Mutasa and Mugabe differ with Mnangagwa and Chinamasa on elections


President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF secretary for external affairs Didymus Mutasa were adamant that there would be no Western observers in the 2005 elections while Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa said this would be decided by an independent election commission.

The disagreements came up as Zimbabwe prepared for its first elections to be held under the Southern African Development Community guidelines for democratic elections.

In his address to the SADC conference Mugabe said that democracy “could not be transplanted from one country to another because each had its own distinct historical, cultural and socio-economic conditions.”

He said elections alone were not sufficient in developing democracy because although they could contribute to conflict resolution, they could also exacerbate conflict.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2004-07-30 10:49

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.


301049Z Jul 04

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 001313









E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/30/2009






1157 (D) HARARE 1067 (E) HARARE 751


Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5 b/d


1. (C) SUMMARY: A proliferation of meetings relating to

election standards in the run-up to next month’s scheduled

SADC summit in part reflects Zimbabwean and regional efforts

to lower domestic and international tensions associated with

Zimbabwe’s political crisis. Central to the effort are draft

“SADC Principles and Guidlines Governing Democratic

Elections”, which draw from a host of other sources. The

latest draft (faxed to AF/S) is very general in terms of

affirmative responsibilities imposed on member governments

and lacks specific prescriptions for correcting gross

imbalances in Zimbabwe’s electoral playing field. END



2. (U) According to press reports, SADC foreign and defense

ministers approved principles for free and fair elections at

a two-day meeting that ended July 23 in Sun City, South

Africa. The document reportedly would be forwarded to heads

of state for adoption at the SADC summit scheduled to be held

next month in Mauritius.


3. (U) The Sun City gathering followed on the heels of the

sixth general meeting of the SADC Election Commission Forum

(ECF) in Victoria Falls earlier that week. In an address to

the conference given front page coverage by the official

media, President Mugabe emphasized that democracy “could not

be transplanted from one country to another because each had

its own distinct historical, cultural and socio-economic

conditions.” He warned against being misled by Western

countries and urged SADC members not to accept foreign funds

for election administration. He reportedly maintained that

elections alone were not sufficient in developing democracy

because although they could contribute to conflict

resolution, they could also exacerbate conflict. “Does

democracy exist when powerful nations seek to influence

political events in our countries by supporting opposition

parties or by deliberately sowing seeds of discontent? Does

unconstitutional regime change constitute a democratic

process?”, he asked the conference. Press reports indicate

that the meeting addressed the possible establishment of a

permanent ECF secretariat to replace the Electoral Institute

of Southern Africa (EISA), a donor-funded body that currently

serves as an interim secretariat.


4. (U) On August 2-3 in Victoria Falls, EISA and the

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) will sponsor a

conference “Regional Initiatives for Electoral Reform in

SADC: Strengthening Democratic Transformation Through

Identified Benchmarks in the Region.” The event is scheduled

to be opened by Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary

Affairs Patrick Chinamasa, with the keynote addresses to be

delivered by Speaker of the Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa and

Speaker of the Lesotho National Assembly Nthloi Motsamai.

The conference program is slated to feature sessions on

electoral processes in the SADC region, existing benchmarks

for elections in the region, best practices, and electoral

reforms. Polchief and USAID Mission Director plan to attend

the EISA/ZESN event.


5. (SBU) We have not seen a copy of the instrument approved

by ministers in Sun City but have obtained a copy of the “2nd

zero draft 9 June 2004″ that we understand served as the

departure point for discussions in Sun City. We are unaware

of significant changes made to the document or of the focal

points of debate there. The draft is notable for the brevity

of obligations placed on member states in the conduct of

elections. In Section Two, members pledge to adhere to seven

“principles”: full participation of the citizens in the

political process; freedom of association; political

tolerance; equal opportunity for all political parties to

access the state media; equal opportunity to exercise the

right to vote and be voted for; independence of the judiciary

and impartiality of the electoral institutions; and voter

education. Section 5.4 commits member states to “safeguard

the human and civil liberties of all citizens including the

freedom of movement, assembly, association, expression, and

campaigning.” The instrument elaborates on obligations and

treatment of election monitors and observers but on its face

only contemplates monitoring/observation by SADC. Indeed,

the document devotes more space to constraints governing

monitoring/observation of elections than it does to member

state obligations in the conduct of elections. The

instrument stands in stark contrast to the SADC-Parliamentary

Forum’s “Norms and Standards for Elections in the SADC

Region”, a much lengthier document that contained much more

detailed prescriptions on how member states were to achieve

free and fair elections. Signed on behalf of Zimbabwe by

Speaker Mnangagwa, the SADC-PF norms and standards have since

been vehemently rejected by the GOZ as an instrument of

neo-colonialists and imperialist puppets (ref E).


6. (C) According to ZESN Chairperson Reginald Matchaba-Hove,

the new SADC principles were drawn from the SADC-PF document,

the Principles of Election Management, Monitoring, and

Observation (PEMMO) instrument adopted by SADC election

commissions last November, and related AU principles. He

indicated that South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania had been

most engaged in the drafting of the new instrument.


7. (C) Matchaba-Hove confirmed that the GOZ had been closely

engaged in the SADC deliberative process. His own

communications with Chinamasa had suggested that the GOZ

wanted to stake out a fairly maximalist position on domestic

electoral reforms in “testing the waters” but intended to

have them align at least nominally with SADC principles. He

said that Mugabe clearly was opposed to reforms, but had been

pushed effectively by SADC counterparts and ZANU-PF

“mavericks”, such as Mnangagwa, Party Secretary for

Information Nathan Shamuyarira, and Politburo member Dumiso

Dabengwa. (Note: These three “mavericks” are all old guard,

but are motivated in part by a desire to reduce Zimbabwe’s

isolation and to counter the influence of younger hard-liners

(i.e. Information Minister Jonathan Moyo) who currently share

Mugabe’s confidence and more repressive inclinations. End



8. (C) According to Matchaba-Hove, both the SADC standards

and Zimbabwe’s reforms were still being worked out. SADC’s

Section Two principles could be expanded further before the

Mauritius Summit. Nonetheless, it was critical that the

benchmarks not be set high enough to scare off the GOZ or

other more reticent members. Better to have a generally

framed document that could be fleshed out and strengthened

over time.


9. (C) As to the GOZ’s proposed electoral reforms,

Matchaba-Hove said they represented meaningful improvements,

althought they did not yet address fundamental issues such as

media access, unobstructed campaigning, and political

violence. Of concern even on their own limited terms, the

electoral reforms did not encompass delimitation, and did not

include mechanisms to assure the true independence of the

election commission. He thought these issues were

negotiable. He urged the USG to be encouraging in its public

assessments of the SADC principles and proposed GOZ electoral

reforms, while recognizing the need to address the

fundamental election environment issues.


10. (C) Matchaba-Hove indicated that the scope of outside

observers was also open for discussion; Chinamasa had told

him it would be decided by the independent election

commission. (Note: This coincides with what Mnangagwa told

us and contradicts suggestions by Mugabe and Politburo member

Didymus Mutasa that the election would be closed to Western

eyes (ref C). End note.) Matchaba-Hove noted that the

likelihood that the proposed reforms would require a

constitutional amendment offered the opposition MDC

potentially significant leverage, which it could exploit to

wrest concessions from the ruling party. (Note: MDC sources

have advised that Chinamasa had approached MDC

Secretary-General to enlist support for



passage/implementation of electoral reforms. End note.)


11. (C) COMMENT: The GOZ and its fellow SADC members share

an interest in regularizing Zimbabwe’s relations with the

outside world. The prospective conduct of Zimbabwe’s

parliamentary election in accordance with SADC standards for

now is a central means to this end — in large part through

an exercise in image management. From the perspective of the

GOZ and its sympathizers in the region, the establishment of

relatively easy benchmarks is crucial: first, to assure GOZ

accession, and next, to offer prospects of an an election

that can be judged somewhat positively, if not completely.

Our assessment continues to be that the ruling party will not

concede anything that will meaningfully reduce its control

over the March election results, notwithstanding its interest

in burnishing its image abroad and in offering SADC cover to

recognize the election results. We recognize some potential

utility in getting the GOZ to accede to a set of meaningful

standards but foresee risk in a scenario that offers the

region cover to approve what is expected to be a sham

election regardless of conformity to some SADC standards. We

would welcome reports from other SADC capitals on host

governments’ objectives, expectations, and engagement on the

SADC election standards and Zimbabwe.


12. (C) COMMENT (CONT’D): The GOZ’s electoral reform

strategy is related to the NGO Bill currently under

discussion (ref B). Some observers characterize the NGO Bill

as the means by which the GOZ would negate any balancing

effect putatively afforded by electoral reforms. In fact,

the NGO Bill conforms to the GOZ’s well-documented

comprehensive effort to hamstring or eliminate all sources of

dissent in the country; the reforms may serve as no more than

window dressing or distraction.   The NGO and diplomatic

communities here are energized and coordinating significantly

on both issues. We understand that they will be engaging

their counterparts in other SADC countries. The NGO Bill has

not been officially released and circulated, so official

comment on it would be premature. However, we will be

working with NGOs, diplomats and the local UNDP office to

convey concern about the apparent direction of events and to

seek to nip the bill’s progress in the bud.



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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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