Zambian diplomat Vernon Mwaanga, who met President Robert Mugabe on 14 April 2008, said Mugabe told him that if he won the presidential election run-off he would hand over ZANU-PF leadership to Emmerson Mnangagwa in less than a year.
He would then prepare the way for a Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front victory in an ensuing presidential race.
Mwaanga said he had told Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, secretary-general Tendai Biti and other senior MDC leaders about his discussion with Mugabe and the MDC representatives had said they would be prepared to come to terms with Mnangagwa.
The Zambian diplomat said that the MDC leaders said that their contention was only with Mugabe and not with the ZANU-PF party.
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LUSAKA 000500
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/06/2018
SUBJECT: UNOFFICIAL PING “ENVOY” MEETS WITH MUGABE; PING
VISITS ZAMBIA TO DISCUSS SADC-AU EFFORTS ON ZIMBABWE
Classified By: Ambassador Martinez for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
¶1. (C) Summary. According to Vernon Mwaanga, a veteran
Zambian diplomat and politician who met with Mugabe on the
week of April 14 at the behest of AU Commission Chairperson
Jean Ping, much of the blame for the current electoral crisis
in Zimbabwe lies with the incompetence (rather than
fraudulence) of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Mugabe
allegedly told Mwaanga that he intends to accept defeat if he
loses the run-off election. In the event of his victory,
Mugabe claims that he will step down within one year, handing
over the party leadership and calling for a new presidential
race. Mwaanga suggested that the best way forward would be
for SADC to strengthen its election observer team and
increase its dialogue with MDC and ZANU-PF representatives.
Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Tens Kapoma told the
Ambassador that Jean Ping was in Lusaka on May 2 to discuss
ways in which the AU could become more supportive of SADC
efforts on Zimbabwe. End Summary.
¶2. (C) On May 6, Vernon Mwaanga met with the Ambassador at
her request to share information about his recent visit to
Harare, which he claims was undertaken at the behest of AU
Commission Chair Jean Ping. The shrewd, veteran Zambian
diplomat and politician explained that his friendship to
Mugabe dates back to the early 1970s when Mwaanga served as
Zambia’s foreign minister and the GRZ provided significant
support to Zimbawe’s freedom struggle. Mwaanga said that
during his week-long visit to Harare in mid-April he had met
with Mugabe several times, as well as representatives from
the MDC and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
¶3. (C) Mwaanga described Mugabe as “completely shocked” at
not having won the presidential election. He said Mugabe was
also tremendously upset with Mwanawasa for hosting the SADC
emergency summit. Mwaanga said Mugabe would not accept a
government of national unity as this would entail departing
from the constitutionally-defined electoral process.
Allegedly, Mugabe told Mwaanga that he will accept the
election results if he loses the run-off. In the event that
he wins the run-off, Mugabe explained his intention to remain
in office for less than a year. According to Mwaanga, Mugabe
means to turn over the ZANU-PF party leadership, perhaps to
Emmerson Mnangagwa, and prepare the way for a ZANU-PF victory
in an ensuing presidential race.
¶4. (C) In response to the Ambassador’s repeated emphasis on
human rights abuse and voter intimidation, Mwaanga
acknowledged that Mugabe is aware of–and perhaps even
behind–some of this violence. He posited that Mugabe’s
security apparatus is, on its own initiative, perpetuating
most of these acts. Mwaanga said Mugabe’s supporters in the
military are “extremely passionate about maintaining the
status quo,” lest they find themselves being held accountable
before a new government. When the Ambassador insisted that
human rights violence was taking place with Mugabe’s consent
if not direction, Mwaanga conceded the point. Mwaanga said
that in his view, despite allegations otherwise, Mugabe has
retained his control and is not being guided by his
¶5. (C) Mwaanga said that he had spoken with Tsvangirai, Biti,
and other senior MDC leaders, although he had less to say
about these meetings. He said MDC was still divided
internally as to whether or not to participate in run-off
elections. Mwaanga said that he had relayed to MDC the
substance of his discussions with Mugabe and that MDC
representatives had said, in response, that they would be
prepared to come to terms with Mnangagwa. According to
Mwaanga, the MDC leaders said that their contention was only
with Mugabe and not with the ZANU-PF party.
¶6. (C) Mwaanga implied that most of the blame for the
electoral crisis belongs with the ZEC, which he described as
entirely incompetent and inexperienced. Mwaanga said the ZEC
Commissioners had been unable to answer even his simplest
questions. In a private meeting, the ZEC Chair complained to
Mwaanga saying (in reference to the ZEC Commissioners) “You
see what I have to work with.” Mwaanga shared his view that
the ZEC made an imprudent mistake by not releasing the
election results immediately, but did so in order to verify
the outcomes in various districts rather than tamper with or
alter the results. Mwaanga said that he had seen the
preliminary ZEC results and that these did not differ from
those that the ZEC announced on May 2.
¶7. (C) Regarding a way forward, Mwaanga (who said he had
debriefed Mwanawasa on his activities in Zimbabwe) suggested
that a second SADC emergency summit would not be useful,
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given the divisions within SADC between liberation movement
alumni in Angola, Namibia, and South Africa, and other SADC
leaders. He recommended that SADC strengthen its election
observer team during the run-off elections, and work closely
with MDC and ZANU-PF to improve understanding.
¶8. (C) On May 7, Ambassador spoke with Foreign Ministry
Permanent Secretary Tens Kapoma, who had just participated in
a troika meeting of the SADC Organ for Politics, Defense, and
Security. He said the meeting had been “inconclusive” on the
issue of Zimbabwe. Kapoma, however, told the Ambassador that
AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping had visited Lusaka for three
hours on May 2 to discuss with President Mwanawasa ways in
which the AU could become more involved and supportive of
SADC efforts with regard to Zimbabwe. Kapoma said that there
were no concrete plans to call for another emergency summit.
¶9. (C) Comment: Mwaanga is a slippery character with some
shadows in his past, but he may still retain the confidence
of both Mwanawasa and Mugabe. He also gave the impression
that he is maintaining contact with both the MDC and ZANU-PF.
Post will report on any developments, in the event that
Mwaanga visits Harare again under alleged AU direction, or
makes additional contacts with Mugabe. Although Mwaanga’s
accounts must be taken with some degree of caution, given his
apparently warm relationship with Mugabe, they cannot be
entirely dismissed either.