Mugabe entered inclusive government to save himself


President Robert Mugabe entered into the unity government with the Movement for Democratic Change because he had realised that his Zimbabwe African National Union-patriotic Front could not revive the economy on its own.

According to the United States embassy, Zimbabwe’s economic plight had been of little concern to the ZANU-PF insiders because they benefitted from the largesse of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono.

The decline of the Zimbabwe dollar had, however, gradually eliminated Gono’s ability to generate forex to support his friends and their businesses.

By joining forces with the MDC, Mugabe thought he could control the government both as president and by presiding over the Joint Operations Command which was involved in Zimbabwe’s important policy decisions.

ZANU-PF hawks such as the security chiefs, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Attorney General Johannes Tomana, and Didymus Mutasa, continued to be opposed to the unity government.

Having failed to prevent the formation of the government, they were expected to subvert its functioning as they sought to maintain their power and restrain that of the MDC.


Full cable:



If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID





2009-03-16 13:19


Embassy Harare



DE RUEHSB #0226/01 0751319


O 161319Z MAR 09

















C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 08 HARARE 000226











E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/16/2019










Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (b) and (d)






1. (C) The newly formed Government of Zimbabwe is not a

government of national unity with shared values and goals.

It is principally a forced marriage of two opposing parties

that seek to strengthen themselves while weakening the other

as they look toward elections in two years.


2. (C) The MDC believes that fundamental political and

economic reform is possible only if it can win the next

election and control both the executive and legislative

branches. To build support, it is pursuing democratic

reforms including an end to political detentions,

depoliticization of the security forces, an impartial

judiciary, and freedom of the media. Perhaps most

fundamental, after 10 years of economic collapse, is the

ability to deliver social services and to begin to

resuscitate the economy. ZANU-PF, which has depended on

patronage and intimidation to maintain itself in power, has

no program on which to build support. Its success in the

next elections depends on the failure of the MDC. We can

therefore expect ZANU-PF to undermine the MDC’s efforts in

the new government to weaken it as a party. There are also

some ZANU-PF hardliners, who were opposed to the party

forming a coalition with the MDC; they seek to sabotage the

agreement and provoke the MDC into abandoning government.


3. C) For our part, the ultimate goal in Zimbabwe is an

accountable government with democratic institutions that

serves the interests of its people. A crucial step is free

and fair internationally-supervised elections that result in

the election of a party or parties that can begin to meet

this goal. At this point, the MDC is the only established

party with an excellent chance to beat ZANU-PF in a fair

election. As such, it is in our interest to support the

party and reformist ministries in the government that it

shares; failure of the government before elections could

result in a severe weakening of the MDC and a resurgence of

ZANU-PF. This would set Zimbabwe back years. Our challenge

is to continue to insist on fundamental reforms consistent

with The Hague principles, and at the same time provide

critical assistance to the government that will allow the MDC

(and any other democratic parties) to position itself for the

next election. Key to this is enabling the government to

provide basic social services to the Zimbabwean people, and

this requires that civil servants receive sufficient salaries

to motivate them to come to work. Given the transitional

power-sharing arrangement and ZANU-PF’s self-interest, it is

unlikely that the nature and extent of reforms with reference

to the Hague principles will be all that we would like. END




Progress in the Last Year

QProgress in the Last Year



4. (SBU) In assessing progress to date, it is instructive to

note the events of the last year. In March 2008, most

observers, uncertain of the depth of MDC support in the

country and cognizant of ZANU-PF’s ability to fraudulently

control the election, gave the MDC little or no chance of


HARARE 00000226 002 OF 008



winning the presidency and gaining control of Parliament.

The fact that the combined MDC did win a majority in

Parliament and that Morgan Tsvangirai outpolled Robert

Mugabe–and probably won an outright majority of the

votes–was evidence of widespread distrust of ZANU-PF and

corresponding support of the MDC.


5. (SBU) When the new Parliament met for the first time late

last year, Lovemore Moyo of MDC-T was elected Speaker. For

the first time since Independence in 1980, therefore, the

opposition had a working majority in Parliament and held the

Speakership position. Tsvangirai’s inauguration as prime

minister on February 11 and the swearing-in of MDC ministers

shortly thereafter was the first time a Zimbabwean opposition

had occupied positions, let alone significant positions, in

the executive branch. All this was difficult to imagine a

year ago.



The MDC Decision to Enter Government…



6. (C) Tsvangirai’s decisions to sign the Inter-Party

Agreement (IPA) on September 15 and to be inaugurated on

February 11 were made against the wishes of many in his

party, including Tendai Biti. Some (such as Biti) opposed

any agreement, hoping that the dire economic situation would

result in the collapse of ZANU-PF. Others opposed an

agreement until outstanding issues such as the release of

detainees had been resolved. Ultimately, Tsvangirai decided

to enter government for two reasons: 1) with a desperate

humanitarian situation and dire economic situation, he

thought he could best help the Zimbabwean people from inside

the government; and 2) with ZANU-PF weakened by its failure

to turn around the economic crisis and its internecine

struggle for succession to Mugabe, Tsvangirai believed that

as a leader in government with MDC heads of significant

ministries he could exploit this weakness to further

debilitate ZANU-PF.


7. (C) Although Tsvangirai and the MDC had an ambitious

agenda of political and economic reform, they realized they

were not entering into a government of national unity where

parties, despite differences of philosophy, have common

goals. Rather they correctly understood the government to be

a temporary marriage of convenience that would last only a

couple of years until elections. Thus, while the MDC intends

to pursue its democratic agenda and attempt to achieve a

measure of economic stability, its main goals are its

political viability and the building of support so that it

can contest and win elections under a new constitution in two

years’ time. As Tsvangirai recently told the Ambassador,

however bad things get, he is in this government for the




…and that of ZANU-PF



8. (C) ZANU-PF realized it had no ability to revive the

economy on its own. While for years, Zimbabwe’s economic

plight was of little concern to high-level ZANU-PF insiders

Qplight was of little concern to high-level ZANU-PF insiders

who benefited from the largesse of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe

(RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono, the worthlessness of the Zimbabwe

dollar has gradually eliminated Gono’s ability to generate

forex to support his friends and their businesses. The

Mujuru faction, which controls a large proportion of

Zimbabwe’s economy, unsuccessfully tried to oust Mugabe at

the ZANU-PF conference in December 2007, and was particularly

supportive of a deal with the MDC. Mugabe himself ultimately

made the decision to form a government with the MDC because


HARARE 00000226 003 OF 008



he thought it was necessary economically; he also thought he

could control the government both as president and by

presiding over the Joint Operations Command (JOC) which,

while theoretically operational, has been involved in

Zimbabwe’s important policy decisions in the last couple of



9. (C) Tsvangirai’s inauguration of February 11 occurred

despite unresolved outstanding issues. Principal of these

was the continued detention of over 30 MDC members and

sympathizers. ZANU-PF’s failure to release these

individuals, despite commitments to SADC that it would do so,

was due to actions by ZANU-PF hawks who opposed any agreement

since they saw a government that included the MDC as a threat

to their power. The hawks include the security chiefs,

Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Justice Minister Patrick

Chinamasa, Attorney General Johannes Tomana, and Didymus

Mutasa who is believed to be the mastermind behind ZANU-PF’s

farm invasion policy. Having failed to prevent the formation

of a government, they can be expected to subvert its

functioning as they seek to maintain their power and restrain

that of the MDC.



ZANU-PF Obstructionism…



10. (C) ZANU-PF has made clear by its actions and words that

it will to a large extent obstruct the implementation of the

IPA. The issue of detainees has become emblematic and

illustrative both for MDC supporters and donors of the

difficulties of working with the government. Tsvangirai

signed the IPA on September 15 despite averring he would not

do so until detainees had been released. He later said he

would not join the government until detainees were released.

Once again, he relented. In both instances, Mugabe gave him

assurances the issue would be quickly resolved. Welshman

Ncube, who in February was chair of the Joint Monitoring and

Implementation Committee (JOMIC, comprised of representatives

of ZANU-PF and the two MDC factions), told us that after the

formation of the government in February, JOMIC met and

resolved that all detainees should be released. JOMIC then

met with Mugabe, Tsvangirai, and MDC-M leaderArthur

Mutambara for three hours. Mugabe initially insisted that

the justice system be allowed to run its course; to do

otherwise would be to interfere with the courts. Mugabe

eventually reversed himself and agreed to their release. He

promised to speak to Justice Minister Chinamasa and convinced

Tsvangirai and Mutambara their presence was unnecessary.

According to Ncube, it took a week for Mugabe to meet with

Chinamasa, who at first resisted Mugabe before agreeing to

speak to Attorney General Tomana. Chinamasa then stalled

another week before speaking to Tomana. Tomana agreed to not

oppose bail for most detainees, but his office argued for

onerous conditions.


11. (SBU) While many detainees have been released, including

Jestina Mukoko and Roy Bennett, there are still several that

QJestina Mukoko and Roy Bennett, there are still several that

remain in custody. And in a sign that old habits die hard,

in the past couple of weeks police have arrested WOZA

demonstrators (who were attempting to deliver a petition to

the Ministry of Education) and student protesters.


12. (SBU) According to the IPA, high-level appointments were

to be made after the formation of the government.

Nevertheless, Mugabe appointed Gono to a new five-year term

as governor and appointed Tomana as attorney general.

Despite SADC’s suggestion that these appointments be

revisited in consultation with the MDC, Mugabe has stood

firm. In a similar vein, Mugabe ignored the IPA and

Amendment 19 which call for consensus in making high-level


HARARE 00000226 004 OF 008



appointments such as permanent secretaries and ambassadors

and, after the government was formed, made a round of

appointments of permanent secretaries. (NOTE: After

Tsvangirai complained, Mugabe said he would review the

appointments with Tsvangirai, but this has not yet occurred.

END NOTE.) Additionally, Mugabe has not yet implemented an

agreement, as urged by SADC, to apportion the country’s 10

governors with the MDC.


13. (SBU) Mugabe at his recent birthday bash, in light of a

recent spate of invasions of white-owned farms, supported the

eviction of all remaining white farmers. With ZANU-PF

ministers in charge of the ministries of agriculture and

lands, and with the minister of justice and attorney general

encouraging magistrates to rule against white farmers in

cases involving farm invasions, it appears ZANU-PF will carry

out Mugabe’s intentions. The MDC, which has called for an

audit of farms to ensure that all are being utilized

productively, has been powerless so far to stop this

destructive policy.



…and Other Challenges for the MDC



14. (C) In the IPA, ZANU-PF agreed the MDC should run the

Ministry of Finance knowing that if there was no economic

reversal the MDC would get the blame. Tsvangirai in turn

named Biti to head the ministry. Although Biti is a lawyer

and not an economist, he is an indefatigable political

in-fighter and Tsvangirai is counting on him to jump start

Zimbabwe’s economy. His first task is to pay civil servants,

including military and teachers, who Tsvangirai promised

after his inauguration would be paid in forex from March 1.

US$100 voucher payments redeemable in forex began in

February and produced excitement and expectation as for the

first time in recent memory many civil servants were able to

patronize shops and grocery stores (Ref A). A number of

civil servants, however, particularly in rural areas have

been unable to redeem their vouchers. And Biti is scrambling

to raise forex for the next round of salaries.


15. (C) Biti told us that there are 236,000 civil servants

on the payroll; 60,000 of these are military and police and

over 130,000 are teachers. (NOTE: It is unknown how many of

these are “ghost” employees. END NOTE.) Biti estimated

revenues in February at US$15 million; visiting IMF mission

estimated monthly revenues at US$30 million. He and other

MDC officials have characterized the government as “broke” in

terms of its ability to meet recurrent obligations and to pay

civil servants, including health workers, teachers, military,

and police. Support for the government in general and the

MDC in particular, depends on the government’s ability to at

least minimally compensate civil servants and provide

services while beginning to attend to Zimbabwe’s crumbling



16. (C) NOTE: Biti agreed with us that as he seeks

Q16. (C) NOTE: Biti agreed with us that as he seeks

assistance the MDC faces a problem of perceptions as

potential benefactors are concerned about a bloated cabinet

driving around the country in new Mercedes. He blamed the

increase in cabinet ministries from the number specified in

the IPA and Amendment 19 (Ref C) on a unilateral agreement

made by Tsvangirai with Mugabe and Mutambara without

consultation with other MDC officials. As for his Mercedes,

he said he would gladly give it up. END NOTE.


17. (C) A number of MDC ministers have told us of

encountering dilapidated infrastructure and absence of human

and technical capacity in their ministries. Many qualified

civil servants have left government to pursue opportunities


HARARE 00000226 005 OF 008



outside of government or in other countries. The ministers

themselves for the most part have not run large

organizations. As Deputy Prime Minister Khupe told the

Ambassador on March 2 (Ref B), there are only a handful of

people in each ministry that know what they are doing.


18. (SBU) Minister of Education David Coltart has provided

the press with a graphic illustration of infrastructure

problems. When he arrived at his ministry for the first

time, he said he encountered women with water buckets on

their heads preparing to deliver water to his office 18

floors above. There had been no water in the building for

six months. Coltart told us that he, as is the case with

most ministers, has no email or data collection capacity. In

fact, as the Ambassador makes courtesy calls on the new

minister, the absence of computers for ministers and their

staffs is notable.



On the Brighter Side



19. (C) For the last month, Tsvangirai has asserted his

authority in cabinet meetings and begun to receive respect

from ZANU-PF ministers, and MDC ministers have begun to

establish control over ministries they head. Tsvangirai,

often accompanied by Mutambara who has been supportive, has

also pursued individual issues with Mugabe. As evidenced by

his February 25 press conference (Ref E), Tsvangirai has not

been reticent to publicly raise outstanding issues.


20. (C) While the military remains in firm ZANU-PF control

with the service chiefs in place and Emmerson Mnangagwa as

Minister of Defense, the MDC through Giles Mutsekwa (who

recently returned from a Voluntary Visitor Program) now

shares control of the Home Affairs ministry. Mutsekwa’s

ZANU-PF counterpart is Kembo Mohadi. Mutsekwa recently told

the Ambassador he was working well with Mohadi. Mohadi is

ex-ZAPU and was imprisoned by Mugabe in the 1980s; according

to Mutsekwa he is not a zealot and can be motivated to

support reform. Mutsekwa, along with Mohadi, is now

attending meetings of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) and

will be part of the National Security Council when it

supplants the JOC. The National Security Act was passed by

Parliament and signed by Mugabe. While ZANU-PF officials

hold a majority of positions on the NSC, the legislation

stipulates that all decisions must be made by consensus.


21. (C) The Ministry of Home Affairs oversees the police and

is supposed to oversee the Commissioner of Police. Mutsekwa

acknowledged that in practice the Commissioner, Augustine

Chihuri, has historically controlled Zimbabwe’s police force

while the Home Affairs minister has taken a back seat.

Mutsekwa vowed to assert this authority over Chihuri.

Additionally, Home Affairs oversees the Registrar General who

is responsible for voter registration. Partial control of

Home Affairs will give the MDC, at least in theory, the

opportunity to regularize voter registration and voting.

Qopportunity to regularize voter registration and voting.


22. (C) In the face of a worthless currency and economic

meltdown, RBZ Governor Gono was forced to begin liberalizing

the economy in his Feb 2, 2009 Monetary Policy Statement (Ref

D). He introduced hard currencies as legal means of tender;

he removed exchange controls and price controls, including on

gold; and he announced the end of off-budget spending.

Significantly for the recovery of the agricultural sector,

Acting Finance Minister Chinamasa had announced the removal

of the Grain Marketing Board,s monopoly in his budget

statement the previous week. The GOZ,s acceptance of the de

facto dollarization of the economy brought hyperinflation to

an abrupt stop.


HARARE 00000226 006 OF 008




23. (C) Chipping Gono,s powers away further, Biti, as

Minister of Finance, challenged in Cabinet Gono,s

continuation as RBZ governor and forcefully argued he should

step down. While Gono remains, Biti is attempting to

marginalize him. He has ordered the removal of arbitrary

fees imposed by Gono on businesses operating in foreign

currency; he has reopened the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE),

removed levies on share transactions, and restored

fungibility of dual-listed shares. Biti put a quick end to

the use of RBZ-printed vouchers for paying civil servants a

monthly U.S. dollar allowance (Ref A), and he is attempting

to restore the Ministry of Finance’s control over mineral

revenues. Furthermore, we understand the new government’s

emergency recovery program includes removal of the onerous

7.5 percent foreign exchange surrender requirement on

exporters that had been payable to the RBZ, thereby drying up

one more revenue stream for Gono.


24. (C) While competence and staffing is lacking in many

ministries, the visiting IMF chief told donors that his

interlocutors in the Ministry of Finance were “competent

people” and that his initial first impression of staff at the

Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) was favorable. He also

thought there was good capacity in the balance of payments

and debt management departments of the RBZ. T


25. (C) There has been an expansion of political space. The

MDC has held a series of rallies around the country (events

for which, prior to the establishment of the transitional

government, the MDC had struggled and often failed to obtain

permission to undertake). A number of MDC activists, who

were in exile or hiding, have returned to Zimbabwe to work

with the MDC. (COMMENT: The salutary return from the

diaspora has been blemished by the detention of Roy Bennett

who returned from South Africa. END COMMENT.)


26. (C) Eric Matinenga, one of Zimbabwe’s leading lawyers,

heads the new Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary

Affairs. His primary responsibility is the drafting of a new

constitution. Matinenga told us that he has begun planning,

in accordance with Schedule 10 to Amendment 19, for the

establishment of a Parliamentary select committee, an

all-stakeholders’ conference, and public consultation.

Schedule 10 calls for the drafting of the constitution and a

referendum with 18 months. Both ZANU-PF and the MDC have

indicated they support a new constitution within the

prescribed period with elections in approximately two years.

Matinenga did note that there is opposition on the part of

ZANU-PF and Mugabe to consulting with civil society; they

would prefer to rely on the Kariba draft constitution

negotiated in 2007 between ZANU-PF and the MDC when the SADC

process was beginning. To bridge the gap with civil society,

Matinenga has received the commitment of widely-respected

lawyer Arnold Tsunga, formerly head of Zimbabwe Lawyers for

Qlawyer Arnold Tsunga, formerly head of Zimbabwe Lawyers for

Human Rights and now with the International Commission of

Jurists in Geneva, to work with him.


27. (C) Matinenga’s other priorities will be the repeal and

amendment of repressive/restrictive legislation including the

Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA),

the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Public

Broadcasting Act. Additionally, he is waiting for Parliament

to establish the Standing Rules and Order Committee to

provide for an independent Media Commission to provide for

the independent exercise of journalism, and to make

appointments to the Electoral Commission and Anti-Corruption



28. (U) Trevor Ncube, who publishes the weekly newspapers

Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard, has announced plans to


HARARE 00000226 007 OF 008



begin publishing a daily newspaper. In the absence of a

functioning Media Commission, Ncube said he had received

tentative approval from Minister of Information Webster Shamu

to publish.


29. (SBU) Minister of Education David Coltart managed to

reach an agreement with teachers’ unions for striking

teachers to return to schools. Almost all urban schools and

some rural schools have resumed classes. Teachers expect

salaries, however, and failure to provide them could result

in a renewed strike and the exodus of more teachers to other

countries in the region.


30. (SBU) The new Joint Monitoring and Implementation

Committee (JOMIC) responsible for resolving inter-party

conflicts that threaten the new government has been an active

participant in the political process; most notably it reached

a consensus that political detainees should be freed and has

played a role in pressuring Mugabe and ZANU-PF to do this.






31. (C) A new paradigm now exists in Zimbabwe. In refining

our policy, we believe our analysis should be informed as

follows: 1) This is not a government of national unity with

shared values and goals, but a transitional government in

which the primary goal of both parties is to win the next

elections; 2) While there was much debate as to whether the

MDC should join the government, the MDC has in fact done so.

The collapse of this government would be chaotic with

unforeseen consequences; 3) It is in the U.S. interest for

the government to succeed. Our goal of an accountable

government with democratic institutions that serves the will

of the people is in all likelihood possible only after new

elections under a new constitution. For better or worse, a

successful MDC, which can manage to achieve some reforms, is

the best vehicle to navigate toward new elections; 4) We

should continue to apply pressure for conformance with the

Hague principles. But we should be realistic that our

principles and benchmarks will not be met as completely or

quickly as we would like. Biti and other MDC officials have

acknowledged to us that progress toward political reform will

be incremental and fitful; while they seek political and

economic reform, their eyes are on the next election.


32. (C) The Zimbabwean political landscape in the last year

has dramatically changed. The MDC has important positions in

the government, the MDC is popular throughout Zimbabwe, and

there are reasons to think that it can enhance its influence

and its ability to achieve reforms within the government.

The complete dollarization of the economy in the last weeks

put an abrupt end to hyperinflation, and economic

stabilization has begun. Added to this is the fact that

ZANU-PF is a tired, old, divided party that is bereft of

ideas. With diminishing ability to dispatch patronage, it

will decrease in strength.


33. (C) We believe therefore that the government should be

Q33. (C) We believe therefore that the government should be

given the opportunity to survive. Tsvangirai, Biti, and

others constantly remind us now, however, of the desperate

economic situation they have inherited. The government’s

ability to provide services, such as health and education, is

crucial to its survival. It is also vital to the MDC in

maintaining and building support. There is a sense of

momentum in Zimbabwe at present. We should take advantage of

this window of opportunity. We should work with other donors

to provide aid that will at least indirectly enable the GOZ

to pay minimal civil servant salaries in the short term, and

at the same time begin to rebuild infrastructure, while the


HARARE 00000226 008 OF 008



economy stabilizes and revenue streams improve. In doing so,

our hallmarks should be flexibility and rapid response. END





Don't be shellfish... Please SHARETweet about this on Twitter
Share on Facebook
Share on LinkedIn
Email this to someone
Print this page

Like it? Share with your friends!

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.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *