President Robert Mugabe told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee that the United States must help him fight corruption because it had more eyes and ears in Zimbabwe than him.
Mugabe admitted that corruption was rampant and out of control but he was determined to fight it. If the United States brought corrupt individuals, even family members, to his attention he would take action.
He said this during a one-on-one meeting with McGee just a month before the 2008 elections which he predicted that he would win and would stay in office for as long as he felt he could.
Mugabe told McGee that he could not understand the United States’ position on Zimbabwe, since Zimbabwe’s dispute, over land, was with the United Kingdom.
He said the sanctions that had been imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States and the European Union were “effective and encompassing” and “were hurting more than you know”.
Mugabe said he and Simba Makoni had been present at a meeting where the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank said they needed US and UK approval for loans to Zimbabwe.
McGee asked why the African Development Bank did not provide financial assistance to Zimbabwe. Mugabe replied that it was controlled by the West. Even China was becoming less willing to help because of US pressure.
The US sanctions law, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, actually prevents the African Development Bank and the African Development Fund, among others, from giving loans to Zimbabwe unless this is approved by the US president.
Viewing cable 08HARARE140, AMBASSADOR’S MEETING WITH PRESIDENT MUGABE
DE RUEHSB #0140/01 0511408
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 201408Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2502
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1784
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1910
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0489
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1187
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1544
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1966
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4395
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1037
C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 000140
AF/S FOR S. HILL,
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN AND L. DOBBINS
STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/20/2018
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR’S MEETING WITH PRESIDENT MUGABE
Classified By: Amb. James D. McGee for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
¶1. (C) In a February 18 meeting with Zimbabwean president
Robert Mugabe, the Ambassador emphasized that U.S. policy
toward Zimbabwe remained constant, but that the U.S. would
look favorably upon opening a dialogue with Mugabe. A
positive sign would be assurances of free and fair elections.
Mugabe responded that Zimbabwe was democratic and that the
U.S. was unfairly singling it out through sanctions — the
Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) — which
had curtailed international economic support and was largely
responsible for Zimbabwe’s economic plight. He could not
understand the U.S. position since Zimbabwe’s dispute, over
land, was with the United Kingdom. The Ambassador urged
Mugabe to invite international observers for the March 29
elections. Mugabe responded that Zimbabwe would not invite
individuals from pro-sanction countries; their minds were
already made up. A possible exception would be the Carter
Center as he had positive memories of the Carter
administration’s support leading up to Zimbabwe’s
independence. Looking toward the March elections and beyond,
Mugabe was dismissive of Simba Makoni. He expected to win
and would stay in office “as long as I feel I can.” The one
issue on which Mugabe purported to agree with the Ambassador
was corruption. The president agreed it was a problem and
said he was intent on fighting it.
¶2. (C) Mugabe was mentally alert and appeared physically
fit. From time to time he lapsed into reveries, but he
appeared to have a good grasp of the issues and was forceful
in making his points. END SUMMARY.
¶3. (C) The Ambassador met with Mugabe on February 18 in
Mugabe’s office at Zimbabwe House. The meeting was
bifurcated; notetakers left after the first half and the
Ambassador used a one-on-one with the Zimbabwean president to
emphasize that U.S. policies had not changed and to expand on
the discussion of the first half.
U.S. Policy and Election Observers
¶4. (C) The Ambassador told Mugabe that our principles and
policies remained the same. We would look favorably upon
opening a dialogue with him. A positive sign of his
willingness to engage would be assurances of free and fair
elections and a level playing field for all parties. The
Ambassador noted that election observers could be an
important part of this process.
¶5. (C) Mugabe responded by launching into a defense of
Zimbabwe’s democratic process. Zimbabwe had held regular
elections every five years and was not new at the game. The
government was “open, fair, legitimate, and transparent,” and
would not tolerate cheating or an unfair election result. In
fact, he added, in the area of elections Zimbabwe was a model
for Africa, for developing countries, and for many developed
¶6. (C) Mugabe stated that observers from friendly countries
would be welcome in order to allay any concerns about the
elections. Observers from pro-sanction countries, however,
would not be invited. They were biased and already had their
minds made up. In particular, he said, no one from the
United Kingdom would be invited. In response to a question
from the Ambassador, Mugabe said an invitation to the Carter
Center would be considered. The Jimmy Carter administration
had been “good, kind, and supportive,” and had saved the
constitutional process at Lancaster House in London in 1979.
It had also offered to assist on the land issue. Mugabe
added that some in his administration had already suggested
an invitation to the Carter Center, but a decision on the
Center, or for that matter any other observers, had not yet
been made. Who to invite might be decided later in the week.
(NOTE: The Carter Center has informed USAID Harare that it
is too late for it to send an observation team. At the most,
it could send a survey team that would not publicly comment
on the elections. END NOTE.)
U.S. Principles and Sanctions
¶7. (C) As a prelude to a discussion on sanctions, Mugabe
queried the Ambassador as to why the U.S. had interjected
itself into the historical UK-Zimbabwe quarrel over land.
Zimbabwe had not offended the U.S. in any way. It had had
democracy for 27 years and, in contrast to the Smith regime,
had instituted majority rule, one man-one vote, and gender
equality. Yet President Bush thought Zimbabwe was as bad as
Sudan and maybe Pakistan. Mugabe concluded that the U.S. had
decided to impose sanctions as a demonstration of solidarity
with its fellow Anglo-Saxons, and as a reciprocal gesture to
Prime Minister Tony Blair for supporting the U.S. invasion of
¶8. (C) Mugabe said sanctions were “effective and
encompassing” and “were hurting more than you know.” Visa
sanctions were an irritant but financial sanctions, e.g.,
ZDERA, which the U.S. used to prevent international loans to
Zimbabwe, were at the heart of Zimbabwe’s economic problems.
He claimed he and Simba Makoni had been present at a meeting
where the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank said
they needed U.S. and UK approval for loans to Zimbabwe.
¶9. (C) The Ambassador asked why the African Development Bank
did not provide financial assistance to Zimbabwe. Mugabe
replied that it was controlled by the West. Even China was
becoming less willing to help because of U.S. pressures.
¶10. (C) When Mugabe asserted the U.S. should reconsider its
policies toward Zimbabwe, the Ambassador responded that the
U.S. had made clear its principles regarding reengagement
with Zimbabwe. These included free and fair elections, a
return to the rule of law, respect for human rights, and
responsible economic policy. Mugabe in turn became animated.
“No rule of law? Look at the rest of Africa.” As for human
rights, Mugabe argued that in some respects Zimbabwe was
superior to the U.S. The Ambassador reminded Mugabe that
when he presented his credentials Mugabe had asked him to
view Zimbabwe for himself and not prejudge the situation. He
had done just that and had confirmed the beating of peaceful
demonstrators after President Mbeki’s visit to Zimbabwe in
January. Mugabe disingenuously replied that if we supplied
him with names of perpetrators of violence he would see they
were brought to justice.
On Mugabe’s Future and Makoni
¶11. (C) Mugabe indicated to the Ambassador that he assumed
he would win the March elections. He said he would stay on
as president “as long as I feel I can.” His successor would
be determined by the party, although he would obviously have
an interest and a say in the decision.
¶12. (C) The Ambassador tried to draw Mugabe out on Simba
Makoni. Mugabe did not express worry about Makoni, but also
appeared disinclined to discuss him. He did say that Makoni
was not as strong as he had expected. He also rhetorically
asked why Makoni had run as an independent. As president,
but without a party, under the Zimbabwean system he would
find it impossible to find ministers to form a cabinet.
(NOTE: As Mugabe explained, ministers must come from
Parliament. If parliamentarians abandon their party, they
lose their seat in Parliament. END NOTE.)
A Note on Corruption
¶13. (C) The Ambassador asked Mugabe about the rampant
corruption in the country in general, and in ZANU-PF in
particular. For once agreeing with the Ambassador, Mugabe
said it was out of control. He told the Ambassador that the
U.S. had more “eyes and ears” in Zimbabwe and South Africa
than he did. If we brought corrupt individuals, even family
members, to his attention he would take action.
Alert and Engaged
¶14. (C) Mugabe greeted the Ambassador with a firm handshake.
He was alert and mentally acute during the almost one-hour
meeting and was on top of the issues presented by the
Ambassador. He punctuated the discussion with recollections
stretching from the Lancaster House agreement to his
conversation with the Ambassador on November 24 when the
Ambassador presented his credentials. His voice was steady
and, for the most part, he maintained good eye contact with
the Ambassador. His only display of age came on a couple of
occasions when he engaged in reveries about the past. At one
point, for example, with a lowered voice and averted gaze, he
said to the Ambassador, “I had a profession. I gave it up
for my people and my country. I spent 11 years of my life in
prison for what I knew to be right. You lose a lot in 11
years in prison. I’m not Nelson Mandela, but I know I am
doing the right things for Zimbabwe.”
¶15. (C) Whether he is in denial, or isolated, or both,
Mugabe gives the impression that he believes Zimbabwe is
democratic and that its economic woes are the result of
unjustifiable Western actions. He appears to genuinely
lament the estrangement with the West, but of course places
all the blame on others. As he took his leave, the
Ambassador suggested they continue to talk. Mugabe
responded, “Come back and see me.” END COMMENT.