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.
Viewing cable 02HARARE2378, EX-FINANCE CHIEF MAKONI’S DIM VIEW OF ECONOMY
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
SUBJECT: EX-FINANCE CHIEF MAKONI’S DIM VIEW OF ECONOMY
Classified By: Economic section chief William Weissman.
¶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.
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
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