Jonathan Moyo becomes part of a Third Force


A former Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front legislator Pearson Mbalekwa, who had just resigned from ZANU-PF, told United States embassy officials that top politicians from ZANU-PF including former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo were planning to launch a Third Force to challenge the two major parties ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change.

He said the group was aiming to contest the 2008 presidential elections and would be largely composed of disgruntled elements aligned with Emmerson Mnangagwa, disenchanted war veterans, independent MP and former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, and selected MDC elements.

The group would stand on a platform of political moderation, economic reform, and rapprochement with the international community.

Mbalekwa said Mnangagwa would likely remain within ZANU-PF for the time being rather than join this third force.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2005-07-18 15:25

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.





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——————16E92E 181614Z /38















C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 000982








E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010




Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Eric T. Schultz under Section 1

.4 b/d






1. (C) Pearson Mbalekwa, an ex-MP who recently resigned from

ZANU-PF, told poloff on July 14 that a “third force” was

coalescing and expected to emerge publicly within two months.

The force, which so far lacked a leadership structure, would

likely be composed of disaffected ZANU-PF elements largely

aligned with Emmerson Mnangagwa, disenchanted war veterans,

independent MP and former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo,

and selected MDC elements. The group would be geared to

contest the presidential election in 2008, and would stand on

a platform of political moderation, economic reform, and

rapprochement with the international community. Mbalekwa

gave the MDC credit for opening the political system but said

the third force would be much better positioned to take

advantage of this given its ties to local opinion-makers.

Mbalekwa said Manangagwa (to whom he is related) would likely

remain within ZANU-PF for the time being rather than join

this third force. However, he noted that Mnangagwa had “wide

support” within Zimbabwe and openly wondered how the West

would react to a Mnangagwa presidency. End Summary



Impetus Behind Third Force



2. (C) According to Mbalekwa, Mugabe’s cynical manipulation

of last year’s presidium vote and the subsequent purges

associated with the Tsholotsho meetings and party primaries

had convinced many in ZANU-PF that change within the party

would be impossible as long as Mugabe remained in charge.

Moreover, he continued, Operation Restore Order and the

country’s continued rapid economic decline were further

eroding public support of the party and deepening internal

dissatisfaction with the leadership. Accordingly, growing

numbers of disaffected ZANU-PF had been collaborating and

were getting prepared to launch a “third force” – an

independent party.


3. (C) Mbalekwa was coy on who within the party was involved

because of their purported sensitivity about being identified

“too soon.” However, he did confide that the group included

many loyal to Emmerson Mnangagwa, including five of the six

provincial chairs dismissed over the Tsholotsho affair

(excluding ex-Matabeleland South Chair Lloyd Siyoka).

Mbalekwa also said Jonathan Moyo, “a very smart man”, was

playing a central role. He added that the group had been

reaching out to selected MDC members but not to the MDC as a

party; he expected several prominent MDC members to join the

group. Many of the war veterans jettisoned by ZANU-PF in

recent purges also were involved. Mbalekwa said the group as

a whole has yet to create a formal structure or to identify a




Timetable for Moving Forward



4. (C) Given the centrality of power in the office of the

president, Mbalekwa said that the group was gearing its

calendar and strategies single-mindedly for a presidential

election in 2008. They were going to demand elections

immediately, but this was just a tactical ploy to stymie

ZANU-PF plans to consolidate presidential and parliamentary

elections in 2010 by constitutional amendment later this

year. (Note: Jonathan Moyo publicly called for immediate

elections at a Crisis Coalition-organized public panel on

July 7. End note.) The group was not likely to field

official candidates in next year’s urban council elections,

although some council candidates might be aligned with or

sympathetic to the group.


5. (C) Mbalekwa said he expected the group to emerge

publicly within two months. He allowed that some thought

this was too soon, given that the group was still trying to


muster commitments and would quickly be targeted by

entrenched ruling party interests once they went public.

Several factors outweighed these concerns, however. First,

entrenched interests already had targeted them and stripped

most of overt political power. Moreover, Operation Restore

Order and the worsening national economic decline made this a

particularly opportune time in terms of heightened public

resentment of the regime. In addition, the elections were

“only 30 months away”, he noted, and developments in Zimbabwe

had a way of taking unexpected turns that could overtake

their plans. Zimbabweans were conservative by nature, he

emphasized, and needed time to be persuaded on an alternative

path. Finally, the ruling clique (i.e. the Mujuru faction)

for now believed it “had won” through the past year’s purges

and sweeping election victory, and was relatively complacent.



6. (C) Mbalekwa reported that a Mnangagwa-aligned group had

nearly broken away from the party six months ago over the

ruling clique’s “counter-coup” in the presidium vote. (Note:

Mbalekwa had told the Ambassador at that time that Karanga

and young Turk elements were prepared to “secede” from the

party. End note.) At that time, however, the group

calculated that they lacked the focused objectives and

organizational wherewithal to capture the public’s confidence

in time to have a significant impact on the March elections.

Furthermore, parliamentary elections would not have changed

the balance of political power in any event given the

President’s control of the government and all its resources.

Accordingly, they had decided to wait for a more propitious

time – now was that time.



Mnangagwa’s Role



7. (C) Throughout the discussion, Mbalekwa was very cagey

about Mnangagwa’s role in the group’s plans. (Note: Just

before last year’s presidium vote, Mbalekwa published a

lengthy letter in an independent newspaper “outing” Mnangagwa

as a Vice-Presidential candidate and urging his election over

Joyce Mujuru. Mnangagwa is Mbalekwa’s cousin and long-time

political patron. End note.) He characterized Mnangagwa as

a “very guarded and quiet” man by nature, but stressed that

they were confidants. Mbalekwa said Mnangagwa would be

careful about his association with the group and would likely

remain with ZANU-PF even when the group went public.


8. (C) Mbalekwa said Mnangagwa would cautiously go about his

business within the government and party, even as the ruling

clique continued overt efforts to marginalize him. Even

after “demoting” him at the Party Congress, they had cost

Mnangagwa his parliamentary seat by shifting four key wards

to an adjacent constituency just four days before the

election despite Mnangagwa’s personal pleas to Mugabe.

Within the past few weeks, he alleged, Mnangagwa’s strident

urging of the Politburo to shift tack on economic policy met

a mute response even though many present shared Mnangagwa’s



9. (C) Mbalekwa reported that most ZANU-PF elements in the

nascent third force historically had been aligned with

Mnangagwa but many were disappointed over his passiveness as

the ruling clique proceeded with its purges of Mnangagwa’s

senior supporters. Indeed, Mnangagwa’s influence had been

the decisive factor in forestalling a “secession” after the

Party Congress, he said. Urging that Mnangagwa nonetheless

had “wide support” within Zimbabwe, Mbalekwa asked about

likely Western reaction to Mnangagwa as a leader in view of

his “historical baggage” (referring to his senior role in the

Matabeleland suppression/massacres of the 1980’s).



Party Platform



10. (C) According to Mbalekwa, the group’s platform would be

political moderation, economic reform, and rapprochement with

the West. He emphasized that the group was Western-oriented

in its approach and, given the depths to which the economy


had plunged, placed high priority on re-engagement with the

IFIs and rehabilitating Zimbabwe’s investment climate. It

recognized the centrality of rationalizing land reform and

intended to work out a compensation plan for dispossessed

white farmers and possibly to adjust land distribution to

enhance agricultural productivity. International assistance

would be critical in providing adequate compensation and

developing a land use model that would gain investor



11. (C) Mbalekwa added that for the time being, the group’s

long term objectives would only be props in its top priority:

engineering the end of Mugabe’s presidency. Until there was

a change in leadership, conditions would continue to

deteriorate and fuel rhetoric to drive change. An early task

would be to engineer popular opposition to constitutional

amendments designed to prolong or perpetuate the ruling

clique’s control of the presidency.






12. (C) Mbalekwa said that the ruling party’s patronage

system was the group’s biggest obstacle. Key potential

supporters in the ruling party were reticent to overtly join

or support the group for fear that they would lose their farm

and other perks of party favor. The nation’s economic

implosion fueled resentment but rendered everybody more

vulnerable. He noted, for example, that Daniel Shumba, the

ex-provincial chair of Masvingo and telecom magnate, was a

pivotal player in the group but would have to avoid public

association as long as he had key telecom license

applications pending. Others would be similarly timid,

possibly undercutting perceptions of how wide the group’s

support and influence actually were.


13. (C) Financial resources and economic straits common to

the entire populace were another handicap, Mbalekwa added.

Petrol shortages, for example, would limit face-to-face

interactions between players and with potentially key

constituencies. (Note: During the lunch, Mbalekwa took a

returned phone call from “Jonathan” in which he pleaded that

he was “on empty” and needed to access at least “two

barrels”. End note.) Myriad symptoms of the economic crisis

absorbed everybody’s attention, diverting their time and

resources from political activities.



Whither the MDC?



14. (C) Mbalekwa credited the MDC with key improvements to

the political environment that the group intended to exploit.

Thanks to the MDC’s “forcing” the GOZ to accept SADC

election principles in the regime’s bid for international

acceptance, public assembly was less restricted, the media

was more accessible, and political violence was considerably

reduced. However, his group would be in a much better

position than the MDC to exploit such openings because,

unlike the MDC, most of the principals had deep roots in

rural communities and enjoyed the confidence of chiefs,

headmen, district administrators and other local

opinion-makers. Rural populations wanted change, he

concluded, but would be more inclined to back a third force

made up of trusted, familiar faces than the MDC, which was

too unfamiliar or “foreign-aligned” to many rural audiences.


15. (C) According to Mbalekwa, the group was not interested

in allying or merging with the MDC but was collaborating with

unnamed selected members, who Mbalekwa expected would join

them when the time came. Among those were key Ndebele. In

this regard, he feared that South African President Mbeki was

trying to foster an alliance between MDC Secretary-General

Welshman Ncube and Politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa. As an

aside, Mbalekwa reported that MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai

had recently sought a private meeting with Mnangagwa but

Mnangagwa had demurred.




Mbalekwa’s Resignation



16. (C) Mbalekwa maintained that his resignation from

ZANU-PF last month had been undertaken entirely on his own

initiative. He feared that prior discussion would have

resulted in concerted party pressure to prevent his

resignation. He said he intended the “unprecedented”

resignation to inspire others to leave the party, especially

Mnangagwa. He said the response augured well; many inside

ZANU-PF had been supportive and were following his situation

closely. The GOZ already had acted swiftly in response to

his resignation, seizing equipment from his farm. Even then,

the personnel who supervised the seizure were apologetic and

supportive personally – indicative of popular sentiment

behind his move, he argued. The ex-senior CIO official said

he had not been physically threatened but, as he had sold all

of his principal assets (e.g., Harare nightclubs) to support

his farm new near Gweru, he was economically vulnerable.







17. (C) The continued failures of the ZANU-PF government,

especially its mismanagement of the economy, and a

self-absorbed MDC,s inability to capitalize politically,

have clearly opened the door for a “third force” in

Zimbabwean politics. What shape that third force takes is an

open question. While others, especially in civil society,

likely have a very different conception, Mbalekwa clearly

sees such a force as a vehicle for Mnangagwa, especially if

the latter ultimately loses the succession struggle within

ZANU-PF. Mbalekwa may think that has already happened;

Mnangagwa clearly doesn,t.


18. (C) If a third force does begin to emerge from within

ZANU-PF, the ruling Zezuru clique of Mugabe and the Mujurus

can be expected to use every means available to suppress it,

including the sort of financial punishment meted out to

Mbalekwa ) and to Moyo before him. However, given the

continued decline of the economy, it is no longer at all

clear that the ZANU-PF patronage system has enough resources

at its disposal to enforce discipline, leaving only one other

sure option ) repression. We are frankly encouraged that

despite the risks some here, albeit few in number so far,

seem finally willing to stand up to the regime.






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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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