President Robert Mugabe is fixated on land reform and sanctions and is almost trance-liked in discussing these subjects, United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray said in his cable to Washington the very day he presented his credentials to Mugabe on December 9 last year.
Ray said though Mugabe was generally alert and can keep up with a conversation, physically he was frail and appeared uncomfortable when seated. “He slouches and frequently turns his body as if to find a better position, and then sits straight and speaks in a louder voice for a few seconds before lapsing back into the barely audible soft voice,” Ray said.
The ambassador told Mugabe that he sought cooperation rather than confrontation and was committed to helping Zimbabwe regain its status as the ‘jewel of Africa’ to which Mugabe replied that he would not ‘visit the sins’ his predecessors on the ambassador.
The full cable.
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0955 3431304
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 091304Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5202
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 3201
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3310
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1737
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2571
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2940
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 3358
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5806
Wednesday, 09 December 2009, 13:04
C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 000955
AF/S FOR B.WALCH
DRL FOR N. WILETT
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
NSC FOR M. GAVIN
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS
EO 12958 DECL: 12/09/2019
TAGS PREL, PGOV, ZI
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR PRESENTS CREDENTIALS TO MUGABE
Classified By: Ambassador Charles A. Ray for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d).
¶1. (SBU) Ambassador Ray presented his credentials to President Robert Mugabe today. The Ambassador was the fourth of four ambassadors to do so (after Cuba, Sudan, and Ghana) and we were told there would be a 10-15 minute sit down after the presentation of credentials and photos. Instead, Mugabe, who was accompanied by Foreign Minister Mumbengegwi and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Bimha, engaged the Ambassador in a 45-minute discussion (mostly monologue) at which tea and snacks were served.
¶2. (SBU) As customary, Mugabe immediately launched into his “history lesson,” beginning with the revolutionary struggle for one man, one vote, continuing to the Lancaster House agreement, proceeding to the betrayal of the British in failing to fund land reform compensation, and ending with sanctions. He blamed British policy on land reform on British desires to keep their farmers on the land; British refusal to support land reform forced Zimbabwe to proceed with land reform on its own, which then resulted in targeted sanctions. President George W. Bush, according to Mugabe, then imposed even harsher sanctions (he mischaracterized ZDERA as preventing U.S. companies from doing business in Zimbabwe) than Britain to reward Prime Minister Tony Blair for supporting him on Iraq.
¶3. (SBU) Mugabe averred that Zimbabwe was democratic. Like anywhere, there may have been incidents of police misconduct, but there was no policy that resulted in human rights abuses. He added that, despite the (necessary) land reform program, not all land had been seized. Commercial tea and sugar estates still existed, as well as wild life conservancies. No business investments had been indigenized or nationalized.
¶4. (SBU) During a pause in the monologue, Ambassador Ray broke in. He noted the spirit of friendship which had been extended to him by Zimbabweans (to which Mugabe quipped that Zimbabweans remained friendly despite the imposition of sanctions). The Ambassador said he sought cooperation rather than confrontation and that he was committed to helping Zimbabwe regain its status as the “jewel of Africa.” He wished to listen, not lecture. But to move forward, it was necessary for everyone to play by the rules. The Ambassador concluded that the future of Zimbabwe was up to the Zimbabwean people.
¶5. (SBU) Mugabe responded that he would not visit “the sins” of the Ambassador’s predecessors on the Ambassador. He hoped the Ambassador was extending an olive branch; he expected better relations with the U.S. Without referring to him by name, he accused Ambassador McGee, the previous U.S. ambassador, and the U.S. government, of having sought regime change; and charged that McGee had supported the opposition and become the right-hand man of the opposition.
¶6. (C) Mugabe appears unchanged from several conversations we have had with him over the last couple of years. He is fixated on land reform and sanctions, and is almost trance-like (monologue, soft voice) in discussing these subjects. But he is generally alert and can keep up with a conversation. Physically, Mugabe is frail He appears uncomfortable when seated — he slouches and frequently turns his body as if to find a better position, and then sits straight up and speaks in a louder voice for a few seconds before lapsing back into the barely audible soft voice. END COMMENT.