President Robert Mugabe genuinely fears hanging if he leaves office, former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell five years ago.
According to a diplomatic cable just released by Wikileaks, Mugabe was quite aware of diminishing support for him both in the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the country.
The cable dispatched on 30 March 2007 says Mugabe was so stung by criticism at the ZANU-PF conference in Goromonzi in December 2006 that he had asked Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Emmerson Mnangagwa to update him on options for succession.
They had come up with a package of suggestions that included:
- 2008 harmonized presidential and parliamentary elections;
- an expanded parliament (to take care of some of Mugabe’s supporters;
- a constitutional amendment providing for parliamentary election of a new president in the event of the president’s death or incapacity (replacing the present system whereby the acting vice-president takes over for 90 days, followed by new presidential elections).
Chinamasa and Mnangagwa assumed Mugabe would not run when they presented the package but Mugabe liked their suggestions and surprised them by saying he would be the 2008 candidate.
Mugabe sent teams to all the provinces to gauge his support among party members, business leaders, security forces, civil society, and the churches and seven provinces said he should not run.
Moyo said that although Mugabe was aware that he would not win any election he was not going to leave office because he was afraid that he was going to be hanged.
“The example of Charles Taylor’s expulsion from Nigeria and subsequent delivery to The Hague Special Court was particularly worrying for Mugabe, who had told Mnangagwa that he feared being hung,” Moyo said, according to the cable.
Viewing cable 07HARARE270, JONATHAN MOYO ON MUGABE SUCCESSION, U.S. POLICY
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STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/09/2012
SUBJECT: JONATHAN MOYO ON MUGABE SUCCESSION, U.S. POLICY
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C) Jonathan Moyo, former Minister of Information and
erstwhile Mugabe intimate, told the Ambassador March 30 that
Mugabe is aware that there is diminishing support for him
within ZANU-PF and around the country. However, if Mugabe
decides to run for president again in 2008, Moyo said it is
unlikely his decision will be successfully challenged from
within the ruling party. Moyo does not expect the ZANU-PF
Central Committee on March 31 to deal definitively with the
succession issue one way or another. Moyo noted that Mugabe
genuinely fears “hanging” if he leaves office and suggested
international guarantees for his safety could help persuade
Mugabe to go. The Ambassador responded that this was a
decision for the Zimbabwean people.
¶2. (C) Moyo urged the U.S. to expand our out reach to
ZANU-PF moderates. The Ambassador said we were working to do
so but that many ZANU-PF moderates were afraid to meet with
us. Moyo urged the U.S. to send positive signals about the
post-Mugabe future as this could help convince many party
stalwarts to abandon Mugabe. The Ambassador briefed Moyo on
the principles for reengagement agreed to at last week’s
London meeting of like-minded countries. Moyo welcomed the
principles but noted that given Zimbabwean sensitivities it
would be better to refer to “internationally assisted” vice
“internationally supervised” elections. On sanctions, Moyo
accepted the placing of policy makers and their families on
sanctions lists, but urged us not to list parliamentarians
who are not members of either the ZANU-PF Politburo or
Central Committee. End Summary.
Run-Up to March 30 Central Committee Meeting
¶3. (C) Moyo told the Ambassador that Mugabe was stung by
criticism at the ZANU-PF December conference of his decision
to extend his term until 2010. About a month ago, he asked
Justice Minister Patrick Chinimasa and Emmerson Mnangagwa,
who had advised him on succession in 2005, to update options.
They produced a package of suggestions that included: 1)
2008 harmonized presidential and parliamentary elections; 2)
an expanded parliament (to take care of some of Mugabe,s
supporters; 3) a constitutional amendment providing for
parliamentary election of a new president in the event of the
president’s death or incapacity (replacing the present system
whereby the acting vice-president takes over for 90 days,
followed by new presidential elections).
¶4. (C) In presenting the package, according to Moyo,
Chinimasa and Mnangagwa assumed Mugabe would not run.
Outside of Mugabe’s inner circle, most of ZANU-PF wanted him
to step down, and they saw the package as a vehicle to
facilitate this. Mugabe liked their suggestions and
surprised them by saying he would be the 2008 candidate.
¶5. (C) Moyo informed the Ambassador that after stating his
intention to run, Mugabe sent teams to all the provinces to
gauge his support among party members, business leaders,
security forces, civil society, and the churches. Moyo was
aware of the results from seven provinces; the clear
sentiment was that he should not run again. After learning
HARARE 00000270 002 OF 004
¶6. (C) Mugabe had hoped, according to Moyo, to have positive
responses from the provinces that he could then use at the
March 28 Politburo meeting and March 30 Central Committee
meeting to leverage support for his 2008 candidacy. However,
because of the lack of support from the provinces, Mugabe
largely dampened discussion of 2008 in the Politburo meeting.
Moyo also believed no decisions would be taken at the
Central Committee meeting, which many had hoped would result
in a date for the election as well as a candidate, beyond
some posturing by Mugabe and his ZANU-PF rivals.
Dissension in the Ranks
¶7. (C) Moyo said he thought it highly unlikely the military
would act on its own and stage a coup. The surviving members
of the General Staff of the Zimbabwe African National
Liberation Army (ZANLA) had recently approached both General
Solomon Mujuru and Mnangagwa to urge Mugabe’s retirement.
They believed Mugabe would be defeated in 2008, and it was
important for ZANU-PF to put forward another candidate to win
and preserve liberation gains. Mujuru,s response was to
have the leaders talk to Mnangagwa; Mnangagwa in turn
rebuffed them, saying the Central Committee had replaced the
High Command as a political decision maker.
¶8. (C) With regard to the CIO, Moyo said Mugabe had received
information that CIO director Happington Bonyongwe had been
conferring with Solomon Mujuru. Furthermore, he had received
information from CIO sub-directors that Bonyongwe was
doctoring information. Believing Mujuru to be involved with
both military and CIO dissension, Mugabe had summoned Mujuru.
According to Mugabe, Mujuru had not yet responded.
Meanwhile, a massive shakeup was underway in the secutity
services, with many re-assignments within and between
agencies being made in order to break up potential
On 2008 Elections
¶10. (C) Moyo said he believed that ZANU-PF opponents of
Mugabe would prefer a government of national unity with a
presidential election postponed until 2010. However, if they
failed to achieve this and Mugabe ran, he would not be
challenged from within the party. But neither would he have
strong party support. For this reason, advancement of
parliamentary elections to 2008 would be important so that
ZANU-PF MPs would get out the vote.
¶11. (C) With Mugabe as candidate, the rallying cry of the
opposition, against the backdrop of a desperate economy,
would be “Mugabe must go.” Moyo believed that a ZANU-PF
party led by Mugabe was likely to lose any election. He
commented, however, that the MDC is also weak at the moment.
Additionally, because of the polarization of Zimbabwean
HARARE 00000270 003 OF 004
politics and stigmatization of the MDC, many traditional
ZANU-PF voters would find it difficult to vote for the MDC.
To be effective, Moyo though the MDC would have to somehow
rise above its history. Moyo commented that the MDC has
convinced supporters that with rigged elections, registration
is a futile exercise. He argued that the MDC must get young
people to register. Then, if an election were rigged, they
would feel they had been robbed and would react.
An Exit Strategy for Mugabe*Fear of Prosecution
¶12. (C) Moyo observed that Zimbabwe has an active human
rights community, and many Zimbabweans want Mugabe held
accountable for his excesses. He added that the example of
Charles Taylor’s expulsion from Nigeria and subsequent
delivery to The Hague Special Court was particularly worrying
for Mugabe, who had told Mnangagwa that he feared being hung.
Moyo inquired about the U.S. position on immunity for
Mugabe. The Ambassador replied that we would respect the
wishes of the Zimbabwean people and would understand if they
wanted to put the Mugabe era behind them and not work for his
prosecution. Nevertheless, the Ambassador noted “the
dictator,s dilemma”*who can give the guarantees he wants
and how could he trust them?
On Renewed International Engagement and Sanctions
¶13. (C) Noting the widespread opposition to Mugabe within
ZANU-PF, Moyo argued for greater engagement with moderates to
explain U.S. positions. There is growning opposition to
Mugabe within the party, and a better understanding of U.S.
positions could help convince party stalwarts to abandon him.
The Ambassador agreed this was important and said we would
expand our efforts, including the hosting of lunches and
receptions for parliamentarians, but that many in the party
and government had refused to meet with us.
¶14. (C) The Ambassador discussed in general terms with Moyo
principles for international reengagement with Zimbabwe. In
particular, he stated the importance of internationally
supervised elections. Moyo agreed that free and fair
elections were important; noting Zimbabwean sensitivities
about sovereignty, he thought talking in terms of
internationally “assisted” elections would be more palatable.
This was particularly true, he added, since Zimbabwe had no
money to hold elections and would need international help.
¶15. (C) Moyo said his colleagues were aware of the
Ambassador’s remarks in a SW Radio interview that the U.S.
should consider expanding sanctions to parliamentarians. He
said he understood a policy of expanding sanctions to include
Politburo and Central Committee members (and their families)
because they are in decision making positions; he though it
unfair, however, to include the large majority of
parliamentarians who are not members of either committee.
Including them on the sanctions list might push them into
Mugabe’s camp; not including them might be an incentive to
HARARE 00000270 004 OF 004
¶16. (C) Moyo has a checkered history as a one-time apologist
for Mugabe but he maintains good contacts across the
political spectrum and he provides a window into ZANU-PF,s
internal politics. He confirmed what we have heard from
others: Mugabe at this point intends to run for election in
2008 but there is substantial and growing opposition within
ZANU-PF to his continued rule. We don’t expect a resolution
in the near term as both Mugabe and his rivals maneuver for
the upper hand before forcing a show down. Moyo is also a
useful messenger and in that regard we expect the substance
of the principles for reengagement to quickly make the rounds
of Harare and increase the pressure on the regime by showing
ZANU-PF moderates and waiverers that there will be life after
Mugabe. With respect to adding parliamentarians to the visa
list, we take Moyo’s point about not forcing the doubters
back into Mugabe’s arms, and would limit the additions to
those ZANU-PF MPs who are particularly odorous or who are
major economic players.