Embassy said Mnangagwa could use Murambatsvina to discredit ZANUPF leadership


The United States embassy said Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been sidelined at the 2004 Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front congress, and his supporters had not yet conceded defeat and could use Operation Murambatsvina and the continuing economic failures to discredit the ZANU-PF leadership.

The embassy seemed disillusioned by infighting within the Movement for Democratic Change saying that if the party survived the internal dissension and its failure to show leadership during the operation it could also use these failures to discredit ZANU-PF.

“The current leadership of ZANU-PF, Mugabe, the Mujurus, and Didymus Mutasa to name the key players, appear to have decided that they cannot reverse economic decline without adopting policies that would threaten their hold on power,” the embassy said.

“Continued economic decline will make an unpopular regime still more unpopular. It will also affect the regime’s ability to control its own party through the use of patronage. In this context, Murambatsvina makes perfect sense as a warning to the whole of Zimbabwe that the regime will do whatever it needs to in order to stay in power.”


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2005-07-22 11:57

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.


221157Z Jul 05




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OMB-00   NIMA-00 PA-00   MCC-00   GIWI-00 FMPC-00 SP-00

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——————199E46 221247Z /38












C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 001004









E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/22/2015





Classified By: Classified by CDA Eric Schultz, reasons 1.4 (b) (d)






1. (C) The winter of Murambatsvina (Operation Restore

Order) seems to have changed everything in Zimbabwe and

nothing. Robert Mugabe is still president and likely to

remain so for as long as he wants Q which could be until

the day he dies. ZANU-PF is still firmly in control. The

economy is still deteriorating. The people are still

passive and essentially leaderless in the face of

government repression as the MDC focuses inward. But the

GOZ, under new day-to-day management, has dropped all

pretense and revealed itself as a brutal Q and callous Q

dictatorship. Since taking the reins of the government

MugabeQs would-be heirs, the Mujurus, have shown themselves

to be not only mean-spirited and corrupt but, from a ZANU

perspective, much worse – incompetent. With the steepening

decline of the economy has come the steady erosion of the

regimeQs extensive patronage system that once bought off

losers and kept party members loyal. In its absence

repression, a la Murambatsvina, looms large as the regimeQs

alternative means of control.


2. (C) The turn to repression has cost the regime support

internationally, regionally, and domestically. The

Europeans have stiffened their resolve and even the region

may finally have had enough if recent signals from South

Africa are to be believed. ZANU itself is riven with

dissension, exacerbated by the succession struggle and the

decline of patronage, waiting only for MugabeQs passing or

incapacitation to burst forth. For its part, the MDC bides

its time, convinced that the regime will implode and that

it will pick up the pieces. The countryQs future remains

unpredictable but one thing seems clear after this winter,

the restoration of democracy and prosperity in Zimbabwe

will be more difficult, especially as what remains of the

educated populace, black, white, or Indian, appears

increasingly ready to throw in the towel and emigrate. The

remainder of the population, psychologically scarred but

unable to leave, is hunkering down and trying to survive

what could be a very bad next few years.



MurambatsvinaQs Winter Chill



3. (C) ZimbabweQs normally mild winter has been cloudy and

cold this year. The nights have been especially bitter.

The weather mirrors the national mood as Zimbabweans come

to terms with the countryQs bleak reality following

Operation QMurambatsvinaQ or Restore Order as it has been

translated into English. In its first two months, the

operation has left hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans, by

some estimates more than a million, homeless and

destitute. Many of these people, who were the poorest of

the poor, are now sleeping in the open, enduring

temperatures near freezing. The operation has also

destroyed most of the countryQs informal economy, which may

have amounted to as much as 40 percent of GDP, and was

critical to the strategies of many Zimbabweans, rich and

poor alike, for coping with economic decline.


4. (C) Beyond the economic and social damage it has caused,

it is also apparent that the operation has taken a

psychological toll, in part because of its indiscriminate

nature. For instance, it not only targeted MDC strongholds

but ZANU-PF neighborhoods as well and in addition to

African traders, the traditionally pro-ZANU-PF Indian

community was hit hard. Most Zimbabweans seem angry about

what has happened but feel powerless to do anything about

it. Long-time observers of the country cannot recall a

time when people were less hopeful about the countryQs

future. Inevitably, that means that many, especially the

educated, are looking to leave. In the past few weeks, we

have had an upsurge of long-term American residents of

Zimbabwe seeking to renew American passports. In the words

of one seventy-year old it is time to Qgive up.Q Many

Embassy officers have reported similar discussions with

friends and contacts in the countryQs educated black middle


class as well as among its small white and Indian ethnic




Economic Meltdown



5. (C) It is not only Murambatsvina that is driving

Zimbabweans to despair. The country is facing economic

turmoil on a scale not seen even in 2002, the last major

crisis. The country is desperately short of food, fuel,

and the foreign exchange needed to buy them. With no

access to balance of payments support, the country is

caught in a vicious circle of declining exports leading to

less foreign exchange leading to further declines in

exports. Exporters have access to less and less of the

foreign currency they generate which they need to pay for

the imports needed to finish their products. Instead, the

foreign currency coming into the country must pay for

massive food and fuel imports Q with a certain amount also

being siphoned off to feed official corruption.


6. (C) Food insecurity is arguably the most serious

shortage facing the country, especially in rural areas.

The shortfall has never been worse. The governmentQs fast

track land reform and this yearQs drought combined to

produce a record low maize harvest. The country needs to

import 1.2 million metric tons of maize, fully 75 percent

of its needs. The IMF team that visited last month

concluded that Zimbabwe probably had enough foreign

currency to pay for food imports but that this would

inevitably cause shortages elsewhere. Over the past two

months, the GOZ has increased the pace of food imports, to

nearly 100,000 MTs a month, but in the process has proven

the IMFQs point as a massive fuel shortage has erupted.


7. (C) For the urban population, it is the fuel situation

that has come to symbolize the countryQs accelerating

decline. The country is all but bereft of fuel. The price

on the black market is up to Z$70,000 a litre, which works

out to roughly U.S. $10 a gallon, and even at that price is

almost impossible to find. Economic activity is grinding

to a halt as a result of the fuel shortages. The only

people who can routinely get fuel are those who work for

companies or organizations, like the Embassy, that import

their own. Or who work for the government. But even that

source is apparently drying up. The police and

intelligence officers are said to have had their allotments

cut in half, and even mid-ranking ZANU-PF officials and

their families are feeling the pinch.



A Stronger Police State



8. (C) To the average Zimbabwean, white or black, rich or

poor, the governmentQs obsession with Murambatsvina while

the economy is melting down seemed inexplicable. The

consensus view among most of our regular contacts following

the March parliamentary elections, especially in the

business sector, was that a more secure ZANU-PF, its

two-thirds majority restored, would adopt more moderate and

sensible economic and social policies and would seek to

regain the good graces of the international community.

Instead, the opposite has happened. The new Cabinet,

largely dominated by the Mujuru clan, victors in the

internal ZANU-PF power struggle at last yearQs party

congress, has turned to repression as its primary means of

retaining power.


9. (C) There has been much speculation about the regimeQs

true motives and about the role of President Mugabe in

authorizing the operation. But of one thing we can be

sure, the party leadershipQs intent was to increase their

hold over the country, politically, economically, and

socially. The overriding objective for the MujuruQs is to

ensure that the Vice President, Joyce Mujuru, succeeds

Mugabe, by whatever means necessary. As to Mugabe, the

most telling comment was one the UN Special Envoy, Anna

Tibaijuka, offered at dinner with the visiting staffdel the

night of July 25. She recounted how in her youth then

President Nyerere had launched a similar operation in


Tanzania only to stop it three days later when he saw it

getting out of control. As Tibaijuka somberly noted,

Mugabe made no effort to stop the operation, even after it

was clear that it was causing massive human suffering.

Whether he couldnQt or whether he didnQt care she left to

her listeners to decide.


10. (C) The ruling clique probably believes the operation

to have been a success. The raw demonstration of the

regimeQs authority has gone largely unchallenged within

Zimbabwe either by the opposition or by the people

themselves. Much is made of the cultural passivity of the

Shona people and perhaps that is part of the reason why the

operation has largely gone unchallenged. But a more

telling factor is simply fear. The regime retains a

monopoly on the use of force and Zimbabweans of all stripes

know it will not hesitate to deploy the police, or even the

military if need be.


11. (C) On the surface the regime appears to be more in

control of the country than ever before. However, that

control has never been as naked before either and the

regimeQs power base has essentially narrowed to the police,

the security services, and the military. Even the party

has become less reliable as economic decline has reduced

the reach of the once extensive patronage system that kept

party members loyal. The GOZ now rules almost entirely by

intimidation and repression; for all intents and purposes

it has become a police state.



But a Weaker Regime



12. (C) Murambatsvina and the economic meltdown may have

accelerated ZimbabweQs transition to a police state, but we

would argue that it has not made the regimeQs long-term

hold on the country, and especially that of the MujuruQs,

more secure. In that regard, Murambatsvina may well prove

to have been a critical mistake, one that has given the

opponents of the current leadership of the regime, both

within and without ZANU-PF, useful ammunition.


13. (C) The UN Special Envoy and her team came to the

conclusion that neither enforced QruralizationQ or the

destruction of the informal economy would last long. We

agree. Growing food insecurity in rural areas and the

better prospects for making a living in the city will

likely ensure that many people return and rebuild in urban

and peri-urban areas. Many have never left at all. There

is every likelihood that by the time the next national

elections are held, whether in 2008 as scheduled or 2010 as

rumored, current demographic patterns will have been

reestablished and the MDC or some other opposition party

will once more win the urban vote.


14. (C) More importantly, we would argue that Murambatsvina

has had a number of unintended effects that have clearly

weakened the regime for the long run and that will fuel

attacks by its opponents within ZANU-PF and in the

opposition. It has significantly increased ZimbabweQs

international isolation. Following the elections it was

clear that France, Italy and other European countries were

preparing to press for the EU to normalize relations with

the GOZ. That effort is now suspended indefinitely, much

to the relief of our British colleagues. This development

also has obvious implications for the IMF vote on expulsion

in August, the danger of which the regime seems to have

finally woken to.


15. (C) The operation has also begun to tear at African

solidarity with Zimbabwe. It is much harder for the GOZ to

spin to Africans a crackdown on poor blacks than it was the

seizure of white farms. The Special EnvoyQs visit and her

apparently negative report (due to be released July 22),

along with last weekQs condemnation of the GOZ by the South

African Council of Churches (SACC) have apparently put

intense pressure on South African President Mbeki and other

African leaders to finally take action on Zimbabwe.


16. (C) Finally, Murambatsvina has also further alienated

ZANU-PF, ostensibly a peopleQs liberation party, from the


people it is supposed to have liberated. The current

ruling clique, the Mujurus and their allies, may not care

all that much, indeed every sign is that they have evolved

into a kleptocracy primarily motivated by a desire to stay

in power. However, it does seem to matter to many others

within the party and has added to increasing internal

dissension, already fueled by the succession struggleQs

move to a new phase at last yearQs party congress.


17. (C) Emmerson Mnangagwa and his supporters have yet to

concede defeat and will no doubt use Murambatsvina and the

continuing economic failures to discredit the current

leadership, either from within the party or as the core of

a Qthird forceQ in Zimbabwean politics. The MDC, assuming

it survives its own internal dissension and its failure to

show leadership or even solidarity with the victims of

Murambatsvina, will also be able to use these failures to

good effect in discrediting ZANU-PF as a whole in future




Conclusion: Make Them Pay



18. (C) The current leadership of ZANU-PF, Mugabe, the

Mujurus, and Didymus Mutasa to name the key players, appear

to have decided that they cannot reverse economic decline

without adopting policies that would threaten their hold on

power. Continued economic decline will make an unpopular

regime still more unpopular. It will also affect the

regimeQs ability to control its own party through the use

of patronage. In this context, Murambatsvina makes perfect

sense as a warning to the whole of Zimbabwe that the regime

will do whatever it needs to in order to stay in power.

Increased repression, however, will only deepen the countryQ

s misery and further undermine the regimeQs legitimacy,

domestically, regionally, and internationally.


19. (C) The regime made a bold move with Murambatsvina but

it is one that already appears to be backfiring on them, as

evidenced by the apparent pressure the South Africa

Government is bringing to bear. We need ensure that the

GOZ remains faced with its current unpalatable choice Q

between policy changes that will undermine its hold on

power or further repression that will undermine the

regional support it needs to survive.








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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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