SA ambassador said Mugabe told Annan he was ready to step down


South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Jeremiah Ndou told United States ambassador Joseph Sullivan on 27 October 2003 that President Robert Mugabe had told United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan that he was “ready to leave office soon” but backtracked because of internal ZANU-PF differences over his succession.

At the time ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change were negotiating a settlement that could see a transitional government being established before fresh presidential elections.

Ndou said John Nkomo was a positive influence for dialogue but Jonathan Moyo and others were seeking to undermine any agreement reached.

He said that ZANU-PF was so top-driven that no change in party leadership would occur without clear direction from Mugabe.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2003-10-28 13:43

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.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 002141






E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/28/2013






Classified By: Joseph G. Sullivan for Reasons 1.5B/D


1. (C) Summary: South African High Commissioner Jeremiah Ndou

told the Ambassador Oct 27 that dialogue/negotiations between

ZANU/PF and the MDC had progressed well on both

constitutional as well as transitional arrangements. He said

that there had been some recent backsliding by ZANU-PF,

however, and that President Mbeki would likely call Mugabe to

press for completing the dialogue. Ndou said he expected an

eventual agreement to settle for advancing the presidential

election to 2005, coincident with parliamentary elections;

leaving Mugabe as president with reduced powers; and

installing a transitional authority with MDC presence to

oversee electoral law revisions and other changes. Ndou,

however, acknowledged that the lack of a clear succession

process within ZANU-PF was delaying progress. To Ndou’s

question, the Ambassador said that we were pleased that

President Mbeki had taken responsibility for finding a speedy

resolution to the crisis in Zimbabwe. End Summary


2. (SBU) HC Ndou had to change the venue of the meeting

because about four thousand Zimbabwean visa seekers were

constantly present outside the SAG High Commission offices.

He noted the growing impact of Zimbabweans in South

Africa which made resolution of Zimbabwe’s crisis more urgent.


3.(C) Ndou said that Mugabe had recently told UN SYG Annan

that he was ready to leave office soon. Ndou said that

considerable progress had been made in talks between ZANU-PF

and MDC with virtual agreement on a new constitution to be

adopted either by parliamentary vote or a referendum. He also

said, as had the MDC(reftel) that the principal difference

now was over when new presidential elections should be held.

But unlike the MDC, Ndou claimed there was virtual agreement

on the shape of a transitional authority to govern Zimbabwe

until new elections. Ndou said that presidential powers

would be sharply reduced under a new constitution and a

transitional authority would be established, similar to that

which prevailed in South Africa in the period before majority

rule elections. Ndou said that the MDC would have

representation in all important ministries in the period

leading up to new elections. Ndou did not call this a

national unity government, but instead the necessary

opposition presence in a transitional authority to assure

that election rule reform and other changes were carried out

properly. He thought the most likely agreed date for new

presidential elections was 2005, since it would take at least

nine months and maybe more to organize a free election.


4. (C) Ndou said that the progress made so far toward

agreement was now threatened by recent signs of Mugabe

backing away from what had been agreed, apparently because of

internal ZANU-PF differences over the succession. Ndou

called Minister John Nkomo a positive influence for dialogue,

but pointed to Jonathan Moyo and others as seeking to

undermine any agreement reached, since they were opponents of

change. Ndou lamented that ZANU-PF was so top-driven that no

change in party leadership would occur without clear

direction from Mugabe. He said that President Mbeki would

likely have to call Mugabe to press the process forward. He

did not think Mbeki would travel to Zimbabwe at this time,



5.(C) Ndou also lamented GOZ actions to close the “Daily

News” and keep it closed, notwithstanding the administrative

court ruling in its favor. Ndou had hoped that the

Government might take advantage of the court ruling to back

away from a confrontation which was costing it

internationally. Ndou said that instead Jonathan Moyo had

been able to enlist the police and the President in his

efforts to keep the “Daily News” shut regardless of court

rulings. We have heard that Mugabe had promised South

African Vice President Zuma to “let the law take its course”

with respect to the “Daily News.” Comment: Apparently, that

promise only applies to cases where the court rules in the

Government’s favor. End Comment.


6. (C) Ndou asked the Ambassador about the US position. The

Ambassador said that we were pleased that President Mbeki had

committed to resolving the Zimbabwean crisis on an urgent

basis and hoped that this would happen quickly before more

damage was done to the country and the region. The Ambassador

also said that we would be wary of any arrangement which kept

Mugabe in the presidency and that significant financial

assistance and a new agreement with the IMF and the World

Bank would be unlikely until there was an elected government.


7. (C) Comment: We are not sure whether the MDC or South

African version of the extent of agreement between the

parties on transitional arrangements is more correct. Each

has reason to overstate its case. It remains to be seen

whether Mugabe and ZANU-PF have been at all sincere or are

merely playing for time. It is Mbeki who is in the best

position to call their cards.


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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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