Dell said Mutasa is not a credible reformer


United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell told former Finance Minister Simba Makoni that though President Robert Mugabe’s successor was not likely to be wedded to the past or to Mugabe’s ideology and rhetoric, it was not a given that the successor would be acceptable to the West.

Dell said State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, for example, would not be seen as credible reformer and there would even be doubts about Joice Mujuru.

It was important that the senior leaders in the government understood that the West would hold them accountable for their actions. It was equally important to find a way for quiet dialogue about the post-Mugabe system if a chaotic, possibly bloody, transition were to be avoided.

Makoni lamented that most of ZANU’s leaders were too fearful to engage in any such process.


Full cable:




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Reference ID






2005-12-20 15:50

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.


201550Z Dec 05

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 001716








E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/20/2015













1. (C) In a December 20 meeting with the Ambassador, ZANU-PF

Politburo member and former Finance Minister Simba Makoni

said ZANU-PF had finally acknowledged economic &problems8

but would not be able to change its disastrous economic

policies without a change in leadership. The earliest that

could come would be 2008, but 2010 was a better bet when both

presidential and parliamentary elections could be held. In

the interval, the economy would continue its freefall.

Makoni acknowledged that many in the ZANU-PF leadership were

looking past Mugabe and planning and preparing for the

post-Mugabe future. The Ambassador noted that international

reengagement was the only hope of reviving Zimbabwe,s

economy and that potential successors would be held

accountable for their actions and others would be well

advised to begin reaching out to the West now. End Summary.


——————————————— ————

Economic Problems Take Center Stage ) Even Within ZANU-PF

——————————————— ————


2. (C) Makoni said he had been out of the country and had not

attended last week,s ZANU-PF party conference but agreed

with the Ambassador that economics had played a greater role

than in the past. (N.B. ZANU-PF has conferences each year

and congresses, where leadership questions are settled, every

five years.) Still, Makoni,s impression of the conference

was that little had happened beyond the conferences most

public moments, most of which, such as the ballyhooed

declaration that Zimbabwe should accept no further UN envoys

without proper vetting, were empty rhetoric. However, there

had been one change of significance, President Mugabe,s

admission that the country had economic &problems,8 a term

he had avoided in the past.


3. (C) In fact, Makoni said Mugabe had identified eight

problems, all connected with the agricultural sector, and had

blamed the &government8 for these problems, conveniently

ignoring the fact that he was the head of the government.

However, the President had identified no solutions. In fact,

Makoni said the ruling party was bereft of solutions. It was

not that the GOZ did not know what to do. There were still

many bright and capable people in the country and in the

government. The problem was that nothing could be done as

long as President Mugabe remained in power.


4. (C) In the meantime, the economy would continue to

deteriorate with inflation likely to hit 700 percent

according to official figures by year,s end and a 1200

percent by more reliable private assessments. Moreover, the

harvest was likely to be a disaster again next year, and

Makoni speculated that Mugabe was preparing the public for

the bad news by acknowledging problems now. The Ambassador

asked how much longer this could go on before the resources

the state used to sustain itself dried up. Makoni

acknowledged that the ruling party,s patronage system was

becoming ever more &concentrated8 but contended that as

long as any meaningful economic activity was on-going, the

regime would find a way to milk it.



Prospects For Change ) 2008 At The Earliest



5. (C) Makoni said he could think of only three ways that the

regime would change. The first was a mass uprising. He

discounted this possibility, not because the people weren,t

angry, but because they were focused on trying to survive.

The second was a military coup. This also seemed unlikely

given the loyalty of then senior commanders. However,

disaffected middle-ranking officers had launched many

successful coups, and there were certainly plenty of those as

pay increases had failed to keep up with inflation and perks

had been cut. The third possibility was a change of

leadership. This would happen inevitably. However, the

longer it took the more the country,s infrastructure would

deteriorate and the more of the country,s elite would leave

for South Africa and elsewhere in search of a better life.


6. (C) Makoni initially said that in his view a change in

leadership would not occur before 2008 at the earliest and

more likely 2010. The next presidential election was

scheduled for 2008 and the next parliamentary election for

2010. The debate within the party, to this point informal,

was whether to harmonize the two by bringing forward the

parliamentary election or by delaying the presidential

elections. Makoni conceded that Mugabe would ultimately make

the decision and predicted it was more likely to be 2010,

allowing Mugabe more time in office to &cement8 his legacy

as not only the country,s founder but also it,s savior from

&recolonization8 after 2000. The Ambassador noted in that

regard an internal contradiction in Mugabe,s thinking ) the

longer he stayed in office the longer he delayed real reform

and ensured that his legacy would be the destruction of the

country,s once thriving economy.



Accountability and Would-Be Successors



7. (C) Makoni agreed with the Ambassador that Mugabe was

increasingly irrelevant and that many in party were already

looking beyond him. Makoni said most of the party elite fell

into that category. However, the party rank and file and

those around the President preferred to defer thinking about

the future until Mugabe was gone. That said, succession

planning was going on in both the Mujuru and Mnangagwa camps

as well as elsewhere, to which Mugabe was not a party.


8. (C) The Ambassador noted, and Makoni agreed, that whoever

succeeded Mugabe would have only one place to turn for the

balance of payments support needed to revive the Zimbabwean

economy ) the International Financial Institutions (IFIs)

and the traditional donors. Given that reality, the

Ambassador suggested that it would be in their own interest

as well as in the interest of Zimbabwe for would-be

successors to begin reaching out to the West. Makoni

acknowledged this would be wise but said most, if not all,

senior GOZ officials, among whom he did not include himself,

would be reticent about meeting Western ambassadors and other

interlocutors for such a discussion, fearing how it would be

interpreted within the party.


9. (C) That said, Makoni argued that there was a generic

assumption in the party that Mugabe,s successor would not be

as wedded to the past or to Mugabe,s ideology and rhetoric.

The world would therefore be more welcoming and Zimbabwe less

hostile and on that basis there could be reengagement. The

Ambassador responded that this might be right but it was not

a given that Mugabe,s successor would be someone acceptable

to the West. Didymus Mutasa, for instance, would not be seen

as credible reformer and there would even be doubts about

Joyce Mujuru. It was important that the senior leaders in

the government understood that the West would hold them

accountable for their actions. It was equally important to

find a way for quiet dialogue about the post-Mugabe system if

a chaotic, possibly bloody, transition were to be avoided.

Makoni agreed but lamented that most of ZANU’s leaders were

too fearful to engage in any such process.


10. (C) Makoni acknowledged that ZANU-PF would need to seek a

leader who could both appeal to the Zimbabwean people and to

the outside world. However, the right question was not who

that person might be but how they would be chosen. Makoni

said the party,s current process was murky and could lead to

chaos. The Ambassador said this was almost certainly by

design. Many authoritarian leaders preferred not to

designate a clear successor in order to reinforce their

control. Makoni conceded the point and lamented once more

the likelihood of chaos should Mugabe die before designating

a successor.






11. (C) Despite his disavowals, Makoni is an influential

ZANU-PF insider whose star is likely to shine brighter as

Mugabe,s dims. He is widely considered to part of the

Mujuru faction,s senior leadership and in that guise could

emerge in a senior position in a post-Mugabe government. He

has even been mentioned as a potential successor to Mugabe

himself. What Makoni brings to the table is credibility with

the West, which no other current ZANU-PF leader can claim.

He would likely be a pivotal figure in the party,s

inevitable efforts to reengage the international community

and the IFIs. He was therefore an ideal interlocutor through

whom to pass to other ZANU-PF leaders the message that we

know they will eventually have to seek the West’s support to

begin digging out of the hole they have dug for themselves

and that we will necessarily condition our reengagement on

real political and economic reform.






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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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