Mavhaire said Mujuru was untouchable


ZANU-PF politburo member Dzikamai Mavhaire told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that the party was paralysed by lack of meaningful debate and President Robert Mugabe continued to manipulate leaders with prospective punishments and rewards measured by loyalty to him.

He said the only exceptions were Vice-President Joseph Msika and retired General Solomon Mujuru whom he described as the “untouchables”.

Mavhaire said Emmerson Mnangagwa would continue to be potentially significant, but only insofar as his ability to get others to tow the line, but not in his ability to stand up to Mugabe.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2005-02-14 14:58

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 SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 000228







E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2010





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


1. (C) SUMMARY: During the Ambassador’s February 7-9 trip

to Bulawayo and Masvingo, ZANU-PF “Old Guard” figures

Thenjiwe Lesabe and Dumiso Dabengwa excoriated the party’s

younger generation for their unseemly disregard for

“liberation values,” in their view, the basis for ZANU-PF’s

right to rule. Highly regarded party outsiders Dzikamayi

Mavhaire and Eddison Zvobgo, Jr., lamented the party’s

deepening ossification in the wake of recent purges, but

suggested that the supplanting of hard-liners by more

moderate Old Guard figures in Mugabe’s inner circle could

open opportunities for the opposition and the West. The

dissidents predicted that intra-party bitterness could cut

into the party’s election returns and yield surprising

dividends for the opposition. END SUMMARY.






Lesabe: Liberation Credentials Underlie Party Authority



2. (C) At a February 7 meeting at her family home near

Bulawayo, ZANU-PF Women,s League Chairperson and Politburo

member Thenjiwe Lesabe denied having been involved with the

controversial Tsholotsho meetings last year and asserted that

her name had been included on the “Young Turks'” alternative

presidium ticket without permission. She blasted Information

Minister Jonathan Moyo and other Young Turks for their

unseemly disregard for the wishes of the party,s senior

leadership. Rejected by the party, Moyo was now desperately

trying to play the ethnic/tribal card — a strategy destined

to fail as it had with others in the past. (N.B. Mtabeleland

is the heartland of Zimbabwe,s largest minority, the

Ndebele, who comprise roughly fifteen percent of the

country,s population.) Lesabe said Moyo had managed to

attract support from younger elements in the party, but he

and his supporters lacked the respect for the party,s

liberation values that would be required of the party,s next

generation of leadership. Lesabe told the Ambassador that

she remained on the Politburo but, with the President,s

permission, was reducing her public profile to attend to her

ailing 90-year old husband.


3. (C) Lesabe declined the Ambassador,s invitation to

assess ZANU- PF,s prospects in the upcoming election. She

acknowledged a generational division in Matabeleland, with

youth attracted to the MDC while the older generation

remained loyal to the ruling party. Lesabe described the

atmospherics in the region generally as calm; there were some

“rougher elements” in the cities but rural areas were

orderly. The retired teacher maintained that Matabeleland

had not been left behind other regions in development, but

later acknowledged that the region had suffered from its

people,s reluctance to commit support to the government.


Dabengwa: Uncompromising on Young Turks, Opposition, Outside


——————————————— —————-


4. (C) Over dinner on February 7, Politburo Member Dumiso

Dabengwa elaborated on recent ferment in ZANU-PF. He

asserted that Jonathan Moyo was finished in the party. Moyo

appropriately recognized the party,s weaknesses in

Matabeleland — the legacy of massacres in the 1980s and the

region,s lagging development — but had tried to combat them

in an unseemly manner. He had been profligate in spending

and had alienated the leadership in trying to sidestep them

with his so-called “Tsholotsho Declaration.” Dabengwa said

he and others in the Old Guard overcame Moyo and his allies

through manipulation of the party,s gender parity

resolution, specifically by having provincial committees

declare the seats of certain individuals as reserved for

female candidates. As an aside, Dabengwa noted that he was

largely responsible for bringing Moyo into the ruling party

camp as a result of an encounter at a regional conference on

governance held at Robben Island in 1999.


5. (C) Dabengwa dismissed suggestions that alienation of the

“Young Turks” would cost the ruling party, and added that

they would be welcome back into the fold if they admitted

their mistakes, as some already had. For its part, the

opposition had no record on which to run, according to

Dabengwa. He chastised the opposition parliamentary

delegation from Matabeleland for not taking up his offer to

collaborate on the Zambezi River Project in which he had

played a prominent role. Nonetheless, he complimented some

of the opposition as conscientious and emphasized the

importance of a vibrant opposition to Zimbabwe,s future —

including a possible ZANU-PF opposition some day.


6. (C) Dabengwa confirmed ZANU-PF plans to change the

constitution after the parliamentary elections, with the

collaboration of the opposition if necessary. The new

arrangement would create a Senate and a new office of Prime

Minister. Far from fueling a divisive fight like that

precipitated by the recent presidium election, the new rash

of positions would enable the ruling party to better balance

competing factions.


7. (C) Dabengwa rehearsed familiar criticism of US

“sanctions policy” and perceived double standards, and blamed

the ruling party,s chaotic approach to land reform on

purported US and British reneging on promises to support land

reform compensation. The Ambassador clarified US policy and

corrected Dabengwa’s historical mischaracterizations.

Dabengwa bristled at the Ambassador,s challenging of GOZ

policies and concluded that Zimbabwe would “find its way”

regardless of what outsiders thought. Echoing others in the

ruling party, Dabengwa was contradictory on US sanctions,

suggesting at once that they were causing Zimbabweans to

suffer but not hurting him personally.






Mavhaire: President in Charge of Dysfunctional Party



8. (C) ZANU-PF elder statesman and former Politburo member

Dzekimayi Mavhaire told the Ambssador over dinner on February

8 that the ruling party was paralyzed by a lack of meaningful

debate. The Tsholotsho debacle and the manipulation of

primaries reinforced President Mugabe,s unquestioned grip on

the party. Ironically, though, Mugabe,s triumph on those

fronts could cost the party in parliamentary elections – many

disaffected party leaders and supporters would likely stay

home on election day. The party,s repression prevented

ZANU-PF from competing effectively with the opposition — the

ruling party had little idea what the opposition stood for

much less how it was doing with the electorate. Moreover,

ZANU-PF continued to kill the economy by stifling the private

sector and encouraging public dependency on the ruling party.

In sum, ZANU-PF was digging itself into a hole.


9. (C) Mavhaire, who was suspended from the party leadership

when he called for Mugabe’s resignation in 1999, predicted

that the election would produce some surprises. The ruling

party was devoting a lot of resources to reclaiming the one

Masvingo seat it lost in 2000; it could take it back. On the

other hand, the rural masses “were not as sleepy as one might

think:” and even though the financially crippled opposition

had no record on which to run, resentment of the poverty

wrought by ruling party policies was growing. Disaffection

among the ZANU-PF troops over recent purges was an additional

factor. The MDC could therefore make inroads into some of

the ruling party’s traditional rural strongholds.


10. (C) Mavhaire dismissed the potential significance of

high profile Masvingo factional divisions — the President

would continue to manipulate their leaders with prospective

punishments and rewards measured by loyalty to him. Mavhaire

described Vice President Msika and retired General Solomon

Mujuru as the system,s only “untouchables.” Fallen heir

apparent Emmerson Mnangagwa would continue to be potentially

significant, but only insofar as his ability to get others to

tow the line, not in his ability to stand up to the

President. Should a post-election constitutional amendment

create a Prime Minister,s position, Mavhaire predicted that

the cowed party would not suffer the kind of competitive

ferment it experienced in the run-up to last year,s

presidium contest — the President would simply name his

choice and that would be that.


Zvobgo: Don’t Give Up on Zimbabwe



11. (C) Eddison Zvobgo, Jr., son of the late Masvingo

political giant, forcefully echoed Mavhaire in forecasting

potential trouble for the ruling party in the coming

elections. The party would suffer for its “disastrous”

primaries and the abuse of gender diversity objectives.

Bringing women into the leadership was a laudable goal, but

it had been disingenuously pursued for cynical political

advantage. Zvobgo added that the ascendant Old Guard would

be less effective than the recently purged Young Turks at

delivering the vote. He said that the MDC had meaningful

chances not only to hold Masvingo,s urban seat, but to claim

two to three new rural ones as well. The opposition would

remain strong in urban areas nationally as well as throughout

Matabeleland. He thought the MDC could win as many as 62

seats, and probably at least 55 if the ruling party did not

engineer too violent a crackdown. However, if the leadership

recognized its vulnerability, it would unleash violence at

the local level, although the SADC microscope might serve to

contain the scale to some extent.


12. (C) For his part, Zvobgo said his disappointment over

being excluded from the parliamentary race would not drive

him from politics. He said he and other younger elements in

the business community had long eschewed politics, preferring

to wait until the system changed more to their liking. In

the past year, however, he and others had decided to be more

proactive, and despite recent failures, they would bide their

time until the opportunity came to make a more forceful

contribution to change in Zimbabwe. Zvobgo would not

facilitate the ruling party in its national campaign but

would maintain his party credentials by campaigning for

fellow Young Turk Walter Mzembi in his father,s old

constituency and by contributing to regional development. He

recently founded the Masvingo Press Club and was working on

ways to bring investment and revenue to the area, such as the

re-opening of Masvingo airport to commercial traffic and a

road toll concept (N.B. Masvingo is on the main trucking

route from South Africa).


13. (C) Looking ahead to post-election Zimbabwe, Zvobgo said

that if the MDC won at least 50 seats, ZANU-PF would have to

adopt a more engaging posture in order to effect its priority

of constitutional change. In any event, hard-liners Jonathan

Moyo and Patrick Chinamasa would be sidelined and

atmospherics would likely soften after the election.


14. (C) Zvobgo emphasized that the United States was in a

position to make important contributions to Zimbabwe,s

political development but expressed concern that we may be

giving up on Zimbabwe. The ascendancy of “moderates” at the

expense of hardliners in recent purges presented us with an

opportunity. Old Guard moderates like Nkomo, Shamuyarira,

Gono, and even retired General Solomon Mujuru were in a

position to influence Mugabe positively, but needed to be

able to show him that a more moderate approach at home and

abroad could bring advantages: “The ice needs to melt before

they can get their heads above water.” The international

community could exert positive influence on key issues, like

the NGO bill, with proper care. Shrill denunciations and

public demands only provoked more rigid resistance and

fortified a sterile anti-imperialist posture. As an aside,

Zvobgo asserted that we should not count on South Africa for

any decisive influence — Mugabe had correctly assessed that

there were no conditions under which Mbeki would be willing

to stand up to him or exert any meaningful pressure on the






15. (C) The contrasting accounts offered by dinosaurs Lesabe

and Dabengwa and dissenters Mavhaire and Zvobgo underscore

the ruling party’s most glaring vulnerability: its increasing

brittleness and internal divisions. Representative of many

in the ascendant Old Guard, Lesabe and Dabengwa seemed

thoroughly out of touch with the bread and butter priorities

central to the lives of most Zimbabweans — food security,

education, health care, employment. Their denial of ethnic

tensions in historically marginalized Matabeleland is at odds

with the accounts we heard from opposition members and civil

society in the region (to be reported septel). The sole

basis of their claimed legitimacy to lead — devotion to the

liberation struggle — is increasingly irrelevant to most of

the electorate, half of which was “born free” after



16. (C) The alienation of figures sidelined by Tsholotsho

and the primaries — including a majority of provincial

chairmen, many of the party’s most dynamic backbenchers, and

a number of prominent businesspersons — could dent the

party’s considerable systemic advantages going into the

elections. Certainly, the absence of these figures from the

party’s inner circles will likely leave the party more

moribund in outlook and less nimble in responding to changing

events. That said, the sacking of influential hard-line

Young Turks might also lead to more moderate domestic and

foreign policies, especially economic, and may give us an

opening to increase our influence with and leverage over the

regime. Interestingly, none of our disaffected interlocutors

or their alienated colleagues appear even to consider the

possibility of “defecting” to the opposition. They

apparently calculate that ZANU-PF remains the vehicle

best-suited to address their personal priorities for now,

even as they bide their time for a change in leadership they

desire but are unwilling to fight for.




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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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