Mugabe ready to leave but……


Nathan Shamuyarira, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front spokesman and close ally of President Robert Mugabe, told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan way back in 2003 that Mugabe was ready to retire any time even before the end of his term but he wanted a dignified exit.

He said the only way forward for Zimbabwe was for the Movement for Democratic Change to withdraw its legal challenge of the 2002 election result and acknowledge the legitimacy of the government.

“Once they take that step,” Shamuyarira said “we can work with them.”

When asked if Mugabe was willing to retire before the expiration of his term of office in 2008, Sullivan said Shamuyarira said without hesitation that Mugabe was willing to leave office but only in a “blaze of glory”, not a “blaze of condemnation”.

Mugabe was prepared to leave if the exit were dignified; otherwise, he would stay put.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2003-04-17 14:27

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 02 HARARE 000767









E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/16/2013





Classified By: political section chief Matt Harrington. Reasons: 1.5 (

B) and (D).





1. (C) In an April 16 conversation with the Ambassador,

ZANU-PF spokesman and elder statesman Nathan Shamuyarira

seemed concerned about the implications of USG actions in

Iraq for Zimbabwe. He deemed a U.S. or British invasion

“unlikely,” but thought attempts would be made to destabilize

the country using the opposition Movement for Democratic

Change (MDC). Shamuyarira insisted that Robert Mugabe is

prepared to step down if the MDC withdraws its legal

challenge of the 2002 presidential election and accepts the

legitimacy of his presidency. End Summary.


Is Zimbabwe on post-Iraq list?



2. (C) In an April 16 conversation with the Ambassador,

ZANU-PF spokesman and elder statesman Nathan Shamuyarira

expressed concern about a recent statement by a Pentagon

spokesman that dictators around the world should take note of

the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Shamuyarira said there is

apprehension in some quarters that the United States will not

stop with Iraq, and he said Zimbabwe has to be concerned it

might be on the target list. The Ambassador noted Secretary

Powell’s comments of April 15 that the United States had not

drawn up any list of countries to be invaded. We do have

concerns about many developments in Zimbabwe but prefer to

resolve these through dialogue.


3. (C) Shamuyarira mused that a U.S. or British invasion of

Zimabwe is unlikely, but he said ZANU-PF expects the British

government to try to destabilize the country via the

opposition MDC. Shamuyarira claimed to have seen evidence of

a growing willingness on the part of the MDC to use violence.

He said the opposition party had bombed ZANU-PF offices in

Chinhoyi, had tried unsuccessfully to blow up a bridge in

Kadoma during the mid-March stayaway, and had placed spikes

in the middle of roads to prevent people from getting to

work. Shamuyarira thought the MDC had gained confidence in

their capacity to elicit political change, not because they

had the support of Zimbabweans but because they were

acquiring “military capabilities.” ZANU-PF, he said, has the

capacity to stop these sorts of activities but cautioned that

this might cause bloodshed. “Things could get pretty rough

here,” Shamuyarira warned.


Recognize Mugabe’s legitimacy



4. (C) The Ambassador emphasized that violence from any

quarter would not solve Zimbabwe’s problems, and he expressed

his hope that all parties would avoid resorting to it. The

solution to Zimbabwe’s difficulties, Shamuyarira retorted, is

very simple. The MDC and the British government must accept

the outcome of the 2002 presidential election; then the

ruling party would be prepared to bring the MDC into

government. The Ambassador pointed out that the United

States Government did not consider that election to have been

free and fair. A number of organizations had conducted

extensive observations of the election process and found

numerous and serious electoral irregularities, including

widespread violence against opposition supporters, unbalanced

access to the media, and the provision of voters rolls only

to the ruling party. The United States made clear to the GOZ

prior to the election that a refusal to address and correct

these problems would have a detrimental impact on our

bilateral relationship. The Government of Zimbabwe, however,

had continued on the same path, and the result was a process

which could not be considered free and fair.


5. (C) Shamuyarira dismissed the Ambassador’s assessment as

a “subjective, partisan view meant to support the MDC” and

one “not based on an objective analysis of reality.” The MDC

won the Harare mayoral election, recent parliamentary

by-elections in Kuwadzana and Highfield, and 57 parliamentary

seats in 2000. The ruling party, he insisted, conducts

elections better than any country on the continent, except

South Africa. The bottom line, he said, is that “if people

don’t want Mugabe and ZANU-PF, they’ll say what they want.”

The Ambassador reiterated that the USG had expressed its

concerns well in advance of the voting days themselves,

noting that the first phase of our targeted sanctions was

announced in February 2002, several weeks before the



Way Forward



6. (C) The only way forward for Zimbabwe, Shamuyarira

stressed, was for the MDC to withdraw its legal challenge of

the election result and acknowledge the legitimacy of the

Government. Once they take that step, “we can work with

them.” The Ambassador asked whether Mugabe would be willing

to retire before expiration of his term in 2008, and whether

his early departure would create opportunities for political

dialogue. Without hesitation, Shamuyarira said Mugabe is

willing to leave office but only in a “blaze of glory,” not a

“blaze of condemnation.” He would be prepared to leave if

the exit were dignified; otherwise, he would stay put. The

often-made accusation that Mugabe is clinging to power is

simply untrue, Shamuyarira claimed. ZANU-PF, he continued,

had agreed in 1999 to hold a special party congress in 2000

to discuss presidential succession, but other developments



7. (C) The Ambassador asked whether the MDC’s withdrawal of

its court challenge and recognition of Mugabe’s legitimacy

for a limited period, in exchange for an early retirement by

the Zimbabean president, could form the basis of a political

agreement. Yes, Shamuyarira replied, if the MDC withdraws

its election challenge and accepts the Government’s

legitimacy, Mugabe would be ready to go. The Ambassador

welcomed Shamuyarira’s assurance on that point, stressing

that an early retirement by Mugabe could help Zimbabwe avoid

the collision course it appeared to be on. Shamuyarira said

Mugabe could not retire under UK condemnation. The

Ambassador suggested that Mugabe’s resignation in order to

resolve a crisis could be recognized as a “statesmanlike”

gesture. We believed that, subsequent to the retirement, the

legitimacy question would have to be resolved definitively

through the holding of elections recognized as free and fair

by both sides, in contrast to the non-transparent elections

held in 2002. If there is international recognition that the

election process was fair and transparent, there would be

pressure on the losing party to accept the result. The

Ambassador added that the United States would accept the

outcome of an election that conformed to SADC’s electoral

norms and standards.





8. (C) Shamuyarira freely acknowledged the problems in the

Government’s land redistribution program. Many senior

figures, including Ministers, had “cashed in” on this

program, and a high-level “acquisitions committee” headed by

Vice-President Msika had been formed to clean up the mess.

The real problem with the land issue, in Shamuyarira’s view,

was the strong support given by commercial farmers to the

MDC. That support had piqued Mugabe’s anger and had soured

relations between the commercial farmers and the GOZ.





9. (C) In his mid-70’s and a senior member of the ruling

party politburo, Shamuyarira is Mugabe’s contemporary and

enjoys considerable access to the Zimbabwean President. This

is the first time we have heard from someone who enjoys such

a close personal relationship with Mugabe that Mugabe is

prepared to leave office. Subsequent to this conversation,

we learned that Shamuyarira, probably acting at Mugabe’s

behest, had earlier sent an emissary to MDC President Morgan

Tsvangirai’s special advisor exploring the possibility of



dialogue and stressing Mugabe’s willingness to retire early

under the right conditions. The director of the Central

Intelligence Organization — Happyton Bonyongwe — also sent

an emissary to the MDC on April 16 carrying a similar



10. (C) MDC leaders have previously indicated their

willingness to withdraw the court challenge in exchange for

genuine dialogue with the GOZ and real progress toward

resolving Zimbabwe’s interlocking crises. We believe a

dignified exit is an ironclad precondition for a willing

departure by Mugabe, although it is unclear what elements

would comprise such an exit.   At any rate, Shamuyarira’s

remarks to us and the two recent overtures to the MDC suggest

a positive inclination toward dialogue that we ought to





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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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