The presidents of South Africa, Nigeria and Malawi attempted to restart talks between the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change but both sides stuck to their original positions – Mugabe demanding that the MDC recognise his presidency, and the MDC refusing any preconditions to talks.
MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube explained the rationale behind the MDC’s court challenge, as a constitutional right, as a matter of as a bargaining chip.
He acknowledged that Mugabe was the de facto president, that he was sworn-in, and was performing the functions of president, but that the MDC had the right to challenge his de jure credentials.
Viewing cable 03HARARE860, AFRICAN PRESIDENTIAL MEDIATION IMPORTANT – BUT NO
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 02 HARARE 000860
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2013
SUBJECT: AFRICAN PRESIDENTIAL MEDIATION IMPORTANT – BUT NO
REF: A. HARARE 843
¶B. HARARE 780
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) The presidents of South Africa, Nigeria and Malawi
attempted to restart talks between the GOZ and MDC in
separate meetings with both sides in Harare on May 5.
However, both sides stuck to their original positions –
Mugabe demanding that the MDC recognize his presidency, and
the MDC refusing any preconditions to talks – essentially
precluding the dialogue for now. While not yet particularly
fruitful, this effort should not be discounted since it
signals increasing African frustration with the threat of a
Zimbabwean meltdown and could produce important pressure on
the Mugabe regime if it is sustained. End Summary.
¶2. (C) Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Bakili Muluzi
of Malawi and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria met with President
Mugabe in Harare on May 5 in a mediation effort to discuss
the resumption of talks with the MDC. The delegation also
met MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC Secretary General
Welshman Ncube, MDC Deputy Secretary General Gift
Chimanikire, and MDC special assistant to the president Gandi
Mudzingwa in a separate meeting.
Muluzi Sympathetic, Mbeki’s Sentiments Improving
¶3. (C) The delegation met first with Mugabe and later with
MDC officials. Mudzingwa reported that both sides
essentially stuck to their original positions, i.e. Mugabe
demanded that the MDC drop its court challenge of the March
2002 presidential election and recognize his legitimacy; and
the MDC maintained they would do no such thing and would
enter talks only with no preconditions. Mudzingwa reported
that Muluzi was sympathetic to the MDC’s position that they
had a constitutional right to bring a dispute to court.
While Mbeki spoke in very roundabout terms, he ultimately
seemed frustrated and acknowledged that the essential crisis
was of governance and nothing else. Mudzingwa noted that
Mbeki seemed more sympathetic to the MDC than on previous
occasions and could possibly be convinced further.
De Facto Recognition?
¶4. (C) Ncube explained the rationale behind the MDC’s court
challenge, as a constitutional right, as a matter of
principle, and as a bargaining chip. Ncube also acknowledged
that Mugabe was the de facto president, that he was sworn-in,
and was performing the functions of president, but that the
MDC had the right to challenge his de jure credentials.
Mbeki seized on this as a potential MDC “recognition” or
“acknowledgment” of Mugabe’s presidency, but the MDC
officials were loathe to have these statements construed as
recognition of Mugabe’s presidency. They strongly disagree
with any preconditions to resuming talks, do not want to
engage in any capitulation, and believe that Mugabe’s demand
is a smokescreen designed to obstruct talks and in the end
ensure his and his party’s political future rather than a
resolution to Zimbabwe’s political crisis. The MDC officials
feel strongly about the principles they stand for and are not
willing to jeopardize those, and potentially Zimbabwe’s
future, by rushing into talks with Mugabe, who they perceive
to be insincere. The MDC officials believe the political
tide is turning in their direction and they have no reason to
¶5. (U) Upon departure, President Obasanjo gave the press an
artfully constructed formulation about mutual recognition
that the election was conducted according to the
constitution. Government media claimed that the MDC had
recognized Mugabe’s legitimacy. We do not yet have an inside
GOZ read on the talks.
Tsvangirai to Go to Malawi
¶6. (C) As a follow-up, Muluzi has invited Tsvangirai to
Blantyre for further consultations. According to Mudzingwa,
even though Tsvangirai’s passport was confiscated pending the
outcome of the treason trial against him, Mugabe has agreed
to allow Tsvangirai to travel to Malawi for this purpose.
¶7. (C) Two successful stayaways in as many months, and two
March by-election wins have bolstered the MDC’s confidence
that the political tide is moving in their direction. The
same stayaways, as well as African leaders’ increasing
frustration with Zimbabwe’s economic crisis and political
violence appear to be putting succession strategizing near
the forefront of Mugabe’s thinking. Unfortunately, neither
side has yet been willing to make any significant concessions
to ensure that talks begin. Mugabe in particular seems
unwilling to publicly admit recent political setbacks, and
the MDC correctly feels it would gain no advantage by
capitulating to Mugabe’s preconditions (especially with
another mass action of indefinite duration to begin May 13).
While not yet particularly fruitful, this effort should not
be discounted since it signals increasing African frustration
with the threat of a Zimbabwean meltdown and could produce
important pressure on the Mugabe regime if it is sustained.