Chissano said Mugabe was ready to step down but…..


Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano said President Robert Mugabe was very focused on the succession issue and he was willing to step aside before elections in 2008 if, by doing so, he would not be seen as giving in to outside pressure.

Mugabe also wanted to identify a strong successor and to make sure that the Movement for Democratic Change no longer threatened to split apart Zimbabwe.

Chissano said this just before he stepped down after 18 years in power. But in what appeared to be a reference to Mugabe he said that his stepping down did not mean that other leaders should follow his example.

Chissano was a long-time friend of Mugabe and often referred to him as “brother” and “coach”.


Full cable:


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Reference ID






2005-02-25 09:05

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Maputo

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MAPUTO 000255





E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/23/2015




REF: 2004 MAPUTO 1533

Classified By: Ambassador Helen La Lime, for reasons 1.4 (b/d)





1. (C) On February 2 President Joaquim Chissano stepped

down as leader of the Republic of Mozambique after 18 years

in power. He took over from Samora Machel in 1986, after

Mozambique’s first president was killed in a airplane

crash. In 1994 Chissano was elected president in

Mozambique’s first multi-party elections and was narrowly

re-elected to another five-year-term in December 1999.

Under his leadership the ruling party FRELIMO adopted a

strategy of accommodation toward the civil war rebel

movement RENAMO, negotiating an agreement in 1992 that

allowed RENAMO and its leader, Afonso Dhlakama, to retain

substantial power as a political party.


2. (C) Although Machel laid the groundwork, Chissano

oversaw the successful re-orientation of Mozambique’s

economy away from an Eastern bloc-supported, socialist

system toward a more free market, private sector-led regime

following strict World Bank and IMF guidelines. Mozambique

experienced impressive, though somewhat unbalanced, growth

under his tutelage after the war ended in 1992, with

several mega-projects – a gas pipeline and a massive

aluminum smelter – responsible for a large share of the

gains. Nonetheless overall poverty levels have declined

significantly around the country as a result of recovery

from war and government investment in infrastructure and

rural development. On the negative side of the ledger,

Chissano did very little to rein in corrupt associates and

government officials. During his tenure as President of

the African Union (AU), Chissano sought to build stronger

African institutions and to find African-led solutions to

problems facing the continent. End Summary.



The End of An Era


3. (U) On February 2 President Joaquim Chissano handed

power over to his successor, Armando Guebuza, after serving

as Mozambique’s president since late 1986. An early,

prominent member of the Mozambican Liberation Front

(FRELIMO), Chissano was Foreign Minister in the first

decade after Mozambique’s independence from Portuguese

colonial rule and assumed the presidency in 1986 when

Samora Machel was killed in a suspicious plane crash. To

end Mozambique’s long-running civil war which began in

1976, Chissano encouraged negotiations with the rebel

movement RENAMO. (Note: Guebuza was the lead negotiator

for FRELIMO. End Note.) In October 1992 Chissano and

RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama signed the Rome Peace

Agreement. Chissano defeated Dhlakama in Mozambique’s

first multi-party elections in 1994. He was re-elected to

another term in December 1999, again beating Dhlakama,

although this time by a very narrow and disputed margin.


4. (C) Chissano may have toyed with running for another

term, which was allowed under the Constitution. However

after some wrangling at the Central Committee meeting in

December 2001 in which Guebuza and FRELIMO hardliners

bested Chissano and the moderates, Chissano had come to

terms with leaving office. No doubt he was influenced by

the positive example of Nelson Mandela next door in South




Bringing Peace


5. (U) Shortly after assuming power in 1986, Chissano took

the first steps towards a peaceful resolution of the civil

war, secretly utilizing the Catholic Church to engage

RENAMO in dialogue. In 1990 he oversaw the approval of a

new constitution, which gave Mozambique a multi-party

political system, universal suffrage, an independent

judiciary, freedom of the press, the right to strike, and

the framework for a market economy. The constitution

undercut much of RENAMO’s ideology — that FRELIMO stood

for socialism. Hastened by the weakening of RENAMO’s

support from neighboring South Africa, where apartheid was

on the way out, a peace agreement was finally signed by

RENAMO’s leader Afonso Dhlakama and President Chissano in

Rome on October 4, 1992. The United Nations quickly

deployed peacekeepers to supervise the cease-fire

agreement, demobilize the soldiers from the two sides, help

resettle the millions of refugees both internally and from

the neighboring countries, and assist in the preparation of

the first multi-party elections scheduled for late 1994.

Though Chissano has claimed much of the credit for bringing

peace to Mozambique, various African statesmen, including

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, played important roles

in moving the negotiation process forward, as well.



The Road to Recovery: Economic Reforms


6. (U) Chissano presided over far-reaching economic reforms

during the first half of his tenure. FRELIMO dropped its

official Marxist-Leninist designation and began to

liberalize its economy with an IMF-supported Economic

Rehabilitation Program (PRE), a precursor to today’s Action

Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA). Fiscal

reforms were introduced, including a value-added tax and

reform of the customs service, which improved the

government’s revenue collection abilities. Mozambique also

embarked on an extensive privatization program. When the

process ended in the mid-1990’s close to 1,000 companies

had been privatized.


7. (C) Chissano weathered considerable criticism during

this period. FRELIMO conservatives, who are generally more

nationalistic and less open to market reforms, accused him

of giving into demands of the multilateral financial

institutions at the expense of the population. Trade

unions blamed the government for implementing policies that

caused mass layoffs. Privatization was messy and riddled

with corrupt practices, including awarding contracts in an

opaque manner, bribery and the stripping of company assets.

Nearly all of the privatized companies ended up in the

hands of FRELIMO members. RENAMO attacked Chissano for

cronyism and gained considerable political support among

those disillusioned by the privatization process.



Rapid Growth


8. (U) As a result of economic liberalization and massive

donor assistance, Chissano’s Mozambique has become one of

the fastest growing economies in southern Africa. Since

1994 GDP growth has averaged 8 percent per year. In the

early years recovery projects helped the economy rebound

from devastation wrought by the civil war, nearly all of

them funded by foreign donors. Grain production rose from

760,000 tons in 1993 to 1.8 million tons in 2003. The

government’s repair and maintenance program reduced the

percentage of impassable roads from 44 percent in 1994 to

just eight percent ten years later. Mozambique’s once

massive foreign debt was lowered through forgiveness and

rescheduling under the IMF’s Heavily Indebted Poor

Countries (HIPC) and Enhanced HIPC initiatives; in 2002 the

USG forgave all Mozambican official bilateral debt. The

Chissano government succeeded in attracting major investors

for new mega-projects: a natural gas pipeline to South

Africa, the construction of a massive green-field aluminum

smelter, and development of lucrative coal reserves in the

west of the country. In 2003 and 2004 Mozambique’s

official debt was assigned an international credit rating

of B/B+ by Fitch Ratings, reflecting Mozambique’s positive

track record on economic reforms, political stability,

strong economic growth, openness to FDI, and expanding



9. (U) Exceptional growth notwithstanding, Mozambique still

faces significant development challenges. Although the

economy has grown tremendously under Chissano’s rule, many

ordinary Mozambicans have seen little change. The level of

poverty declined from 69.4 percent in 1998 to 54.1 percent

in 2003, but this means that the majority of the population

still remains below the poverty line. The illiteracy rate

is about 40 percent and infant disease and mortality rates

are among the highest in Africa. Life expectancy at birth

is 46 years, and this figure is expected to decline into

the 30’s by 2010 due to the worsening AIDS epidemic

(Mozambique’s prevalence rate is currently at 15 percent of

adults). Mozambique remains very dependent on foreign

assistance: the donor community funds approximately 60

percent of the national budget.





10. (C) Chissano was ineffective at reining in corruption

in his government, except when foreign funds were directly

involved. A scandal in the mid-90’s prompted some donors

to threaten to reduce assistance, but they backed down when

the government moved quickly to replenish their programs.

In the latter half of his tenure, under pressure from donor

governments, senior officials repeatedly promised to act.

In 2001 an anti-corruption unit was set up in the Attorney

General’s office. However no one of consequence has been

punished and overall very little has been done to combat

corruption. Several wealthy Indo-Mozambicans were

eventually arrested for the assassination in 2000 of a

prominent investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, who had

uncovered a major bank fraud scheme involving millions of

dollars. But their arrest was for murder, not corruption.

Chissano’s son, Nyimpine, was called to testify over links

to the Cardoso killing in trial proceedings followed very

closely throughout Mozambique. Ultimately, though, the

judge in the case let Nyimpine off, a decision that many

saw as a miscarriage of justice for political purposes. In

a tacit admission that government dishonesty has increased

under Chissano, his successor, Armando Guebuza, made

fighting corruption a central feature of his electoral




Political Development


11. (C) Chissano’s essential legacy in the political arena

is that two parties once at war with each other — FRELIMO

and RENAMO — now contend peacefully for power. The 1990

constitution opened the way for RENAMO to play a role in

governing the country. Since the signing of the peace

agreement in 1992 there have been three sets of general

(presidential and legislative) elections, with FRELIMO and

RENAMO the two dominant players. The elections have all

been relatively free and fair, with the outcome generally

reflecting popular sentiment despite irregularities in some

cases. Recently support for both parties has declined,

however. In 2004 there were fewer FRELIMO votes in both

the presidential and legislative races than in 1999. A

common complaint is that the party has lost some of its

connection with the people, many of whom feel disillusioned

that earning a living still remains very difficult despite

FRELIMO’s thirty years in power. Unbalanced economic

development in favor of major cities, Maputo especially,

against rural areas has also dimmed FRELIMO’s appeal. In

RENAMO’s case, in 2003 party president Dhlakama drove out

several of his most accomplished deputies who had

questioned his authority and thereafter ran the party as an

autocrat. He did very little campaigning, only during the

last few months before the election, even though his rival,

Guebuza, had made himself very visible throughout the

country since 2002. In the end RENAMO won only half as

many votes as it did in 1999. One index of politics’ poor

health in Mozambique is that voter turnout in the 2003

municipal elections was roughly 30 percent and only 43

percent in the 2004 general elections (down from 75 percent

in 1999).


——————————————— ———-

Chissano, the International Figure and Friend of Mugabe

——————————————— ———-

12. (SBU) In July 2003, President Chissano assumed the

leadership of the African Union (AU). In his capacity as

AU President, Chissano sought to build stronger African

institutions and to find African-led solutions to problems

facing the continent. During his tenure the AU launched

its Peace and Security Council and sent peacekeepers to

Darfur. Beyond using his role as head of the AU to promote

peace on the continent, his personal relationships with

many African leaders have allowed him to play an important

behind-the-scenes role in mediating conflicts, particularly

in the ongoing difficulties in Zimbabwe.


13. (SBU) Mozambique has a common history and close ties

with its neighbor Zimbabwe. The Mozambican government

sheltered Robert Mugabe and his ZANU guerrilla forces

during Mugabe’s struggle against the Ian Smith regime in

then-Rhodesia in the late 1970’s. In response, Rhodesia

(and later the apartheid South African government)

retaliated by organizing the Mozambican rebel group,

RENAMO, to attack ZANU and Mozambican government forces —

a localized border-area conflict that ultimately turned

into Mozambique’s disastrous civil war. Chissano is a

long-time friend of Mugabe, referring to him often as

“brother” and “coach.” In December 2004, while in Zimbabwe

making a farewell address to Zimbabwe’s ruling party,

Chissano lauded Mugabe and declared that his own retirement

did not necessarily mean other leaders should follow his

example. However in a meeting with the Ambassador in

November 2004 (reftel), Chissano indicated that Mugabe was

very focused on the succession issue and told us that

Mugabe might be willing to step aside before elections in

2008 if, by doing so, he would not be seen as giving in to

outside pressure, if a strong successor were identified,

and if the opposition no longer threatened to split apart




Comment: Chissano Next Steps


14. (U) Chissano has now packed up and left the Ponta

Vermelha palace, and Mozambique now has its third president

since independence. The fact that country has risen from

the ashes of civil war to become a unified nation with a

rapidly growing economy and a relatively open political

system has won Chissano regional and international

recognition. Chissano role in bringing peace to

Mozambique, combined with his considerable experience on

the African political scene, suggest to many that he will

now go on to play the role of an African senior statesman,

mostly likely through the newly created Joaquim Chissano




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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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