17 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Officials On Tight Leash Ahead of EU Meeting

Zimbabwe's government officials have reportedly been put on a tight leash by the top leadership, ahead of alleged 're-engagement' talks with the European Union (EU).

This is understood to be in the wake of the WikiLeaks scandal. The online whistle-blowing group caused international outcry after releasing previously confidential diplomatic cables from the US government and its offices around the world. This included cables from the embassy in Harare, which exposed a number of issues within ZANU PF.

These include claims over Robert Mugabe's health, with former Central Bank chief Gideon Gono stating the ageing leader had cancer. Grace Mugabe, Joice Mujuru and other senior official were also all named in the cables, which has in turn led to a number of lawsuits being filed.

The Zimbabwe Independent reported this week that the ZANU PF government has since put out a circular that calls for limited interactions between senior civil servants and Western diplomats.

"Since the WikiLeaks revelations, government has limited the interaction between senior government officials and diplomats. Only ministers now attend embassy functions, with all government officials having to get prior clearance for that, unlike in the past," a source was quoted by the Zimbabwe Independent as saying.

Local industry leaders are said to be heading to the EU for talks at the end of this month. This will be followed by an EU meeting scheduled for some time in February, which is rumored to decide the future of the remaining Zim restrictive measures the EU still has in place.

Political analyst Clifford Mashiri told SW Radio Africa that such a directive limiting the interaction of government officials with Western diplomats would not be a surprise.

"It remains to be seen what other secrets are being kept so I'm not surprised the officials are on a tight leash. The regime is paranoid now, and wanting to protect its secrets, especially with re-engagement on the cards," Mashiri said.

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