No one believed that the Movement for Democratic Change would defeat President Robert Mugabe in the 2008 elections so everyone was frantically trying to set up coalitions to beat Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front.
According to one of the cables released by Wikileaks, there was a lot of speculation that disgruntled members of ZANU-PF, especially from the Solomon Mujuru faction, would team up with the MDC but the question of who was going to lead the coalition always lingered.
The diplomatic community was therefore sent off the rails when Simba Makoni who had been touted as one of the potential challengers, and was allegedly being sponsored by Mujuru, allegedly said he was not going to leave ZANU-PF after a purported meeting with Mugabe on 22 January 2008.
Dabengwa was pushed in as the challenger but some members of the MDC said he was a non-starter because he had lost previous elections in Bulawayo.
Idasa analyst Sydney Masamvu poured water over Makoni’s endorsement by Mujuru saying he had met Mujuru in South Africa and he had been cool to Makoni because he had no base and was not a strong leader.
Masamvu, however, said Mujuru was supportive of Dabengwa and said he had been discussing with him the possibility of an electoral challenge.
Viewing cable 08HARARE71, ZIMBABWE ELECTION UPDATE: MAKONI A NON-STARTER
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STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/24/2018
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE ELECTION UPDATE: MAKONI A NON-STARTER
REF: A. HARARE 45
¶B. HARARE 16
¶C. PRETORIA 139
Classified By: Amb. James D. McGee for reasons 1.4 (d)
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Simba Makoni took himself out of the
electoral mix on January 22 by pledging loyalty to President
Mugabe. Focus has now shifted to Dumiso Dabengwa, a ZANU-PF
Politburo member who has for some time opposed Mugabe within
the party. Interest in Makoni and now Dabengwa results from
a widespread belief that the MDC cannot defeat Mugabe on its
own. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) According to several Embassy sources, Simba Makoni on
January 22 met with President Mugabe and assured him he would
not be part of a ZANU-PF splinter group opposing Mugabe or
part of a coalition with the MDC. With almost all analysts
agreeing the MDC has little chance in an election against
ZANU-PF and Mugabe, Makoni had been seen as a moderate
ZANU-PF voice who, with the backing of Solomon Mujuru and an
alliance with the MDC, could have posed an electoral threat
to Mugabe. Makoni had long been seen as lacking political
courage, however, and his decision to remain in ZANU-PF with
Mugabe appears to confirm that perception.
¶3. (C) The fevered speculation about Makoni in the last
several weeks was the result both of a lack of confidence in
the MDC and the hope that there was a leader who, perhaps in
alliance with the MDC, could challenge Mugabe. The focus has
now shifted to Dumiso Dabengwa (Ref A). Dabengwa is an ally
of Solomon Mujuru. According to our sources, Mujuru and
Dabengwa plotted a challenge to Mugabe at the ZANU-PF
Congress in December. They had lined up support from six of
the ten provinces and were planning to have Dabengwa’s name
placed in nomination. Mugabe learned of the plan and,
through Emmerson Mnangagwa who was in charge of the Congress,
manipulated the rules to establish a pre-set agenda with no
nominations. The challenge, therefore, never took place.
¶4. (C) Sidney Masamvu of IDASA spoke with Mujuru last week
in South Africa. He told us Mujuru was cool to a Makoni
candidacy–Makoni had no base and he did not think he was a
strong leader–but said he would be supportive of Dabengwa
and had been discussing with Dabengwa a possible electoral
¶5. (C) Several MDC Tsvangirai faction members have told us
they are skeptical Dabengwa would bring much to the
opposition. They point to the fact that he lost his bid for
a parliamentary seat in Matabeleland in 2005. Others,
however, including MDC members of the Mutambara faction (Ref
A) believe Dabengwa could be a potent force in conjunction
with the MDC and Mujuru, helping to solidify Matabeleland and
to gain votes in Mashonaland. They also note that he brings
liberation credentials to the table and could partially
liberate the MDC from charges that it is a tool of the West.
Jonathan Moyo averred to us that Dabengwa is one of four
people, along with Mnangagwa, Mujuru, and Joseph Msika whose
defection would exert a shock on ZANU-PF.
¶6. (C) COMMENT: A Dabengwa-Mujuru-MDC coalition would
present issues of who would lead–Dabengwa or Tsvangirai–and
would Mujuru-Dabengwa followers support a largely MDC
coalition (and vice versa). In the end, this may just be the
flavor of the month, as with the Makoni infatuation, driven
by a general feeling that the MDC cannot defeat Mugabe on its
own. But for now, Dabengwa is generating considerable
conversation. END COMMENT.