Mugabe said Biti was his best Finance Minister ever


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Botswana Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani said President Robert Mugabe said though he had only worked with Finance Minister Tendai Biti for a few weeks, he was his best Finance Minister ever.

Biti, at the time, had only been Finance Minister for two months.

Skelemani said Mugabe was surprised that Botswana was so willing to help Zimbabwe and thanked him for his attitude.

He said Mugabe told him: “we are glad you (Botswana) are even thinking about helping us”.

Skelemani said that he told Mugabe “we have been trying to help you all along, even if you didn’t see it”.

 

 

Full cable:

Viewing cable 09GABORONE277, BOTSWANA READOUT ON ZIMBABWE, MADAGASCAR

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

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09GABORONE277

2009-04-03 11:52

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Gaborone

VZCZCXRO8896

OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHOR #0277/01 0931152

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 031152Z APR 09

FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5695

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA PRIORITY 0392

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 0043

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0227

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0207

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0412

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 GABORONE 000277

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR AF/S

STATE PLEASE PASS USAID

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/03/2019

TAGS: PREL EAID KPKO ZI MA BC

SUBJECT: BOTSWANA READOUT ON ZIMBABWE, MADAGASCAR

 

Classified By: Ambassador Stephen J. Nolan for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Foreign Minister Skelemani spent two hours

on April 3 briefing Ambassador Nolan and other Chiefs of

Mission on the proceedings of the March 30 SADC Summit.

Skelemani was frustrated by the unconstitutional change of

power in Madagascar, and he was disappointed that the

situation unraveled faster than SADC had anticipated. Though

SADC has suspended Madagascar from attending its meetings,

the organization has not yet imposed any economic sanctions

on the island. Skelemani emphasized that SADC is not ready

to send in a peacekeeping brigade, at least not until all

other options have been exhausted and the UN and AU are on

board. He also opined that Madagascar’s geographic isolation

and SADC’s lack of good intelligence about what is happening

on the ground there would make any military intervention

dangerous and unlikely to be effective. Skelemani remarked

that President Ravalomanana seemed to be completely out of

touch with what was happening in his own country, whether in

the streets or the barracks. Moving to Zimbabwe, Minister

Skelemani was quite optimistic about the unity government.

He noted that progress is being made and explained that

President Mugabe, ZANU-PF ministers and even the generals are

working better with MDC than had been anticipated. However,

Skelemani said that Zimbabwe is bankrupt and will require USD

1 billion in budgetary support just in 2009 to function.

Skelemani made a plea for lifting of sanctions and increased

foreign aid to Zimbabwe, including budgetary support. He

also noted that Botswana is part of a new SADC committee that

will soon travel to donor capitals and major financial

institutions to lobby for support to Zimbabwe. Skelemani was

vague about what financial support would be provided by SADC

members to Zimbabwe. The assembled diplomats emphasized that

our humanitarian aidto Zimbabwe is already signficant and

likely to row, but noted that lifting of sanctions is

premaure and that direct budget support to the GOZ isimpossible under current conditions.   END SUMMAR.

 

2. (C) Botswana’s Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani invited

select members of the diplomatic corps to a briefing April 3

to discuss the SADC Extraordinary Summit held March 30 in

Swaziland. The American, British, German, and European Union

Chiefs of Mission attended, along with the French Charge.

Minister Skelemani was accompanied by his Permanent

Secretary, Deputy Permanent Secretary, and other staff from

the Ministry’s Divisions of African Affairs and Europe and

the Americas. Minister Skelemani was animated and thorough

during the two hour meeting. He shared with the assembled

diplomats a colorful and detailed account of deliberations

within SADC and presentations by President Ravalomanana and

the Zimbabwe delegation.

 

 

MADAGASCAR

———-

3. (C) Minister Skelemani opened the meeting with a

discussion of Madagascar. He said that unfortunately, events

had unraveled more quickly in Madagascar than SADC had

anticipated. Though they sent Executive Secretary Salomao to

see what was happening, before he could assist Ravalomanana

had signed a resignation letter. When President Ravalomanana

briefed the SADC summit, he asked that a peacekeeping brigade

be sent to Madagascar to facilitate his return to power.

Skelemani remarked that the President seemed quite out of

touch with what was happening in his own country. When the

SADC leaders asked him why some 150 soldiers out of an army

of 14,000 could force him to resign, he could not explain.

He simply claimed that the bulk of the military supported him

but were unwilling to use force to back him because they were

unwilling to take up arms against their compatriots.

According to Skelemani, SADC had no choice but to call upon

Andry Rajoelina to hand power back to Ravalomanana because he

took power unconstitutionally. However, SADC was not

prepared to use force in Madagascar. He noted that

Madagascar’s geographic isolation and SADC’s lack of good

intelligence about happenings there (only South Africa and

Mauritius even have embassies there, and President

Ravalomanana offered no useful intelligence) would make any

military deployment there dangerous and unlikely to succeed.

 

GABORONE 00000277 002 OF 003

 

 

He also noted that according to a recent protocol SADC must

get the concurrence of the AU and UN before committing its

troops.

 

4. (C) Ambassador Nolan asked whether or not SADC supports a

new election in Madagascar, which has been called for by the

AU but wasn’t mentioned in the SADC communique. Skelemani

said that SADC did not mention elections because Ravalomanana

maintains that his government has not been overthrown,

therefore no elections are necessary, he should simply be

restored to power as the already-elected leader. The

Ambassador also asked whether any economic sanctions have

been imposed by SADC, and Skelemani responded that economic

measures were a possible next step if more pressure is

needed. The European Union noted that there had been some

discontent in Madagascar when Ravalomanana chose to join

SADC, and he wondered whether this would make SADC less

credible during this crisis. Minister Skelemani acknowledged

it was possible that Rajoelina could decide to simply break

ties with SADC.

 

 

ZIMBABWE

——–

5. (C) The bulk of the two hour meeting was spent discussing

the situation in Zimbabwe. The Foreign Minister explained

that Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti had traveled

unannounced to Botswana ahead of the Swazi summit to explain

his government’s desperation to Botswana Finance Minister

Gaolathe. According to Skelemani, the GOZ is completely

bankrupt and the Zimbabwe dollar is “dead”. Minister Biti

estimates that GOZ revenue is USD 20 million/month, but he

requires USD 30 million per month just to pay the public

service. Both Biti (MDC-T) and MDC-M Minister Welshman Ncube

accompanied President Mugabe to the SADC summit, and

Skelemani was impressed both with the eloquent pleas made by

the MDC ministers for support to the new government and by

President Mugabe’s praise and support for his MDC ministers.

Both Biti and Ncube told the SADC leaders that the new

government is making progress and that the JOMIC is dealing

effectively with outstanding issues. Although they both said

farm invasions are problematic and must be dealt with, Biti

and Ncube told SADC that no new farms have been seized, but

noted that these properties were previously designated by

government for seizure but not acted upon. Biti told SADC

that the GOZ needs USD 1 billion in budget support just to

make it through 2009, though admitted that this amount would

have to come in stages as the government could not absorb it

all at once. President Mugabe praised the work of Tendai

Biti in only a few weeks and called him his best Finance

Minister ever. He commited himself to the rule of law and

explained that the JOMIC is working out the final issues

regarding allotment of positions (including governors and

permanent secretaries) amongst the parties in the unity

government. Mugabe admitted that 5 million Zimbabweans are

being fed by the international community and that the

country’s health and education systems have collapsed.

 

6. (C) According to Skelemani, the SADC leaders told Mugabe

and the Zimbabwean delegation that “you need to help us to

help you.” They acknowledged that the donor nations will be

reluctant to help Zimbabwe unless SADC notes improvements in

the country, so asked that Zimbabwe give them these

improvements. One thing SADC stressed, according to

Skelemani, is that the farm invasions should stop. Foreign

Minister Skelemani says that President Mugabe approached him

to “thank him for his attitude” during the summit. Mugabe

told Skelemani that “we are glad you (Botswana) are even

thinking about helping us.” Skelemani says that he told

Mugabe “we have been trying to help you all along, even if

you didn’t see it.” Permanent Secretary Outlul opined that

the road accident which killed Mrs.Tsvangirai had genuinely

shaken all sides of theunity government. He said at that

moment, it apeared the whole government could fall apart,

but since then, he believes that ZANU-PF and MDC members of

government have gone a long way to overcome former mindsets

of enmity and find ways to work together. Outlule also noted

that the previous fears that the generals would not salute PM

Tsvangirai have been overcome. Minister Skelemani also noted

 

GABORONE 00000277 003 OF 003

 

 

that the ZANU-PF ministers have been cooperating with

Tsvangirai and bringing items to him to get them on the

cabinet agenda, rather than running straight to Mugabe as had

been feared.

 

7. (C) Botswana and SADC have decided that support for the

government of national unity is the only chance for the

future of Zimbabwe, according to Skelemani. Therefore, the

summit decided to form a committee of the Finance Ministers

from Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and DRC, who

along with the SADC Executive Secretary, will be charged with

finding additional financial support for the GOZ. Skelemani

reported that the SADC members are supposed to decide by

April 15 how they can each assist Zimbabwe. He noted that

Botswana really doesn’t have any funds to provide budget

support, but said that he was exploring other options. He

proposed that the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC)

might be authorized to help fund some Botswana-Zimbabwe joint

ventures in the manufacturing sector and the GOB would also

explore encouraging Botswana banks to offer lines of credit

to Zimbabwean companies who wish to source inputs in

Botswana. Skelemani anticipated that South Africa could be

the most helpful within SADC, and that they would likely find

a way to offer some assistance through the Development Bank

of Southern Africa.

 

8. (C) Skelemani’s summary was that “the breakdown of the

rule of law is over in Zimbabwe and Mugabe is not going back

to his old ways.” He told the assembled diplomats that the

GOB joins SADC to ask the international community to engage

with Zimbabwe. He noted that the GOZ is prepared to welcome

visits from foreign governments and that some have already

taken place. The diplomatic response was unified and

skeptical. The diplomats resident in Gaborone reminded the

GOB that the donor community is already providing enormous

humanitarian support to Zimbabwe (more than $600 million in

2008) and that our humanitarian aid is likely to continue if

not increase. But the Chiefs of Mission also noted that

direct budget support to Zimbabwe was simply impossible at

this stage, given the GOZ’s track record of misappropriating

funds and politicizing programs. They also noted that

Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono would have to be removed

before any funds could be given to the GOZ. They welcomed

increased diplomatic engagement between the GOZ and western

capitals and promised to continue re-assessing both foreign

assistance and sanctions when real progress in Zimbabwe can

be shown.

 

9. (C) The diplomats then asked Skelemani when the SADC

committee plans to visit capitals and requested early notice

of the planned dates. Skelemani replied that the program was

not yet set, but noted that they hoped to take advantage of

the IMF/World Bank spring meetings coming up soon in

Washington to make a plea for renewed donor assistance to

Zimbabwe. Minister Skelemani also said that he understands

that SADC needs to be able to show donors “a clear commitment

to certain actions by the GOZ” before the SADC committee

travels to European, American, and Asian capitals or the

meetings will be pointless. He explained that Finance

Minister Biti had returned to Harare and was working to

outline for SADC the progress that has already been made and

the commitments of the GOZ for additional reforms. In

closing, the Chiefs of Mission thanked Minister Skelemani and

the GOB for the nation’s leadership not only on SADC crises

like Zimbabwe and Madagascar but also clear-headed statements

on other international problems like Sudan.

NOLAN

(72 VIEWS)

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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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