Bishops upbeat after meeting Nkomo


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The three bishops from Manicaland who were trying to broker talks between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change were upbeat after meeting ZANU-PF chairman John Nkomo who was also minister of Special Affairs.

The bishops Anglican Bishop and President of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches Sebastian Bakare, President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe Bishop Trevor Manhanga and President of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference Patrick Mutume told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan that they were quite encouraged after meeting Nkomo though they did not expect ZANU-PF to reactivate the bishops’ initiative.

The bishops reported that they had been lying low for some time, not wanting to be seen as exerting influence on local elections. The election results, however, seemed to give new impetus for attention to resumption of interparty talks because they underscored to ZANU-PF leaders the party’s sagging popularity and influence among important constituencies.

Manhanga said ZANU-PF still was not prepared to come to the table right away but the bishops were encouraged that Nkomo had invited them to talk.

Though Nkomo had not disclosed anything new in their meeting, the bishops were upbeat because they were scheduled to meet MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and planned to see Nkomo again.

Mutume emphasised the importance of not making ZANU-PF appear to lose in agreeing to talk. The key would be to “bargain” to a position where the ruling party at least was effectively dislodged from the driver’s seat.

Bakare stressed the need to accommodate to some extent ZANU-PF’s warped view of itself. It was a liberation party, unchallenged in power for 23 years.

The increasingly apparent erosion of its popularity presented a too radically different situation for many to absorb. It was therefore important to keep the reasonable moderates, such as Nkomo and Party Spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira, engaged and credible.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 03HARARE1794, UNDAUNTED BISHOPS SEEK BENCHMARKS TO STIMULATE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1794

2003-09-11 14:47

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

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 001794

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ZI

SUBJECT: UNDAUNTED BISHOPS SEEK BENCHMARKS TO STIMULATE

TALKS

 

REF: (A) HARARE 1711 (B) HARARE 1599 (C) HARARE 1130

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The bishops troika on September 10 updated

Ambassador Sullivan on their efforts to facilitate

inter-party talks. They were encouraged by ZANU-PF Chairman

John Nkomo’s invitation to a meeting earlier that day,

although they did not expect ZANU-PF to re-activate the

bishops’ initiative formally in the foreseeable future. With

a view to inducing Mugabe to move forward on talks, they

urged the USG and other international players to identify

concrete benchmarks — tangible international benefits that

would correspond with tangible political progress in

Zimbabwe. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) The Manicaland bishops troika of Anglican Bishop and

President of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) Sebastian

Bakare, President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe

(EFZ) Bishop Trevor Manhanga, and President of the Zimbabwe

Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) Patrick Mutume came to the

Residence on September 10 for an exchange with Ambassador

Sullivan on recent developments. The bishops had just come

from a meeting with Minister for Special Affairs and ZANU-PF

Chairman John Nkomo.

 

3. (C) The bishops reported that they had been lying low for

some time, not wanting to be seen as exerting influence on

recent local elections. The election results, however,

seemed to give new impetus for attention to resumption of

interparty talks. The results underscored to ZANU-PF leaders

the party’s sagging popularity and influence among important

constituencies. Manhanga said ZANU-PF still was not prepared

to come to the table right away but the bishops were

encouraged that Nkomo had invited them to talk. Nkomo had

not disclosed anything new in their meeting, but the bishops

were scheduled to meet MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai later

that day and planned to see Nkomo again on September 15. The

bishops expected to meet Mugabe again at an unspecified time

after that to report on their meetings with party leaders and

representatives of the international community.

 

4. (C) Speculating on how to motivate the parties to talk,

Mutume emphasized the importance of not making ZANU-PF appear

to lose in agreeing to talk. At this early stage, the key

would be to “bargain” to a position where the ruling party at

least was effectively dislodged from the driver’s seat.

Bakare stressed the need to accommodate to some extent

ZANU-PF’s warped view of itself. It was a liberation party,

unchallenged in power for 23 years; the increasingly apparent

erosion of its popularity presented a too radically different

situation for many to absorb. One key would be to keep the

reasonable moderates, such as Nkomo and Party Spokesman

Nathan Shamuyarira, engaged and credible.

 

5. (C) All three underscored the potential value of getting

an indication of benchmarks from international players for

expanded engagement with Zimbabwe. In particular, what

measures (beyond existing programs) would the USG be prepared

to implement to help Zimbabwe and to what specific measures

of political progress would they be tied?   The bishops

asserted that having such indications from the USG, the UK

and others would make their upcoming meeting with Mugabe much

more productive. They wanted to tell Mugabe specifically

what the international community expected of Zimbabwe and

what Zimbabwe could expect from the international community.

The bishops recognized that Mugabe should not be rewarded for

nothing, but some hope, short of promise, on these points

could reduce the unhelpful level of distrust and indecision.

 

6. (C) Bakare expressed optimism about a “new language”

being spoken by the government but cautioned that a new

course had yet to be charted. The bishops were further

encouraged by progress shown in the conduct of recent

elections. The bishops’ code of conduct subscribed to by the

three Mutare mayoral candidates (ref A) had been a success

and offered a potential model for future elections.

Following the elections, interested parties, including war

veteran representatives, had met on September 8 in a

constructive atmosphere, and the police had committed to

follow through on the various complaints filed by each side.

Events in Bindura, Marondera, and Rusape nonetheless

reflected the ruling party’s dominant nature in that the

opposition was not permitted to present its candidacies or

was subject to heavy intimidation. Manhanga emphasized the

importance of measured, balanced public comments on Zimbabwe,

as the USG’s statement on recent elections had been.

 

7. (C) COMMENT: This is the third time (refs A and B) that

the bishops have pushed us for benchmarks they could share

with Mugabe. While we are skeptical that establishing

concrete benchmarks in advance of tangible political progress

will be decisive in getting Mugabe off the dime on talks,

ZANU-PF insecurities about western intentions remain a

considerable obstacle for those who support talks. In that

vein, we should be mindful of opportunities to offer

balanced, non-provocative statements on Zimbabwean

developments (a la the recent one on elections), recognizing

incremental progress when appropriate while continuing to

hold the GOZ accountable for ongoing abuses. In ref C, we

laid out incremental steps the USG could take as the

political situation here improved. While consideration of

such steps would be premature now, it might serve US

interests to identify to the GOZ discreetly (perhaps via the

bishops) tangible measures of political progress and benefits

potentially available to Zimbabwe down the road. We shall

make more specific recommendations septel.

SULLIVAN

 

(2 VIEWS)

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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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