Mnangagwa said MDC had a habit of changing its mind at 11th hour


Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who at the time was Speaker of Parliament, said although the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change were having amicable discussion on constitutional reform, the MDC had a history of agreeing on issues until the 11th hour, when they would hold things up with additional demands.

He told a United States embassy official that a constitutional amendment to establish an independent electoral commission was desirable and would require discussions with the MDC.

Discussions already underway were “amicable,” although the issues were numerous and many were technically difficult.

Mnangagwa said that the parties were vexed by election representation formulas.

ZANU-PF favoured having 100 seats awarded to parties on the basis of proportional representation and 100 based on constituency elections so that geographic constituencies would have advocates in the legislature.

The MDC favoured proportional representation for all seats.

Mnangagwa asserted that the MDC had a history of agreeing on issues until “the 11th hour,” when they would hold things up with additional demands.

If they did that this time, he said, ZANU-PF would use using its parliamentary majority to undertake as many reforms as possible through legislation rather than a constitutional amendment.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2004-08-06 08:53

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 001335









E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/04/2009




REF: (A) HARARE 1313 (B) HARARE 1250 (C) HARARE 1157

(D) HARARE 1067


Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5 b/d


1. (C) SUMMARY: At an NGO-sponsored conference on regional

electoral reforms, senior ruling party officials sounded

familiar election-related themes to a critical audience of

domestic and regional parliamentarians, regional election

commissioners and administrators, and NGO representatives.

They reiterated GOZ plans for electoral reforms and urged the

opposition, NGOs and media to play “appropriate” roles.

Comments on the conference’s margins offer further evidence

of rifts in the ruling party over proposed electoral reforms,

but hard-liners resistant to meaningful reforms so far appear

to enjoy Mugabe’s backing. Pressure from SADC member states

appears to have been a key stimulus to the GOZ electoral

reform initiative thus far and could be decisive in

influencing how far reform efforts go. END SUMMARY.


Plane Chat with the Speaker



2. (C) On the flight to Victoria Falls August 1, poloff was

seated fortuitously next to the conference’s keynote speaker,

Speaker of the Parliament and ZANU-PF Secretary of

Administration (and presidential aspirant) Emmerson

Mnangagwa. Upon inquiry about progress on the party’s

proposed electoral reforms, the Speaker went into exhausting

detail on well-reported technical aspects of the reforms (use

of indelible marking ink, translucent boxes, one-day voting,

etc.). He explained the contextual difference between the

SADC-PF norms and standards and the principles expected to be

adopted by SADC heads of state in Mauritius later this month.

The states were consulting on technical distinctions in

their various election laws; the principles to be adopted

would be guidelines that reflected common denominators but

would not necessarily require states to change their laws.

Sovereignty would not be impinged upon and state

constitutions and laws would prevail over any competing

interpretations under the SADC principles.


3. (C) Mnangagwa acknowledged that a constitutional

amendment to establish an independent electoral commission

was desireable and would require discussions with the MDC.

Discussions already underway were “amicable,” although the

issues were numerous and many were technically difficult.

For example, the parties were vexed by election

representation formulas: ZANU-PF favored having 100 seats

awarded to parties on the basis of proportional

representation and 100 based on constituency elections so

that geographic constituencies would have advocates in the

legislature; the MDC favored proportional representation for

all seats. Mnangagwa asserted that the MDC had a history of

agreeing on issues until “the 11th hour,” when they would

hold things up with additional demands. If they did that

this time, he maintained, the ruling party would content

itself with using its parliamentary majority to undertake as

many reforms as possible through legislation rather than a

constitutional amendment.


4. (C) Mnangagwa raised the Senate confirmation hearing

remarks of Ambassador-designate Dell. He asserted that

Dell’s remarks would make it difficult for many to deal with

him. On reading the text of the remarks provided by poloff,

Mnangagwa said only that “he does not appear to have been

misquoted.” He did not suggest that the

Ambassador-designate’s credentials might not be accepted.

(Note: In discussions with poloff at the conference, ZANU-PF

parliamentary back-benchers appeared to assume the

Ambassador-designate’s credentials would be accepted. End



ZANU-PF at the Podium



5. (U) In opening the conference August 2, Mnanagwa

emphasized the importance of free, fair, transparent, and

peaceful elections for stability and legitimacy. He

complimented the region on being at the forefront of the

continent in its pursuit of democratization, which was an

ongoing process. In a familiar refrain, he stressed that

African and Western values differed, and noted that SADC,

cooperative experiences and efforts were “subservient” to

each nation’s distinct history and culture. He maintained

that SADC recognized the sovereignty and supremacy of

national law and constitutions; SADC structures to support

free and fair elections would be welcome but “must pay

obeisance” to local history, culture and law.


6. (U) The Speaker urged NGOs and civil society to avoid

partisan politics. Adding that the media should go beyond

partisan messages, he appealed to the media to desist from

inflammatory stories and to promote voter registration and

voting. Regarding election observers, Mnangagwa suggested

that observers of elections in SADC countries should be

welcomed from SADC, the AU, and developing countries without

preconditions. He urged resistance to observing, monitoring,

and funding by Western countries, which tended to be biased

and make unreasonable demands. He decried the “arrogant and

patronizing manner” of Americans and British and

“machinations” by outsiders to have Zimbabwe excluded from

SADC activities.


7. (U) Mnangagwa then rehearsed a familiar sketch of the

GOZ’s proposed electoral reforms, which he cast as

“far-reaching” and designed to move away from government

administration of elections. Echoing the President’s remarks

at the opening of Parliament, he emphasized that the changes

followed consultations with SADC. He asserted that the

SADC-PF norms and standards, which had not been adopted by

the SADC governments, would be integrated with the principles

expected to be adopted in Mauritius. (Comment: Mnangagwa’s

rather respectful references to the SADC-PF norms and

standards reflect his status as Speaker and Zimbabwe’s

signatory to the instrument and are at odds with the Jonathan

Moyo-dominated state media’s vilification of SADC-PF as a

body of western puppets. End comment.)


8. (U) Princeton-educated ZANU-PF Secretary for Information

Nathan Shamuyarira at the August 3 session further elaborated

on elements of GOZ/ZANU-PF electoral reform proposals. A

notable addition was that current plans would leave the

Registrar-General’s office with responsibility for

registering voters but would transfer voter roll maintenance

duties to the independent election commission. (Comment:

Eliminating a meaningful role for the overtly partisan

Registrar-General is a central objective of the opposition

and civil society critics. The change cited by Shamuyarira

appears not to satisfy the objective.   End comment.)

Shamuyarira recounted Zimbabwe’s experience in five previous

national parliamentary elections in positive terms, giving

due credit to the MDC’s genuine strength in the most recent

one. He acknowledged the important role of an opposition in

a democracy and urged Zimbabwe’s opposition to behave

constructively. Shamuyarira expressed disappointment that

there was “so much outside interference” in Zimbabwe and

blasted George Bush and Tony Blair for “blatantly supporting

the opposition” and pushing regime change. He twice stressed

the government’s and his personal interest in receiving

public comments and suggestions about GOZ electoral reform.

In response to a question from the audience, he asserted

that, as a former journalist, he “personally” did not support

media restrictions — as long as media remained balanced.


9. (C) In a brief exchange with poloff at the airport later,

Shamuyarira was cordial and said he “learned a lot” at the

conference. He cryptically singled out Justice Kriegler as a

particularly insightful panelist. (Comment: Kriegler was

notable in two respects — he stressed the primacy of

attitude and willingness to give a real voice to the people

over the letter of law in producing a legitimizing election,

and he brought the house down with a barely oblique equating

of Africa’s few remaining despots to the emperor who wore no

clothes. End comment.)


Panelists, Participants Critical



10. (SBU) Mnangagwa and Shamuyarira were playing before a

skeptical crowd. Their more provocative comments about NGOs,

the media, and the opposition elicited audible chortles,

jeering, and derisive comments from the audience. NGO

representatives, including those based outside Zimbabwe,

attacked reported GOZ plans to implement a restrictive NGO

bill. MDC MPs repeatedly underscored to the ZANU-PF speakers

and other panelists the importance of addressing election

environment issues, such as media access, freedom of

assembly, and political violence. Other panelists, including

Namibian Election Commissioner Shafimana F.I. Ueitele and

former South African Constitutional Court Justice and

Electoral Commission Chairperson Johann Kriegler, took thinly

veiled swipes at Zimbabwe’s election climate and GOZ

posturing. MPs and election officials from the region

generally avoided commenting directly on Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa

sat dispassionately through the barrage of critical comments

that followed his address through the remainder of the

morning of the first day, while Shamuyarira busily took notes

throughout the entire two days.

Opposition’s Scathing Critique



11. (U) Following Shamuyarira at the podium on the second

day, MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube delivered a

blistering and comprehensive attack on the GOZ’s past

election practices and questioned the ruling party’s

sincerity in its electoral reform proposals. Decrying

Zimbabwe’s long “culture of unilateralism”, Ncube recounted a

familiar litany of election abuses, centering principally on

ruling party deployment of the full weight of state

machinery, the inadequacy of law enforcement efforts and

legal processes, a pervasive climate of intimidation, and

abuses under restrictive laws such as POSA and AIPPA. He

also stressed the importance of international observers and

an impartial constituency delimitation exercise. Ncube

emphasized the MDC’s desire for genuine dialogue but asserted

that the ZANU-PF Central Committee had “tied the Justice

Minister’s hands” from engaging in meangingful negotiation.


ZANU-PF Rift on Election Strategy



12. (C) On the flight back to Harare August 3, Ncube told

poloff that his principal ZANU-PF interlocutor Justice

Minister Patrick Chinamasa had confided that he was losing

confidence in the ZANU-PF intra-party debate. Chinamasa

confirmed to Ncube that Mugabe was opposed to any compromise

on election reforms but implied that factions were

energetically debating the issue. Factions were shifting

curiously; Chinamasa reported that figures he thought were

with him on reforms (e.g. Minister for Security Goche and

elder statesman Solomon Mujuru) appeared opposed during the

last politburo meeting while others traditionally opposed

(e.g. Local Government Minister Chombo) were supportive. He

identified Mnangagwa, Shamuyarira, and business/young turks

like Savior Kasukuwere as being generally supportive of

reforms. In any event, Chinamasa personally was feeling more

exposed and anxious that he would be the fall guy if the

situation went awry.


13. (C) Namibian Ambassador Kamati reported to the

Ambassador August 4 that the ruling party remained very much

undecided about whether to reform elections and, if so, how

deeply. He said that the hard-liners wanted only those

reforms agreed by the ZANU-PF politburo and were prepared to

pass the minimum without MDC cooperation. In that case, the

ZANU-PF Congress scheduled for December would be a non-event.

He said that others, including Mnangagwa, wanted

far-reaching reforms, including constitutional changes, that

would create a position of Prime Minister, involve

simultaneous election of the President and Parliament, and

delay elections three months or more in order to enact such

changes. (Note: Like the independent election commission, a

delay of more than three months in the conduct of the

parliamentary election would require a constitutional

amendment.) Kamati said also that hard-line Information

Minister Jonathan Moyo and several others were close to being

punished severely for their land abuses.


Tidbits on the Margin


14. (C) NGO representatives told poloff on the conference

margins that Mnangagwa had told them that the President’s

office had added the more provocative references to NGOs and

the West to his speech. They also reported that Jonathan

Moyo had tried hard but unsuccessfully to forestall any

official GOZ/ZANU-PF representation at the event. One

indicated further that the SADC election principles

instrument under consideration for adoption in Mauritius now

included an annex that offered specific prescriptions for

effecting free and fair elections beyond the general

principles laid out in the earlier draft (ref A). We are

seeking a copy.





15. (C) The likely impact of intense audience reaction,

including from regional interlocutors, on the two ZANU-PF

principals is difficult to assess. Official media coverage

of the conference was uncharacteristically straightforward,

albeit omitting key details and downplaying criticism. The

ferocity of reaction may play into the hands of party

hard-liners, but we suspect that the posture of SADC member

states will remain a key variable in the ruling party’s



16. (C) Although the NGOs and opposition parliamentarians

present were heartened by supportive comments from regional

participants, it is significant that participants from SADC

countries included only NGOs, MPs, and election officials,

and not senior members of the executive branch who could

speak for their governments. In meetings on the conference’s

margins, MPs and election officials from South Africa,

Namibia, and Lesotho promised to express their concerns

strongly about Zimbabwe’s electoral environment to senior

officials in their government. We will have to see if their

views carry any significant weight.


17. (C) In that vein and as follow-up to prior instructions

from the Department, we urge engagement in Washington and

SADC capitals to stimulate regional pressure on the GOZ with

respect to electoral reforms and NGO regulation. We would

note that the USG’s repeatedly expressed posture on

Zimbabwean elections is entirely consistent with regional

instruments (i.e. African Union Guidelines Governing

Democratic Elections in Africa; SADC-PF Norms and Standards

for Elections in the SADC Region; and the Electoral

Commissions Forum/Electoral Institute of Southern Africa

Principles for Election Management, Monitoring and

Observation in the SADC Region (PEMMO)). Specifically, we

have called for the GOZ (1) to establish an independent

election commission that has meaningful authority; (2) not to

restrict freedom of assembly/association unreasonably; (3) to

lift unreasonable media restrictions; (4) to suppress

political violence; and (5) to permit political campaigning

by all parties without unreasonable obstruction.



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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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