Why the US holds higher standards for Zimbabwe


The United States was holding higher standards for Zimbabwe than most other countries because it once held itself to higher standards and had been a model for the region.

This was said by former United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell in response to criticism from Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

Chinamasa complained to Dell that the United States had double standards and castigated Zimbabwe for numerous transgressions it accepted in others while giving Zimbabwe insufficient credit for its successes.

He said Zimbabwe’s parliament was among the most robust in Africa with genuine debate, collaboration and compromise between the parties.

“I can pick up the phone and talk to Coltart or Welshman Ncube any time,” Chinamasa told Dell.

Dell said that Zimbabwe was being held to a high standard in part because it once held itself to a higher standard and had been a model for the region.

The international community and Zimbabweans still expected more of it and were disappointed with government policies which were responsible for the nation’s sharp decline.

“The government should not expect to redress historical injustices with additional injustices today,” Dell said.


Full cable:


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Reference ID






2004-12-14 10:32

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.


141032Z Dec 04

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 002015







E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2009




REF: (A) HARARE 2003 (B) HARARE 2001 (C) HARARE 1913


(D) HARARE 1505 (E) 2003 HARARE 2310


Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.5 b/d


1. (C) SUMMARY: Minister of Justice, Legal, and

Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Chinamasa on December 10

updated the Ambassador on issues associated with the

scheduled March parliamentary elections. During the

sometimes testy exchange, the Minister did not address the

election environment’s most serious flaws, including

political violence and media access. He suggested that the

USG would not be invited to observe elections but that

“unbiased” Americans not affiliated with the USG could be

welcome. The Ambassador emphasized that Zimbabwe still did

not appear to have established conditions to permit free and

fair elections and reiterated that USG evaluation of the

election would hinge on process issues. END SUMMARY.


Parliamentary Elections



2. (C) Chinamasa confirmed that parliamentary elections

would be held in March on a date still to be determined. He

expected considerable haggling in the Parliament over

nominations for the recently authorized election commission

(ref A) but asserted that the Commission would be sitting by

early January. An election directorate would mobilize

resources from various ministries to conduct the election,

while the Election Commission’s work would be in tandem with

other agencies responsible for facets of the election: the

Registrar-General, the Delimitation Commission, and the

Election Supervisory Commission.


3. (C) Chinamasa was frank about the likely limitations of

ad hoc election courts under pending legislation. (Note: The

Election Bill, a companion to the recently passed Election

Commission Bill, is likely to pass before the end of the

month. End note.) The election courts, which would be

composed of seconded High Court or Supreme Court judges,

would be expected to dispose of disputes in no more than six

months. Chinamasa said he agreed with opposition critics who

doubted such speedy justice would be possible, especially

when contentious fact issues implicating depositions and

conflicting testimony were involved. Nonetheless, he said

that they would be an improvement over existing courts and



Combating Election Violence



4. (C) Challenged by the Ambassador on GOZ sincerity about

elections, the Justice Minister asserted that a central

challenge to election administration in Zimbabwe was not the

process, which he maintained was the source of few

substantive complaints, but the Government’s ability to

address pre-election violence. Chinamasa conceded that the

police were inadequate to the task, so the GOZ would rely

increasingly on political parties to take responsibility. To

this end, the election would provide for multi-party liaison

committees to resolve disputes at the local and national

levels. He noted that a similar institution had been tried

in 2002 but was set up too late to achieve the intended

effect. The Ambassador expressed doubt about the parties’

ability to police themselves effectively in such a polarized

environment unless the process included sanctions on parties

and candidates, such as disqualification of those associated

with violence. The Minister remained adamant that there was

little Government authorities could do.


Election Observers: USG Unlikely, Eminent Persons Possible

——————————————— ————–

5. (C) Responding to the Ambassador’s inquiry about election

observation, Chinamasa reported that international observers

would be admitted to the country strictly by invitation from

the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Invitations would go to

neutral governments but not to governments that had shown

themselves “biased” by imposition of “sanctions” (i.e.,

including the United States). Chinamasa emphasized that the

matter was within the purview of MFA, not his Ministry, but

suggested that SADC, the AU, and the UN would be invited, and

that the door was open for unbiased private persons from

countries, including the United States, whose governments

would not be invited.

ZANU-PF Politics



6. (C) Chinamasa was generally cagey in responding to the

Ambassador’s inquiries about the implications of the recently

concluded ZANU-PF Party Congress. He asserted that upcoming

primaries for the party would be more vibrant than ever, more

so even than the likely final elections. As the party’s

Secretary for Legal Affairs, he had been tasked with crafting



rules for primaries, which he joked were becoming a “cottage

industry.” The most significant issues for primaries were

not so much factional as grassroots effectiveness, with

contenders nursing constituencies in an effort to unseat

incumbents. Casting the ZANU-PF incumbents in his area of

Manicaland as effective, he reported that he did not plan to

run for a seat and would not hazard a guess as to his likely

role in the Government next year. He predicted that the

Presidium (the President, two Vice-Presidents, and Party

Chairman) would soon work out a new Politburo.


Bilateral Relations



7. (C) The Justice Minister inquired about “the state of

bilateral relations,” to which the Ambassador replied,

“limited.” Noting the importance of the upcoming elections

to bilateral relations, the Ambassador said conditions for a

free and fair election had yet to be met. He stressed that

our judgment of the elections would be objective, based on

our own criteria, and would assess actual conditions on the

ground against those. Referring to suggestions by the

official media and the President (ref D) that the Ambassador

might be sent home if he were not sufficiently “objective”

(i.e., if he were critical of the GOZ and ZANU-PF), the

Ambassador underscored that the USG’s positions would not be

shaped by threats. The USG was scrutinizing the Zimbabean

situation carefully for concrete developments that might

justify improved relations but to date had seen mostly

expressions of intentions and little real change that might

warrant improvement.


8. (C) Chinamasa then launched into a familiar but

aggressive rehearsal of GOZ complaints of American double

standards and general historical injustices. He charged that

the USG castigated Zimbabwe for numerous transgressions it

accepted in others, while giving Zimbabwe insufficient credit

for its achievements. He asserted that Zimbabwe’s parliament

was among the most robust in Africa, with genuine debate,

collaboration and compromise between the parties. “I can

pick up the phone and talk to (MDC Shadow Minister of

Justice) Coltart or (MDC Secretary-General and head of the

Parliamentary Legal Committee) Welshman Ncube any time.”

(Comment: But not MDC MP Roy Bennet, who is serving a year’s

hard labor in prison for pushing Chinamasa down on the floor

of the Parliament. End comment.) Zimbabwe lacked a perfect

democracy but its youth — this next election would mark the

first time in the country’s history that there had been two

consecutive multi-party elections — should be factored into

any evaluation of its elections.


9. The Ambassador replied that Zimbabwe was being held to a

high standard in part because it once held itself to a higher

standard and had been a model for the region. The

international community and Zimbabweans still expected more

of it and were disappointed with GOZ policies, which were

responsible for the nation’s sharp decline. The GOZ should

not expect to redress historical injustices with additional

injustices today.


10. (C) Shifting to a warmer tone again, Chinamasa asserted

that with growing political stability, Zimbabwe would

progress toward a more rational and efficient system of

secure land tenure. Referring to a book by economist

Hernando de Soto given to him by the Embassy last year (ref

E), Chinamasa urged that the USG “not forget its yesterdays,”

i.e. the fact that it took a long time in establishing the

legal infrastructure to unleash its domestic capital

potential. Zimbabwe could learn from American examples, and

he curiously singled out New Jersey corporations law to

illustrate the importance of fostering a favorable investment

climate. In the meantime, however, Zimbabwe had done

relatively well in overcoming colonial legacies on land so

far, and was a model for other governments in the region,

such as South Africa and Namibia, which the GOZ was advising.






11. (C) Chinamasa’s sometimes gregariously friendly tone and

his inquiry about bilateral relations bespeak growing GOZ

interest in better bilateral relations (ref C). As with

other senior GOZ officials, however, his frothy edge in

addressing purported historical injustices and Western double

standards testifies to deep-seated ruling party insecurities

over its misgovernance and brittle hold on power. Indeed,

little he said suggests that the GOZ is willing to redress

fundamental imbalances in the election environment or to

undertake any other measures before the elections to justify

improved relations.


12. (C) Chinamasa has been rumored in the popular press to

be on the way out over his apparent alignment with

Parliamentary Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa and possible

collaboration on the “Tsholotsho Declaration” (ref B). Like

fellow hard-liner Jonathan Moyo, Chinamasa is a hard-working

cabinet minister without a strong grassroots constituency who

has gotten where he is by making himself valuable to the

President. Unlike Moyo, however, he may have continuing

value to Mugabe both as a sop to his Karanga patron,

Mnangagwa, and as one of the few adept legal minds near the

party’s apex. A political pragmatist and reasonably

effective bureaucratic operator, he lacks the number of

in-party enemies Moyo has made. Moreover, his unswervingly

hard-line political posture and latent inclination to more

liberal economic policies comport with the attitudes of some

elements within in the ruling party’s younger generation.





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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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