Former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said a group of reform-minded individuals that cut across political lines had in 2007 talked about coming up with a United Front that would be led by a candidate acceptable to both the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change.
Three possible candidates had been identified: businessman Strive Masiyiwa, former Finance Minister Simba Makoni and central bank governor Gideon Gono.
Moyo said each candidate had both pluses and minuses.
Masiyiwa was viewed positively across the political and ethnic divide although he was affiliated with the opposition but he lacked government and political experience. However, he brought business skills to the table and was acceptable to South African President Thabo Mbeki and the international community.
Makoni was in good-standing in the ruling party but acceptable to the opposition. He had government experience as a former Minister but lacked leadership qualities, particularly the courage it would require to take on Mugabe.
Gono was close to Mugabe and was perceived as a strong ZANU-PF supporter, but was actually anti-ZANU-PF, according to Moyo. Gono believed there could be no reform through the ruling party. He had used his monetary statements to say hard truths about political and economic reform and had not blamed the international community for Zimbabwe’s woes.
Gono as a candidate would cause the most damage to Mugabe’s chances. Gono had been in the system since 2003, had been intimately involved with party structures and doling out patronage, and now had many supporters throughout the military, the security services, and the party. Gono was also close to Masiyiwa, which could make him acceptable to the opposition.
Viewing cable 07HARARE326, FORMER ZANU-PF INSIDER OUTLINES A “THIRD” WAY
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STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/09/2012
SUBJECT: FORMER ZANU-PF INSIDER OUTLINES A “THIRD” WAY
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C/NF) Former Information Minister and Presidential
Spokesman Jonathan Moyo requested a meeting with the
Ambassador April 17. Moyo told the Ambassador that Nelson
Mandela, on behalf of the ANC, had attempted to send a
message to President Mugabe in advance of the March 30
Central Committee meeting that Mugabe should step down. The
message, conveyed through Reserve Bank Governor Gono, was
delivered after the meeting. According to Moyo, Mandela’s
communication, along with Mbeki’s mediation effort, was part
of a sophisticated South African approach to convince Mugabe
¶2. (C/NF) Moyo said that said there was deep disappointment
within ZANU-PF and the country as a whole at Mugabe,s
intention to run for reelection. A small group of
reform-minded individuals that cut across political lines had
been meeting to consider a United Front to be led by a
candidate acceptable to both the ruling party and the
opposition. They had identified three possible candidates:
Strive Masiyiwa, Simba Makone, and Gideon Gono. The next
step would be to approach the three and settle on a
candidate. The Ambassador responded that the plan was an
interesting approach to “breaking the mold” of Zimbabwean
politics but would have to overcome many obstacles, including
resistance not only from Mugabe but MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai, whom it would sideline. End Summary.
A Call from Mandela
¶3. (C/NF) Moyo told the Ambassador that before the March 30
ZANU-PF Central Committee meeting, Nelson Mandela called
Zimbabwe Central Bank Governor Gono and said he wanted to
deliver a quick and secure message to Mugabe outside of
diplomatic channels. Moyo said his source was Gono himself.
Gono had told him that Mandela stated he was calling on
behalf of the ANC and not the SAG. The ANC did not wish to
pressure Mugabe but to “advise” him that the ANC considered
Mugabe a liberation hero, not just for Zimbabwe but for
Africa. The ANC had defended Mugabe and wanted to continue
to defend him but the situation in Zimbabwe was creating a
threat to his legacy. It was time for him to go in order to
preserve that legacy.
¶4. (C/NF) Mandela had told Gono to tell Mugabe that f he
missed this opportunity to step down, he would open himself
up to &Pinochet dangers.8 If he went now, he could become
an elder statesman and participate in African issues.
Mandela had asked that the message be delivered before the
Central Committee meeting. However, because the call came
just before the meeting began, Gono was unable to do so, and
relayed it the following Monday. According to Moyo, Mugabe
had disparaged Mandela as a “western puppet” to Gono but was
pleased that the ANC held him in high esteem. He told Gono
to tell Mandela and the ANC he would consider their advice
and would respond further at the right time.
On SADC and Mbeki
HARARE 00000326 002 OF 004
¶5. (C/NF) Moyo said the basis for SADC’s involvement in
Zimbabwe was a damning report prepared by the Defense,
Politics, and Security Organ early in the year. The crack
down on the opposition was Mugabe’s response to the report.
Moyo claimed that Tanzania’s President Kikwete subsequently
had raised Mugabe’s retirement in a meeting at the African
Union Summit in Addis Ababa in January, during Kikwete’s
visit to Harare in March, and at the March SADC Special
Summit in Dar es Salaam. Mugabe had subsequently complained
to his cabinet that “that young man Kikwete is going to cause
¶6. (C/NF) By contrast, according to Moyo, Mugabe had returned
from Dar with praise for Mbeki. Moyo said Mbeki had played
Mugabe perfectly at the Summit. Contrary to public
reporting, Mbeki was determined to get Mugabe to step down
and had made a big push in this regard at the Summit.
However, Mbeki had concluded that a frontal approach
reprimanding Mugabe would be counter-productive. Instead,
his goal had been to get Mugabe to agree to South African
mediation and 2008 elections. Mbeki saw the elections as the
best way to convince Mugabe to step down and also to resolve
the crisis well in advance of the 2010 World Cup. Mandela’s
call had been at Mbkei,s behest and part of a sophisticated,
multi-channel strategy to get Mugabe to eventually see the
perils of standing as a candidate in 2008.
Seeking a Third Way
¶7. (C/NF) Moyo said there was a large group of disaffected
ZANU-PF members who yearned for reform but lacked focus and
leadership. There had been an expectation on the part of
these individuals that the Mujuru faction, and possibly the
Mnangagwa faction as well, would oppose Mugabe’s 2008 plans
in the March Politburo and Central Committee meetings and
open the door to reform. However, Mugabe had once more out
maneuvered his intra-party rivals and as a result of the
Central Committee’s endorsement of Mugabe’s candidacy a mood
of despondency had set in among many party members.
¶8. (C/NF) In the wake of the Central Committee meeting, Moyo
said he and a small group of reformers that cut across
political lines had spent many “sleepless nights” on what to
do next. The group had concluded that relying on the
factions to reign in Mugabe had been unwise and that
continuing to do so would result in two possible outcomes:
either Mugabe would run or Joice Mujuru or Emmerson Mnangagwa
would be the ZANU-PF candidate. The former was far more
likely but neither outcome was acceptable.
¶9. (C/NF) Instead, Moyo said, his group had concluded that
what was needed was a third candidate willing to lead a
“united front” and stand against Mugabe. This individual
would have to be a prominent personality, reform-oriented,
acceptable to the ruling party but with crossover appeal for
the opposition. The plan would be to have this individual
declare their candidacy close to the election, no more than
90 days in advance, catching Mugabe off-guard and diminishing
the chances of foul play. The candidate would catch the wave
building against Mugabe’s reelection and either Mugabe would
see the inevitable and step aside or he would be swept away.
HARARE 00000326 003 OF 004
¶10. (C/NF) Moyo said three names had been discussed: Strive
Masiyiwa, Simba Makoni, and Gideon Gono. Each of the three
had pluses and minuses. Although affiliated with the
opposition, Masiyiwa was viewed positively across the
political and ethnic divide. He lacked government and
political experience but brought business skills to the table
and was acceptable to Mbeki and the international community.
Makoni was in good-standing in the ruling party but
acceptable to the opposition. He had government experience
as a former Minister but lacked leadership qualities,
particularly the courage it would require to take on Mugabe.
¶11. (C/NF) Moyo said the third candidate, Gono, was close to
Mugabe and perceived as a strong ZANU-PF supporter, but was
actually anti-ZANU-PF. Gono believed there could be no
reform through the ruling party. He had used his monetary
statements to say hard truths about political and economic
reform and had not blamed the international community for
Zimbabwe’s woes. Gono as the candidate would cause the most
damage to Mugabe’s chances. Gono had been in the system
since 2003, had been intimately involved with party
structures and doling out patronage, and now had many
supporters throughout the military, the security services,
and the party. Gono was also close to Masiwa, which could
make him acceptable to the opposition.
¶12. (C/NF) The Ambassador told Moyo that the idea was
attractive in breaking the existing Zimbabwean electoral
mold. The broader the base, the easier it would be to sell.
However, he thought it might be difficult to get ZANU-PF
members and security structures behind it, especially those
loyal to Mugabe, many of whom could not be part of any new
government if it was to be internationally acceptable. In
addition, it might also be difficult but not impossible to
convince Tsvangirai to step aside at the eleventh hour in
favor of another candidate with better prospects for victory.
The Ambassador also expressed reservations about how Mugabe
might react, noting that he could impose a state-of-emergency
rather than going forward with elections that he looked
likely to lose.
¶13. (C/NF) Moyo responded that this was a long process that
had to begin by engaging the prospective candidate directly.
The plan would require a memorandum of understanding setting
out a reform agenda, including a commitment on a new
constitution as the first order of business of a new
government, in advance. Mugabe loyalists would definitely
not be part of any new government or its institutions. Moyo
noted that Gono, Masiyiwa, and pro-Senate MDC faction leader
Mutambara were aware of and supportive of the plan and agreed
that Tsvangirai might be an obstacle but that Tsvangirai’s
support would be critical. Finally, Moyo said the government
had been close to declaring a state-of-emergency several
weeks ago but Mugabe himself had blocked it because of the
adverse reaction it would cause internationally and
regionally. With SADC mediation underway and elections
scheduled, Moyo said a state of emergency was less likely as
Mugabe had a “sixth sense” of what would be damaging
politically for him.
HARARE 00000326 004 OF 004
¶14. (C/NF) This was the most significant meeting we have had
since March 11 ushered in the latest phase of Zimbabwe’s
crisis. We would assess that Moyo was most likely acting on
behalf of Gono and was sent to gauge USG reaction to the plan
and specifically the extent of our commitment to Tsvangirai,
as Moyo asked for nothing specific in support of the plan. A
decision on Gono’s part to distance himself from Mugabe would
in fact damage the latter significantly. It is not entirely
unexpected. In that regard, he and Moyo are soulmates, and
no doubt both are keen to advance their own interests. Gono
has always struck us as deeply ambitious, supremely
confident, and fundamentally disloyal. As a potential
president he is in our view clearly the weakest of the three.
However, in a spoiler role, he could prove the most
effective in bringing cross-over support with him, damaging
ZANU-PF in the process
¶15. (C/NF) Many other permutations are possible. Much of he
renewed talk we’re hearing about creating a ceremonial
president and an executive prime minister could, for example,
be designed to square the circle of getting Tsvangirai on
board while broadening the base of support and cross over
appeal of a united front. However this plays out, and
whether or not Moyo’s maneuvers ever amount to anything, it
is bound to keep the waters roiling inside ZANU-PF, adding to
the stress on the party.
¶16. (C/NF) Moyo, and for that matter Gono, Masiwa, and
Mutambara as well, would also appear to be acting with the
blessing of the SAG. This would be the perfect outcome for
Mbeki: an elected government of national unity that sidelines
both Mugabe and Tsvangirai. That of course is the rub since
neither is likely to accept this outcome without a fight.
Moyo, Gono, and others who may be involved, including
possibly Mbeki, also face the inevitable fact that whatever
his possible limitations as a president himself, Tsvangarai
remains the most popular candidate and the plan is stillborn
without his support.