Cablegate: Aa/Dcha Hess Impressed by Programs, but Alarmed By

Published: Thu 4 Oct 2007 10:11 AM
DE RUEHSB #0903/01 2771011
R 041011Z OCT 07
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict,
and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) Michael Hess, accompanied by
Special Assistant Amber Brooks, visited Harare, Bulawayo, and rural
areas September 16-20 to assess humanitarian needs and programs and
to consult with civil society organizations on the political and
economic future of Zimbabwe. Hess met with various groups, from
civil society to homeless victims of Operation Murambatsvina, to
USAID staff, emphasizing the linkages between democracy, conflict,
and humanitarian assistance. Explaining that poor governance - not
drought or crop failure - causes famine and economic crisis in a
country, AA Hess argued that USAID's democracy and governance (DG)
programs were essential components for transitioning from conflict
and humanitarian crises and enabling sustainable long-term growth
and development. AA Hess was struck by the conditions of vulnerable
urban populations, the victims of organized violence and torture,
the acute water shortages in Bulawayo and other urban areas, and the
visible need for continued food assistance programs. However, he
also became keenly aware of how easily food and any humanitarian
assistance can be used as a political tool in such a highly charged
environment and called for more rigorous measures to prevent
politicization. AA Hess affirmed that USAID programs were doing the
right things in the right places, but acknowledged that gaps do
exist as increasing numbers of people are in need. Recognizing the
need for closer coordination and synergies between humanitarian
organizations and civil society organizations, Mr. Hess noted that
USAID could play an even greater catalytic role as facilitator of
increased dialogue. AA Hess concurred with USAID/OFDA Senior
Regional Advisor's plans to continue assessing ways to better
address the water and sanitation problems in Bulawayo. This was a
tightly scheduled and extremely productive visit. The Mission
greatly appreciates the insights, interventions, and energy of Mr.
Hess and Ms. Brooks. End Summary.
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Hess Impressed by Commitment of Democracy and Governance Partners
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2. (SBU) AA Hess met with many DG partner organizations during his
visit. The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) gave him a
tour of squatter camps where forcibly relocated victims of the GOZ
Operation Murambatsvina had settled and are struggling to survive.
Key civil society representatives shared ideas and predictions about
Zimbabwe's repressive political dynamics and opposition movements.
A roundtable discussion with board members from the Zimbabwe
Election Support Network (ZESN) assessed the state of readiness for
elections, highlighting the significant obstacles to free and fair
elections scheduled for March 2008. A second roundtable discussion
with some of the country's leading pro-democracy activists from
civil society organizations (CSOs) gave AA Hess a taste of the
diversity of opinion among CSOs regarding what is the optimal way
forward toward transition and the tensions that exist among CSOs
themselves and between CSOs and the political opposition.
3. (SBU) AA Hess visited the Counseling Services Unit (CSU), a
USAID-funded organization that provides medical and psychological
care for victims of state-sponsored organized violence and torture.
He heard first-hand accounts from opposition and civil society
victims about their ordeals and survival strategies. Given the
caseload of over 2000 victims already treated this year, it was
clear why such a unit is vitally important. He was also briefed on
the important work this unit is doing in documenting abuse.
4. (SBU) In Bulawayo, representatives from Christian Alliance
explained the vital role of churches in the Save Zimbabwe Campaign,
which aims to mobilize civil society actors to press for
alternatives to current governance systems. AA Hess met with
opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) policy chief
Eddie Cross and MDC Shadow-Minister for Environment and Tourism
Gertrude Mthombeni to learn the state of play of opposition politics
and the ongoing negotiations between ZANU-PF and MDC, brokered by
South African President Thabo Mbeki. Finally, AA Hess, during a
breakfast meeting with Bulawayo Agenda, heard a reiteration of
concerns voiced at both roundtables and during his meeting with the
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MDC about the dangers of manipulation and politicization of food
aid. (Comment: It should be noted that Mr. Hess' visit came as SADC
negotiations with the ruling party and opposition were at a critical
point and as civil society leaders were returning from meetings with
the RSA negotiators. The views of opposition and civil society on
negotiations were quite different. Mr. Hess encouraged greater
dialogue and the establishment of clear benchmarks for the
achievement of acceptable outcomes on negotiated points. End
5. (SBU) AA Hess's interactions with these key USAID democracy and
governance program partners produced several important observations,
conclusions, and ideas for future action:
-- GOZ sanctioned torture and organized violence is real and
debilitating. USAID's funding to CSU meets a critical need,
providing humanitarian assistance and bolstering support among those
brave enough to challenge the Mugabe regime. However, the CSU
program is extremely sensitive, it remains vulnerable to GOZ
shutdown, and its employees risk their own personal safety.
-- If institutions are not ready and SADC and international
standards are not met, then pressure should be applied by civil
society to delay elections to allow proper preparation.
-- USG should encourage civil society organizations (CSOs) to set
clear benchmarks, prerequisites, and expectations for free and fair
elections. Donors need to support these independent
elections-support initiatives.
-- An agreement was apparently reached by ZANU-PF and MDC to allow
the creation of an independent electoral commission to monitor the
preparation and execution of the presidential and parliamentary
elections. As watchdogs, CSOs should carefully monitor the
development and work of this electoral commission.
-- Leadership of democratic organizations should keep donors and
civil society partners better informed of the MDC and ZANU-PF
negotiation process so they can reinforce agreements with diplomacy
or programming. Democratic organizations cannot expect support if
they do not communicate needs.
-- Issues important to CSOs are not necessarily the same as those
of the political parties. Donors need to view them separately and
work to increase the linkages and dialogue among them.
-- Human rights groups and other CSOs have a critical role to play
as information sources for food aid NGOs and donors with regard to
manipulation and politicization of food aid.
-- AA Hess alerted USAID Mission staff to a DOD civ-mil program
that provides financial and logistical support for independent radio
broadcasting capacity. The Mission and DCHA will follow up with
EUCOM to investigate possible complementary funding for "Studio 7,"
a USG-funded program in Zimbabwe with Voice of America.
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USAID Humanitarian Assistance Keeping Zimbabweans Alive
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6. (U) AA Hess also focused attention on the humanitarian programs
and conditions that make Zimbabwe a complex emergency. USAID's
Office of Food for Peace (FFP) partner organizations - UN World Food
Program (WFP) and the Consortium for Southern African Food Security
Emergency (C-SAFE) - provided a thorough review of the food
shortfall, the imminent hungry season, the identification and
registration of vulnerable individuals, food distribution
mechanisms, and monitoring mechanisms that attempt to limit abuse
and politicization of food aid. In addition, he examined the
programs funded by USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
(OFDA) such as the Joint Initiative and IOM support for the
internally displaced, addressing the needs of urban vulnerable
populations, mitigating the effects of drought, and supporting
HARARE 00000903 003 OF 005
livelihoods strategies.
7. (SBU) The NGO representatives expressed concern to AA Hess that
the media, and often human rights organizations, does not
distinguish between GOZ food assistance and international food aid
when reporting accusations of politicization. While all partners
have faced attempts by local politicians to use their food or
distribution sites for political ends, in every instance they say
they have successfully dealt with the interference, e.g., by
expelling the offending parties, repeating registration exercises,
or suspending distributions. They also say they investigated and
resolved accusations of politicization that have come to their
attention and found that most were unfounded. NGOs did acknowledge
that more subtle forms of politicization do take place when their
staff is not present, e.g., marginalized community members being
discouraged from participation in registrations via intimidation, or
politicians taking credit for the NGOs' activities. This year, both
C-SAFE and the WFP modified their registration and verification
requirements and procedures to increase their ability to limit abuse
and politicization of food aid. The C-SAFE partners welcomed
information about apparent politicization from other organizations
or individuals and offered to share their distribution schedules
with others so that they can monitor jointly.
8. (U) AA Hess visited a C-SAFE rural school-based feeding site in
Chegutu District. In general, the program was operating well. Not
only were out-of-school children encouraged to come to eat, but with
the school's help many have found financial assistance, enrolled,
and now attend. The only observed deficiency was soap. The
children washed their hands with water only before eating because
soap has not been available on the market for the school to
9. (U) Mr. Hess paid a courtesy call on Bulawayo's Mayor Japhet
Ndabeni-Ncube. He was warmly received by the MDC stalwart who is
struggling with the economic and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe's
second largest city of over 1 million people. He spoke of having to
divide the city by three and rotate water service. Although
situated in a chronically dry region, Bulawayo does have water
resources. There are five dams and 77 wells which can service the
city's water requirements, but due to lack of maintenance and
investment, only two dams and four wells currently function.
Although the Mayor has asked the central government for help, none
is forthcoming, except for a struggle by the central Zimbabwe
National Water Authority (ZNWA) to take control over local water
works. ZNWA has mandated lower tariffs "so as not to penalize the
poor," but this has stripped the City Council of revenue needed for
system maintenance. The Mayor reported, however, that in
desperation he has engaged ZNWA and the local private sector in an
agreement to rehabilitate some of the non-functioning boreholes to
provide some relief. He also said that UNICEF is putting into place
a series of water tanks in strategic locations, such as schools, and
will be tankering water. In the longer term, Bulawayo is 60 km from
the West Mlovo aquifer, where a reservoir was constructed in 1996.
If a pipeline were constructed to link the reservoir to the existing
dams, the water situation could be vastly improved. Health is now a
major concern with poor quality water and lack of sanitation. Basic
medicines are supplied by the central government and stocks are low
to non-existent. The Mayor also commented that their stocks of MOH
controlled ARVs are declining and that although they are not adding
new patients to the rolls they are in danger of a stock out.
10. (U) Comment: In many ways, Bulawayo is a severe case of what is
occurring throughout Zimbabwe. Most urban areas, including Harare,
are drying out, with whole segments going without water for weeks on
end. Electricity is severely rationed and basic commodities and
gasoline unavailable, leaving stores empty or closed. The black
market is the norm for most purchases. Zimbabwe receives 30 percent
of its basic drugs from donors, leaving the other 70 percent
uncovered. End Comment.
11. (U) In a poor suburb of Bulawayo, Mr. Hess visited millers and
retail shops that grind and sell subsidized sorghum as part of the
HARARE 00000903 004 OF 005
USAID-supported C-SAFE Market Assistance Program (MAP). This
program seeks to ensure a constant supply of this low-cost staple
food for the urban poor. However, currently, as the program
struggles to adapt to the dynamic economic conditions, e.g., price
control induced shortages of all staple foods, MAP is not able to
keep up with demand to achieve its objective. At the shops visited,
shelves were empty or being filled with sorghum for the first time
in weeks. Long lines were forming and shop owners reported that the
day's delivery would be gone within the hour. Nevertheless, the
concept still appears to be one of the best ways to reach the urban
poor in Zimbabwe, and programs like MAP should be expanded and
replicated to other urban and rural areas, particularly Harare.
12. (U) In Bulawayo, Mr. Hess also visited beneficiaries of the
Joint Initiative, an innovative multi-donor, multi-NGO program
funded by USAID/OFDA that supports cottage industries such as soap
making and brick making, as livelihoods for urban vulnerable
populations. The groups reported great success finding customers
and selling their products, except that in the current difficult
economic situation they have difficulty accessing raw materials, and
this has severely reduced their output. Comment: The water
shortage was acutely obvious in these suburbs. Water is being
rationed throughout Bulawayo as is electricity. Stores are empty
and unemployment high. Residents have been instructed not to water
their kitchen gardens and so, at the same time as their income is
limited, their coping mechanism is wilting before their eyes. End
13. (U) Several key observations and outcomes emerged from AA Hess's
interactions with representatives of humanitarian organizations and
beneficiary populations.
-- When NGO staff complained that WFP registration for food
distributions is time consuming, AA Hess became concerned that
operations may be proceeding too slowly to meet the emerging demand
and distribution timetables. More information is needed from WFP to
evaluate the pace and estimated completion date. C-SAFE began
registrations earlier, employing a process that is less time
consuming and will complete all registrations in mid-October.
-- In a roundtable discussion, USAID partners expressed frustration
about implementing food-for-assets projects in affected communities
and households that would significantly improve household
livelihoods. They lack adequate funding for essential non-food
materials (e.g., tools, cement or fencing) to support repair or
construction of assets of sufficient scale and quality.
-- Neither WFP nor C-SAFE produce maps to show the specific
locations of their various activities. Both display information
only at the district level. Such maps would visually demonstrate
the extent and coverage of food assistance. C-SAFE's budgets have
included mapping software licenses and GPS instruments to enable
them to produce detailed maps, but they lack the technical capacity
to use these tools. Recently, they engaged a consultant to produce
the maps. Likewise, WFP agreed that the mapping would be useful but
they too lack the technical capacity. Both agreed that technical
hurdles could be overcome and committed to producing maps before the
end of September.
-- USAID/Zimbabwe Humanitarian Assistance and Democracy and
Governance offices will facilitate communication between their
partners about attempts to politicize food aid and to exchange
information about vulnerable groups and individuals in need of food
-- Bulawayo's chronic water shortage is reaching acute levels as
the dry season continues. New program interventions should be
considered that would build on existing and low-tech water
procurement and storage mechanisms such as borehole rehabilitation
and roof catchment and storage systems.
-- The onset of the rainy season in November could make things even
worse, as pollutants and sanitation problems spread through poorly
HARARE 00000903 005 OF 005
maintained pipes and sewerage systems. USAID/OFDA's recent grant to
Oxfam for water and sanitation interventions in Bulawayo and other
urban areas may help.
-- The NGO Joint Initiative consortium partners support a
livelihoods program in Bulawayo that makes soap, which will increase
the availability of this now scarce, but essential, commodity.
Local production has been limited because of the unavailability of
raw materials, especially tallow. USAID/OFDA will work with the
Joint Initiative and private companies to explore ways to increase
local soap production. Oxfam has just received USAID/OFDA funding
to procure and distribute soap in key urban areas in Zimbabwe. It
is hoped this simple, preventative program intervention will reduce
the spread of disease by enabling proper hygiene.
-- USAID/OFDA Senior Regional Advisor will return to Zimbabwe in
October to continue working with partners to identify ways to meet
rapidly growing needs, especially in the water and sanitation
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USAID Doing Right Programs in Right Areas, but the Gaps
are Growing
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14. (U) Based on his observations and analysis in Zimbabwe, AA Hess
affirmed that USAID is implementing the right programs in the right
areas to meet the most critical needs. Key institutions of
democracy and human rights are being supported, and many of the most
vulnerable populations are receiving life-sustaining humanitarian
assistance. However, significant and growing gaps were identified.
Despite programs by USAID and other donors, the needs of vulnerable
populations in urban areas are not being sufficiently met. Even in
these highly politicized environments, greater attention should be
focused on identifying and assisting those individuals and
communities that are falling through the cracks of existing, but
badly overstretched, humanitarian programs. Partner capacity and
resource issues are serious constraints, but access restrictions by
the GOZ are also contributing to these gaps in services. AA Hess
encouraged the Mission to examine further areas of need, and he
pledged to highlight Zimbabwean issues and seek further support in
Washington. AA Hess witnessed the important supportive role played
by USAID in encouraging the promotion of democracy and good
governance in Zimbabwe. There is a need for USAID to expand its
role as facilitator and catalyst between different groups in civil
society, bringing civil society organizations into more strategic
and operational engagement with humanitarian organizations.
15. (U) This cable was cleared by AA Hess.
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