South African President Thabo Mbeki was unlikely to solve the Zimbabwe crisis because President Robert Mugabe regarded him as little more than a “boy” and was going to run circles around him, buying time to destroy the political opposition.
Britain was the only player that could solve the Zimbabwe crisis and former Agriculture Minister Denis Norman, who was now living in the United Kingdom, could act as a mediator.
These were the views of Mugabe biographer, Heidi Holland, author of: Dinner with Mugabe. Holland has since died after committing suicide.
She said that despite his harsh anti-UK rhetoric, Mugabe idealised the British and craved their respect.
The only possibility of getting Mugabe out of power before he died -which could be a long time, Holland said, noting that his mother lived to be nearly 100- was direct British engagement with Mugabe.
The ideal person to serve as the link between the UK and Mugabe was Denis Norman.
Mbeki solved the Zimbabwe crisis by negotiating for the three leading political parties to sign an Global Political Agreement in September 2008.
Zimbabwe has been under an inclusive government brought about by Mbeki since February 2009.
Viewing cable 08PRETORIA1570, MUGABE BIOGRAPHER SAYS MBEKI MEDIATION WILL FAIL;
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SUBJECT: MUGABE BIOGRAPHER SAYS MBEKI MEDIATION WILL FAIL;
URGES U.K. OUTREACH
PRETORIA 00001570 001.2 OF 002
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Mugabe biographer Heidi Holland doubts that
the Zimbabwean leader is serious about the South African-led
talks. Mugabe will continue to “run rings” around South
African President Mbeki, as he has done for years. She fears
a vengeful Mugabe is intent on destroying the Zimbabwean
opposition. In her view, only direct U.K. talks with Mugabe
could possibly lead to his departure from office, a point she
recently made to U.K. Foreign Secretary Miliband. Holland
recommends using former Zimbabwean Minister Denis Norman, one
of the few people Mugabe trusts, as the link between Harare
and London. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (SBU) PolOff met on July 15 in Johannesburg with Heidi
Holland, author of the recently-published biography of
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe entitled “Dinner with
Mugabe.” Working through Mugabe confidante Father Fidelis
Mukonori, Holland secured a 2 1/2 hour interview with Mugabe
in January 2008 (Mugabe’s last interview with Western media
was three years earlier). Holland also interviewed dozens of
people who know Mugabe well, and worked closely with
psychologists to flesh out the portrait of Mugabe.
Mbeki Will Fail
¶3. (C) Holland painted a picture of a paranoid, sad, lonely
and vengeful Mugabe, intent on holding onto power at all
costs. Holland doubts that Mugabe is serious about the South
African-led negotiations with the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), noting that Mugabe has no respect
for the MDC and regards Mbeki as little more than a “boy.”
As he has done since 2000, Mugabe will run circles around
Mbeki, buying time to destroy the political opposition.
Only U.K. Can Succeed
¶4. (C) According to Holland, Mugabe continues to believe
(however falsely) that his real problem is the United
Kingdom. This reflects Mugabe’s deep-seated belief that the
British failed to hold up their end of the Lancaster House
bargain. Despite his harsh anti-U.K. rhetoric, Mugabe
idealizes the British and craves their respect. In Holland’s
view, the only possibility of getting Mugabe out of power
before he dies — which could be a long time, Holland said,
noting that his mother lived to be nearly 100 — is direct
British engagement with Mugabe. Holland met with U.K.
Foreign Secretary Miliband during his July 6-8 trip to South
Africa to make her pitch for direct talks with Mugabe. She
says Miliband listened to her arguments, although was
¶5. (C) The ideal person to serve as the link between the U.K.
and Mugabe, Holland suggested, is Denis Norman, the white
Zimbabwean who served as a minister in Mugabe’s government
and now lives the U.K. Holland said that Mugabe has
confidence in Norman, one of only a few people he trusts (she
also mentioned Father Mukonori and former EU advisor Tim
Sheehy). Holland did not see a major role for the USG in her
proposed outreach to Mugabe, but noted that Mugabe respected
former Secretary of State Kissinger.
¶6. (C) Holland suggested that Mugabe might be willing to
accept a “best person government,” with Mugabe as Head of
State but “technocrats” running the ministries. This is much
QState but “technocrats” running the ministries. This is much
more palatable than a “government of national unity” or
“transitional government,” and could be sold to Mugabe as
resembling his first term as president (1980-85), a period
Mugabe remembers fondly.
Sad, Lonely, Vengeful
¶7. (SBU) The Zimbabwean president is isolated and lonely,
Holland suggested, and has been much of his life. Mugabe was
abandoned by his father at a young age; as a child, “books
PRETORIA 00001570 002.4 OF 002
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