Zvishavane (we met in the provincial

capital, Gweru) to look at food distribution and asked that

we meet again upon our return to exchange notes. He was

anxious to find out if CARE, one of World Food Program,s

implementing partners, had enough food to distribute and how

things were going. (NOTE: Zvishavane is one of the most food

insecure districts in Zimbabwe. END NOTE.) Msipa said he

was trying to secure additional storage for CARE from Blue

Ribbon Foods Limited, so they can expand relief operations

into the northern districts. Msipa said he had lobbied with

Minister July Moyo to get additional NGOs–including Save the

Children-UK and Africare–registered for food distribution.

He said he had told July Moyo not to believe much of what the

CIO told him about these NGOs.


7. (U) On October 18, Ambassador and Political Officer also

met with the Catholic Bishop of Gweru, Bishop Mugadzi. At

the conclusion of the meeting, Bishop Mugadzi admitted that

he had been nervous about our visit but midway through it he

felt at ease with meeting Western diplomats viewed as

controversial by the authorities. The Bishop said the food

situation was bad in Gweru and among his parishioners but

because of GOZ legislation restricting food imports, the

Catholic Church had not been able to help as they have always

done in the past. The Bishop said the Catholic Church had

been shut out of food distribution but that the government

had no problem with the Church sourcing food as long as it

went through the government’s Grain Marketing Board (GMB).

After our meeting, the Bishop seemed reenergized and ready to

try to do something about the food situation in Gweru,

probably through Catholic charities and Catholic Relief





8. (U) We saw a general food distribution and supplementary

feeding in Mutambi village in Mutambi ward, Zvishavane

district. WFP through its implementing partner, CARE, has

been feeding people in Zvishavane since September 2002 but

began operations in Mberengwa in March. The supplementary

feeding was at the local school and served every child in the

ward. Children under 5-years old were served in the morning

and school-aged children were fed in the afternoon.

According to the principal, most students received at least

two meals a day and attendance in school has been very high.

CARE representatives said that while there had been some

problems in Mberengwa around the time of elections, feeding

programs had generally gone well with CARE able to designate

beneficiaries through open meetings, as WFP requires.


9. (U) According to the principal, teachers, nurses, and

other professionals were suffering the most because they did

not qualify for food aid, could not take time off to wait for

corn from the Grain Marketing Board, and could not find corn

to buy. The principal wondered if the GMB could set aside

corn for other working professionals as it does for members

of the uniformed services. (The Governor later told us he

was working to achieve this.)


10. (U) WFP is providing food to 75 percent of the people in

Mutambi. A number of beneficiaries reported that they had

cut down their food consumption to one or two meals a day.

On October 17, WFP was distributing 13 50-kg bags of

whole-kernel yellow corn and 2 cans of vegetable oil for each

member group of 10 families. One 50-kg bag of corn (which

mills to about 33 kg of corn meal) will last a family of five

one month. The remaining 25 percent of the population not

receiving food aid directly (mostly teachers and others with

work in the formal sector) were most likely given food by the

rest of the community. According to the distribution

manager, people from the urban areas have been migrating back

to the rural areas in search of food.




11. (U) The WFP/CARE officials said that when they first

began operations in Midlands, the ruling party tried to

interfere with the ward designation and beneficiary selection

process. According to these officials, local ZANU-PF

officials were not happy with the process and wanted to use

the GOZ-appointed district administrators, who are notorious

for politicizing beneficiary lists, rather than the

traditional leaders. The NGO community prevailed and the

beneficiary selection process described to us seemed very

transparent with the entire community involved in the

process. They said that Governor Msipa had been helpful in

resolving disputes and that the Governor,s efforts to secure

free warehouse space were extraordinary.





12. (U) On October 18, Ambassador and Political Officer

visited an impressive local NGO, Midlands AIDS Service

Organization (MASO), a local chief, and the Catholic Diocese

of Gweru to discuss HIV/AIDS. MASO is a CDC grantee and was

established in 1991 to provide training, prevention, home

based care, and orphan care throughout the province. The

visit included a presentation by a youth group and a meeting

with the uniformed services. The Youth Alive Club is for

elementary-aged boys and girls with the goal of educating

them about HIV/AIDS and of developing skills they will need

to delay the age of first sexual encounter and to insist upon

the use of prophylactics. The children performed skits in

which members of their families died from AIDS. (COMMENT:

The fact that this community needs HIV/AIDS-specific clubs

for elementary-aged children is a good indicator of the

severity of the HIV problem in Zimbabwe. END COMMENT.)


13. (U) The Catholic Church in Gweru has HIV/AIDS programs

too. Bishop Mugadzi said the hospitals and clinics in the

province all have AIDS awareness and outreach programs and

the Church allows Youth Alive Clubs in the Catholic schools

as long as they skirt around the condom issue. The Bishop

also said they were able to discuss HIV/AIDS with

parishioners where as a few years ago that was not the case.


14. (U) We also met with Chief Cyprian Malisa, a traditional

chief from Silobela. Chief Malisa was quoted in the

state-run newspaper, The Herald, on September 19 advocating

more open communication about HIV/AIDS and acceptance of

voluntary testing as a way of life. Malisa said he first

noticed an increase in deaths about five or six years ago,

particularly those attributed to TB. He said the symptoms

before death were coughs, swollen legs, and then thinning

out. Malisa claimed that within a 5-km radius from his

house, 2-5 people died per week. Malisa told us he had seen

an increase in women resorting to prostitution because of the

food crisis and he worried about the consequences of this.

He worried that as the food situation deteriorates HIV

infection rates would increase and only viable economic

alternatives would slow the spread of the disease but lack of

money, inputs, and water made economic development difficult.



15. (U) Malisa said AIDS deaths are having a terrible toll on

the community. One of the traditional coping methods

available for widows–that of marrying one,s

brother-in-law–is no longer viable because it is assumed the

widow has AIDS too and will only infect the brother-in-law.

The number of orphans is overwhelming the community and

there has been an increase in street children in Gweru. When

asked whether home based care through MASO was available in

Silobela, Malisa said it existed but was hampered by

transportation problems–everyone must go on foot. He said

bicycles would go a long way towards helping the caregivers.




16. (U) MASO has been working with the uniformed services

(Air Force of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Military Academy, Zimbabwe

Prison Services, and Zimbabwe Republic Police) since 1998 to

raise awareness and increase responsibility. In all the

services, representatives reported an increase in awareness

about HIV/AIDS, increased demand for condoms, a decrease in

the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (Air Force

representatives reported a decrease from 21 to 3 percent), an

increase in the willingness to talk about HIV/AIDS, and less

stigmatism. Constraints to further success and program

expansion were the lack of audiovisual equipment (TV, VCR,

projectors), condoms, literature, and medicines. (COMMENT:

According to our MASO guides, the uniformed services were

wary of meeting with us and initially denied the request when

MASO first proposed a meeting. After MASO explained our role

in supporting their projects and the purpose of the meeting,

the uniformed services agreed to meet with us and were very

open about the HIV situation in their respective

organizations. The uniformed services have historically been

very unwilling to discuss HIV/AIDS with the USG sufficiently

for us to be able to work with them. Consequently, we will

explore further the possibility of working indirectly through






17. (U) In most of our meetings the rise in the level of

illegal gold and chrome panning and its effect on the local

community came up and one of the local newspapers had an

article on the topic too. People have been resorting to gold

panning as the economic environment has worsened. None of

our interlocutors thought the rise in gold panning was

helping fuel the HIV/AIDS crisis but doing nothing to help

alleviate the food crisis. WFP representatives said the

youths who are typically engaged in this activity do not

remit payments to their less fortunate relatives but rather

spend it all in town on entertainment and Chief Silobela said

gold panning increased the level of prostitution in the area.





18. (C) The information we learned from Midlands most likely

reflects the situation in the rest of the country–high

HIV/AIDS levels, severe food shortages, and intensified land

redistribution–but it is different in that public, private,

and civic leaders are working together to improve the

situation. The efforts of a strong, respected, moderate

governor have meant less disorder, chaos, disruption, and

political conflict in the region.




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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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