Two bishops from Manicaland Trevor Manhanga and Patrick Mutume told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan that Manicaland had never followed the ZANU-PF line or voted for the ZANU-PF programme when given a choice.
They were responding to a question from the ambassador whether the appointment of a military stalwart, Mike Nyambuya, as governor of Manicaland was a deliberate attempt to isolate and counter political ambitions of Simba Makoni.
Simba Makoni was considered a presidential contender and possible successor to President Robert Mugabe.
The bishops said most of the opposition to ZANU-PF came from Manicaland. In the recent elections both the mayor of Mutare and 17 of the 18 council seats had gone to the MDC.
The 18th seat was won by ZANU-PF by a victory margin of only two votes.
Viewing cable 03HARARE2286, MEETING WITH BROKERS OF POLITICAL RECONCILIATION
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002286
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J.FRAZER
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: MEETING WITH BROKERS OF POLITICAL RECONCILIATION
REF: A. HARARE 1794
¶B. HARARE 1711
¶C. HARARE 1599
¶D. HARARE 1130
¶1. (SBU) Summary. Disparaging remarks about “talk about
talks” between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) have replaced hopeful reports of
imminent breakthroughs. A meeting on November 19, 2003,
between Ambassador Sullivan, Director of USAID Paul
Weisenfeld, and bishops Trevor Manhanga and Patrick Mutume
indicated that the efforts of the religious community to
bring the two divided political parties together (reftels)
continue — even if at an extremely slow pace. End summary.
Attempts to Mediate Ongoing
¶2. (SBU) The bishops stated that separate talks with each
side continue, although the most recent meeting with Zanu-PF
chairman John Nkomo took place about three weeks ago. Bishop
Manhanga stated that President Mugabe is “cordoned off” from
the meetings, and that they must go through Nkomo and
Politburo secretary for information and publicity Nathan
Shamuyarira. Shamuyarira recently called to urge patience on
the bishops, and indicated that nothing substantial can be
done before the upcoming party congress in December. Both
bishops believed that this is another in a long series of
delaying tactics, and that the only party that can benefit
from such delays is Zanu-PF.
Remaining Issues Preventing Engagement
¶3. (SBU) The bishops reported that the two parties are in
agreement on many of the substantive issues, and that there
remain only two contested issues: political legitimacy and an
MDC call for lifting sanctions. The bishops stated that
Zanu-PF is demanding that the MDC publicly request Western
and donor nations to lift all sanctions, although it is
unclear from the party rhetoric whether the severe reduction
of foreign direct investment, failure to qualify for AGOA,
and withdrawal of World Bank/IMF support are considered to be
formal “sanctions.” Any suggestion of a Zanu/Zapu-type
“unity accord” has been abandoned, and the parties reportedly
realized (despite the delaying tactics) that negotiation
towards a transition, and a level playing field for both
parties, was the only way forward.
Public US Statement Regarding “Sanctions”?
¶4. (SBU) When the Ambassador asked if a public statement
clarifying US sanctions would help dispel any notions that
the MDC was in control of such sanctions, the bishops
responded positively. They opined that Zanu-PF wants to
believe that the MDC can simply make a public request, after
which Western countries would comply and withdraw the
sanctions. The Ambassador reiterated that the sanctions are
the result of the flawed presidential elections, ongoing
human rights concerns, and US policy as reflected in the
Zimbabwe Democracy and Recovery Act (ZDERA), rather than any
desire or request by the opposition.
Meetings with Regional Leaders…
¶5. (SBU) The bishops recently returned from Malawi, where
they met with President Muluzi. They reported that Muluzi
was very outspoken regarding his belief that Mugabe must
retire, and that Muluzi claimed to have made these frank
statements directly to Mugabe in private meetings. Bishop
Manhanga pointed out that Muluzi’s statement regarding his
own retirement had effectively canceled out a simmering
succession battle inside Malawi, which gained Muluzi a great
deal of credibility. With Muluzi’s help, the bishops have
also scheduled a meeting with Mozambique’s President Chissano
on November 28, and have scheduled a potential meeting with
Tanzania’s President Mkapa, although he is currently in
Europe with health problems. Both bishops believed that
increased pressure from regional leaders was crucial in
moving the country out of crisis.
… But Failure to Secure Meeting with Mbeki
¶6. (SBU) Despite numerous attempts, the bishops were unable
to meet with South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, although
they did meet with his spokesman Bheki Khumalo. Given
Mbeki’s public commitment to “quiet diplomacy,” there would
undoubtedly be repercussions if he were seen meeting with the
bishops. However, since “quiet diplomacy” had not earned any
progress in addressing the multiple crises, the bishops hoped
that Mbeki could be urged to take the next step and increase
the pressure by meeting with the bishops.
Need for a Regional “Champion”
¶7. (SBU) Both bishops agreed that a strong regional
spokesperson should be identified to intercede with Mugabe.
Although Obasanjo has the stature to take on the role, his
continued participation is questionable for several reasons.
First, he has never publicly stated any conviction that
Mugabe must leave. Rather, in his role as a member of the
Commonwealth troika, he has made numerous apologies on behalf
of the regime and interceded to increase inclusion rather
than isolation. Second, his current high profile is the
result of Nigeria’s role as host of the CHOGM meeting. Once
this meeting has taken place, Obasanjo would have little
incentive to intercede, since there would be less direct
benefit. Third, Nigeria is perceived as “outside” of the
Southern African region, and West African intervention might
be less effective than the intervention of Zimbabwe’s closest
neighbors. When Mandela was mentioned, Bishop Manhanga
stated that the personal rivalry between Mugabe and Mandela
would permeate and dilute the message. However, he agreed
that Mandela could be useful in encouraging Mbeki to take a
more activist position. Mbeki’s participation could signal a
strong regional demand for an end to the crisis, while
Mandela’s participation could shield Mbeki from any potential
fallout within his own party.
¶8. (SBU) In the same vein, the bishops suggested
Secretary-General Kofi Annan as an alternative “champion.”
Although there are clear limits on what the UN can impose on
Zimbabwe from the outside, Annan has publicly articulated his
concern about the deteriorating situation. As a Ghanaian as
well as a prominent politician, he might be a person of
suitable stature to serve as a personal advocate for
increased engagement by Zanu-PF.
Implications of the New, Military Governor in Manicaland
¶9. (SBU) When asked whether the appointment of a Zanu-PF
military stalwart might be a deliberate attempt to isolate
and counter the political ambitions of Simba Makoni, the
bishops responded that Manicaland had never followed the
Zanu-PF line nor voted for the Zanu-PF program, when given
the choice. In fact, most of the opposition to Zanu-PF (with
the exception of the Ndebele-based Zapu) originated in
Manicaland. In the recent elections, both the mayor and 17
of 18 council seats were MDC winners. The 18th seat, won by
the Zanu-PF candidate, was taken by a victory margin of only
¶10. (SBU) This meeting underscores the current political
reality in Zimbabwe: considerable behind-the-scenes
maneuvering with no meaningful accomplishments to show for it
— at least from the perspective of the bishops or the
opposition. Within the ruling party, vocal hard-liner
opposition to the talks and rank-and-file ambivalence seem
likely to sustain this status quo well into the new year.
The bishops remain nonetheless positive and engaged. As with
many others committed to change in Zimbabwe, these two
bishops realize that engagement and negotiation are necessary
for resolution. However, nobody has yet identified the
appropriate leverage — stick or carrot — necessary to move
the intransigent ruling party towards the negotiating table.
At this point, delay not only complicates the eventual
resolution, but it also deepens the social and economic
morass from which Zimbabwe must emerge if it is to recreate a
stable and prosperous state. End comment.