Bishops say Manicaland has never followed the ZANU-PF line


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.


Full cable:


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Reference ID






2003-11-24 13:39

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.









E.O. 12958: N/A





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

two votes.






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.




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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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