Makoni says ministers cowed by Mugabe


Former Finance Minister Simba Makoni said government ministers were too cowed by President Robert Mugabe to challenge official dogma and did what they thought Mugabe wanted not what worked.

He said this after he was sacked from cabinet after two years.

Makoni said what was disheartening was that he knew that 16 out of 20 cabinet members sided with him, and may egged him on during the breaks, but they advocated policy that they believed Mugabe wanted rather than what worked.

“It all depends upon what the old man says,” he said.

Makoni said Mugabe felt so threatened by the Movement for Democratic Change that Zimbabwe was only likely to reverse course under a new government.

He also believed that the economic crisis could only be resolved when the country’s political crisis was addressed.


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Reference ID






2002-11-01 06:54

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.

C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 002378




E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2012





Classified By: Economic section chief William Weissman.

Reason: 1.5b/d.


1. (C) Summary: Ex-Finance Minister Simba Makoni fears

thousands of Zimbabweans will soon suffer worsening effects

of malnutrition due to lack of food and adequate transport

logistics. He feels that Zimbabwe would have to undergo

change “from within or from outside” to get its economy back

on track. However, he believes President Mugabe feels too

threatened by opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)

inroads to compromise on key issues, and cabinet ministers

are too cowed by the President to challenge official dogma.

End Summary.


A lonely voice of dissent


2. (C) During his 2-year tenure as Finance Minister ending in

August, Makoni was a rare GoZ higher-up calling for an end to

disastrous economic policies, such as the official exchange

rate, overspending, price controls and costly military

intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thus many

in Zimbabwe’s business and donor communities saw Makoni as

the last hope for a return to economic normalcy. In a

meeting with Ambassador Sullivan and econoff, he reiterated

support for rationalizing monetary and fiscal policies, but

cautioned that these actions would exacerbate suffering in

the short-run. However, he believed the GoZ could level with

its population, explaining that this was the only way to

avert an inevitable economic meltdown. While still in office

in June, he projected that the country would need 24-36

months to regain 1997 levels; he now thinks that theoretical

recovery period is even more elusive.


3. (C) In cabinet meetings, Makoni was often a lone detractor

from President Mugabe’s line. He found this especially

disheartening because he knew 16 of 20 participants sided

with him, and many egged him on during breaks. Makoni said

ministers advocate policy that they believe Mugabe wants

rather than what works. “It all depends upon what the old

man says,” he said. The President would be more amenable to

compromise if the opposition MDC presented a less apparent

threat, a fact he characterized as regrettable. In the end,

Makoni feels Zimbabwe will probably only reverse course under

a new government. Makoni also believed the economic crisis

could only be resolved when the country’s political crisis

was addressed.


A pessimistic view of food, HIV, land redistribution

——————————————— ——-

4. (C) Makoni offered his take on additional crises:


– Food. He recalled being rebuked in the cabinet for

forecasting shortages and seeking international assistance.

He considers the National Railway of Zimbabwe (NRZ) unsuited

to move large quantities of food. At one point, he rejected

NRZ requests for US$ 22 million in imported parts and about

US$ 50 million in rolling stock because he considered the

railway management inept. He worries that thousands of

Zimbabweans might die of malnutrition in the coming months.


– HIV/AIDS. Makoni speculated that each extended Zimbabwean

family is touched by an AIDS death each week, and he

recounted that 6 workers on his own farm have died of AIDS.


– Land Redistribution. He suggested sardonically that

Zimbabwe has “progressed” from a country where a few whites

own the land to a country where a few blacks control it, with

the peasant masses remaining poor and landless.




5. (C) Makoni’s unsuccessful tenure as Finance Minister

demonstrates that the Mugabe government allows little space

for dissent. Encircled by zealots and yes-men, Mugabe shows

no sign of moving toward conventional macroeconomic policies.

Gaps are meanwhile widening between revenue and expenditure,

street and controlled prices, and parallel and official

exchange rates – signs that the needed medicine Makoni

prescribed will taste even more bitter when the GoZ one day

reconciles these contradictions and rejoins the rational





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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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