Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika wanted to open dialogue with President Robert Mugabe because he was concerned about the impact of the economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe on Malawi.
His Foreign Affairs Minister George Chagonda told diplomats in Malawi that Mutharika was to take advantage of his visit to Harare to open the 2004 Agricultural Show to discreetly meet Mugabe “to open a behind-the scenes dialogue”.
Malawi was concerned because Zimbabwe was its second largest trading partner and it was home to many Malawians.
Viewing cable 04LILONGWE823, MUTHARIKA TO “OPEN DIALOGUE” WITH MUGABE
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 LILONGWE 000823
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/24/2014
SUBJECT: MUTHARIKA TO “OPEN DIALOGUE” WITH MUGABE
Classified By: Pol/Econ Officer Peter W. Lord, reasons 1.5 (b/d).
¶1. (C) President Bingu wa Mutharika plans “to open a
behind-the-scenes dialogue” with Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe during a August 26-28 trip to Zimbabwe. Mutharika,
who will be in Zimbabwe to attend the annual Agricultural
Society Show on August 27, is “concerned” about the situation
in Zimbabwe because of its impact on Malawi, and he hopes to
help “promote peace and security in SADC” through re-newed
discussions. During his short visit, Mutharika has no plans
to meet with members of the opposition. Minister of Foreign
Affairs George Chaponda, who called the Western Heads of
Mission together on August 23, said Mutharika wanted to
explain his intention to meet with Mugabe to prevent any
misunderstandings. END SUMMARY.
BRIEFING WESTERN MISSIONS ON MUTHARIKA’S INTEREST IN ZIM
¶2. (C) Minister of Foreign Affairs George Chaponda, flanked
by newly-appointed MFA PS Lucius Chikuni and Secretary to the
President and Cabinet Bright Msaka, told the Heads of Mission
from the British, French, German, European Union, and
American Missions at a meeting on August 23 that President
Bingu wa Mutharika will discreetly meet with Zimbabwean
President Robert Mugabe during an August 26-28 visit to
Zimbabwe. According to Chaponda, Mutharika, who will attend
the annual Agricultural Society Show in Harare on August 27,
set the private meeting with Mugabe during the recent SADC
Heads of State Conference in Mauritius because Mutharika
wanted “to open a behind-the-scenes dialogue” with Mugabe.
¶3. (C) Chaponda said the GOM, like the respective Western
nations assembled at the meeting, is “concerned” about the
situation in Zimbabwe. Chaponda noted the issues in Zimbabwe
have on impact on Malawi because Zimbabwe is Malawi’s second
largest trading partner and is home to many Malawians.
Chaponda said Mutharika’s interest to engage with Mugabe is
because Mutharika thinks that Malawi, as a member of SADC,
has a role to play in the region’s peace and security.
¶4. (C) According to Chaponda, Mutharika wanted to explain his
plans to open discussions with Mugabe so that there was no
misunderstanding about his intentions. Chaponda also
carefully noted that this initiative, although not entirely,
was in response to demarches the UK and later the UK and EU
recently gave regarding Zimbabwe. Refering to Malawi’s
previous initiatives, Msaka commented that engagement with
Zimbabwe had waned since the December 2003 Commonwealth Heads
of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja and that Mutharika’s
meeting would be a way of re-opening the regional dialogue
former President Bakili Muluzi began. Chaponda said
Mutharika has no plans to meet with members of the opposition.
¶5. (C) The GOM has long been an advocate of behind-the-scenes
dialogue with Zimbabwe, and, with the dust of the elections
settling, Mutharika seems keen to pick up where Muluzi left
off. While we do not anticipate much will come of this
initial meeting, it is possible that Mutharika will later
become an effective avenue of communication.