Makoni says Mugabe is out of touch


President Robert Mugabe was so out of touch with reality that when he was told that most of his ministers had multiple farms, he simply said: “We have to lead by example” but never took any action.

This was said by former Minister of Finance Simba Makoni, a ZANU-PF politburo member at the time, when he met United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell at his (Makoni’s) office on 21 September 2005.

Makoni said Mugabe had blocked his mind to many things, knew little about what was happening “out there,” and was surrounded by ministers equally closed to learning from experience.

Makoni said Mugabe only wanted to hear what he wanted to hear because though he was outraged when he learnt in a 2002 government audit of the multiple ownership and underutilization of farms by government officials- including Makoni himself with two farms, Ignatius Chombo four, and Didymus Mutasa five, Mugabe said: “We have to lead by example,” yet he never took any action.

Full cable:



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Reference ID






2005-09-26 07:34

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.


260734Z Sep 05

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 001322







E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/22/2010





Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d


1. (C) Summary: During a September 21 meeting, Politburo

member and ex-Finance Minister Dr. Simba Makoni told the

Ambassador there was much more questioning of policy by

government insiders since Operation Restore Order. Mugabe,

however, was out of touch with reality, his mind blocked to

what was happening on the ground. Like his ministers, he

was closed to learning from experience. Makoni rued the

lack of rational and informed discussion of economic policy

at the highest levels of government. He disparaged Reserve

Bank Governor Gono handling of the food and forex crises

and the decision to pay down an unexpectedly large amount

of arrears to the IMF. He maintained that all responsible

ministers had known about the impending food shortages

since March, but the information had not reached Mugabe,

who, in any case, lacked the will to act on it. Makoni

said Zimbabwe had the capacity to fend for itself, solve

its own problems, and would eventually pull itself out of

its dire straights. End Summary.


——————————————— —————

Operation Restore Order nterest Will Peter Out

——————————————— —————


2. (C) At a meeting with the Ambassador at Makoni’s

modest company office in an industrial section of Harare,

the Ambassador asked him whether Operation Restore Order

had affected Makoni own farming village. Makoni

described how the thatched and brick buildings along the

road to his farm had been reduced to rubble and a nearby

settlement leveled to the ground. Many people were still

living in the open as the rainy season approached, but

shacks were also being reconstructed. Since Operation

Restore Order, Makoni said there was much more questioning

of policy “by us on the inside” than ever before. Asked

how the blame game would play out, he said Mugabe had

distanced himself from the Operation; Ignatius Chombo,

Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban

Development, was a prime candidate for accountability, but,

he proceeded cryptically, “not the mastermind.”

Nevertheless, he said the Operation could only have been

carried out with Mugabe’s approval, “he not that



3. (C) Makoni opined that interest in the Operation could

peter out, “vanish,” with no one ultimately taken to task.

At the Ambassador suggestion that accountability did not

necessarily stop at Zimbabwe border, and a day of

reckoning could come, Makoni replied that Operation Restore

Order will be only one of many ill-advised things that

happened under the present regime, and, when Mugabe is

gone, all blame will be placed squarely on Mugabe.



Mugabe ut of Touch



4. (C) Makoni painted a picture of Mugabe as out of touch

with reality. He has blocked his mind to many things,

knows little about what is happening “out there,” and is

surrounded by ministers equally closed to learning from

experience. During Mugabe’s tour of the Annual Harare

Agricultural Fair in mid August, for example, the seed

companies assured him there was an adequate supply of maize

seed in the country. According to Makoni, Mugabe “hit the

roof” when he recently became aware of the dire state of

seed availability. Noting that moving people from shacks

into decent homes had been a cornerstone of the ZANU-PF

party program, Makoni was incredulous that Mugabe had

failed to visit a single Operation Restore Order or Garikai

site. Makoni maintained Mugabe wanted to hear that the

government has met Garikai’s targets, and that’s what he is

told. Queried by the Ambassador whether Mugabe would act

on information if he understood the problems, Makoni

replied negatively. To illustrate, he described Mugabe’s

outrage upon learning in a 2002 government audit of the

multiple ownership and underutilization of farms by

government officials. Pointing out that Makoni himself had

two farms, Chombo four, and Minister of State for National

Security Mutasa five, Mugabe said, “We have to lead by

example.” Yet he never took any action. Citing the

astronomical cost of rice and potatoes compared to maize,

Makoni described as “incredible” Mugabe’s suggestion during

his recent visit to the UN General Assembly that

Zimbabweans consume those staples if maize is not



5. (C) At some length, Makoni depicted how Mugabe could

not accept that the market could best determine the

currency exchange rate. Makoni recounted how Mugabe had

grudgingly agreed to devalue the currency from Z$38:1 to

Z$55:1 when Makoni was Finance Minister (the official rate

today is Z$26,002:1; the parallel rate is Z$65,000:1).

Mugabe reminded him often that the Zim dollar had been more

valuable than the US dollar at independence. When the

exchange rate was Zim$8,000:1, Mugabe was accessing US

dollars at Zim$55:1, according to Makoni. He said Mugabe

viewed himself as an economist, and, in numerous

discussions, had dismissed the ex-Finance Minister as “a

chemist” (Note: Makoni has a PhD in chemistry) and his

explanation of market forces as mere “textbook economics.”


——————————————— ———–

The Food and Forex Crises ono’s own mess

——————————————— ———–


6. (C) Makoni repeatedly disparaged Reserve Bank Governor

Gono’s handling of the forex and food production crises,

and his public comments, most recently, that the private

sector should generate its own forex and not rely on the

RBZ, or that farmers should produce more even without

fertilizer. He recounted Gono’s broken promises to farmers

that a share of their forex earnings would be available to

purchase inputs. Gono announced financial support to the

agriculture sector, but, in the end, “no one gets the

funds.” Makoni pointed out the considerable room for

arbitrage under a centralized authority, and drew attention

to the way in which the system fed into power plays, with

“everyone coming around with a need.” He described the

forex shortage as a symptom, not the cause, of Zimbabwe’s

economic distress.


7. (C) Makoni characterized the food situation as

critical, even if adequate rains came, as the land was

unprepared for planting. State intervention in the sector

was necessary under these conditions of acute shortage, but

the action had to be rational and informed by what works in

the market. The government, on the other hand, favored a

command and control approach. He said all responsible

Ministers had known about the impending food shortage since

March, but the information had not reached Mugabe. He

derided Agriculture Minister Made as living “far from

reality,” noting, as an example, his plan to designate 200

farmers per province, agriculturally productive or not, to

produce 50 ha of maize each. In animated detail, he

described the irrationality, inefficiency, and

inflexibility of the administrative hurdles he was

personally confronting to get the RBZ to release forex for

his farm inputs. He regarded the obstacles as

insurmountable for most small farmers and many large ones

as well, resulting in the extremely weak uptake by farmers

of available financing facilities.


8. (C) Makoni posed the question why Gono had made such a

large payment to the IMF. He opined that a US$40 million

or smaller arrears payment would have sufficed to gain a

reprieve. The large payment had dried up forex allocations

to the private sector for three months and exacerbated the

fuel crisis. He deplored the absence of rational

conversation or meeting of minds at the top level on how to

handle the IMF vote. While the business community

discussed economic policy with some Ministers, there was no

discussion among the top leadership in government or even

the next ring of players. In Mugabe’s opinion, the IMF

advised devaluation so that Zimbabwe would lose

international esteem; the market manipulated exchange

rates, and in Zimbabwe’s case, the country’s enemies were

behind the manipulation.

——————————————— —————


Makoni – “Mentally Troubled”, but “We l Come Out of It”

——————————————— —————



9. (C) Asked initially by the Ambassador how he was,

Makoni replied, “mentally troubled.” Queried later where

it would all end, he replied, “nobody knows.”   Makoni said

Zimbabwe was bankrupt in 1999, but Mugabe maintains a

country can never go bankrupt and the state will always

survive. Makoni lamented the comfort the government took

in favorable comparisons of Zimbabwe with less developed

neighbors. He, on the other hand, would compare Zimbabwe

today with where it used to be and where it should be, had

it been better managed. He said Zimbabwean agriculture had

always produced, drought or no drought, and

enthusiastically recalled the days of competitions among

farmers to produce 10 tons of maize on a hectare of land.

Drawing on the Ambassador reference to the strong inflow

of assistance to Mozambique and Zambia, he exclaimed that

Zimbabwe had the capacity to fend for itself and solve its

own problems. His parting words were, “We l come out of




Bio Notes



10. (C) Makoni, the only member of the Politburo not

under U.S. sanctions (but subject since March 2002 to EU

sanctions), can barely hide his disillusionment with the

state of Zimbabwe’s political leadership and economy. Out

of the domestic limelight for the past 3 1/2 years, apart

from his recent bid for the presidency of the African

Development Bank, he is pursuing his farming interests in

Manicaland East with gusto and his business interests in

town. The youngest member of the Cabinet at Independence,

he owes his rapid rise to power to Mugabe. Yet Mugabe

failed to come to his rescue in 1996, when, as CEO of the

Herald Group, he clashed with Herald editor Chikerema over

editorial policy. Joyce Mujuru, then Minister of

Information (and now Vice President), took the editor

side and Makoni lost

his job. Makoni lost a 2000 primary

election bid to Chipanga, a former CIO Director. According

to an Embassy Foreign Service National well connected to

the Makoni family, he felt the old guard, especially

Didymus Mutasa, had conspired against him. According to

the FSN, Makoni two adult sons were illegal drug abusers;

one committed suicide in Cape Town, South Africa, the other

resides in Ireland, estranged from the family.






(11) (C) Makoni said mostly all the right things and he’s

clearly at pains to continue cultivating a good

relationship and the image of himself as a ZANU-PF leader

we could work with. Although ousted by Mugabe as an

economic saboteur over exchange rate liberalization in

2002, as a member of the Politburo he still has Mugabe’s

ear and reportedly has been consulted by Vice President

Mujuru of late. As recently as today his name was floated

in the local independent press as a possible successor to

Mugabe with the support of the Mujuru faction in ZANU-PF.

He remains a ZANU-PF party man to the core, even as he

openly criticizes them. Outside the limelight, he remains

relatively untouched by scandal. His name has been floated

as a potential “superminister” of economic affairs under a

Mujuru government, or even successor to Mujuru, when the

day comes. As Gono’s name has also been floated, it was

illuminating to hear Makoni’s rancorous take on Gono.

Makoni painted a picture of ZANU-PF asleep at the wheel,

Mugabe out of touch with reality, and Gono incapable of

managing the economy, which leaves Makoni, at least in his

own mind, as the party’s best hope for meaningful

re-engagement with the international community.



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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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