South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Jeremiah Ndou said South African President Thabo Mbeki had found President Robert Mugabe well versed with details of the informal talks that were taking place between his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change.
This was in stark contrast to Mugabe’s public statement that he was not well informed about such discussions.
Ndou said that principal issues to be resolved were how to approve a new constitution, by parliamentary vote or referendum, when joint presidential and parliamentary elections should be held, what transitional mechanisms should be put in place, and how election preparations, such as selection of an independent election commission should be chosen.
Viewing cable 04HARARE41, SOUTH AFRICAN AMBASSADOR HOPES FOR EARLY PROGRESS
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 02 HARARE 000041
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/08/2013
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICAN AMBASSADOR HOPES FOR EARLY PROGRESS
REF: 03 HARARE 2443
Classified By: Joseph G. Sullivan for reasons 1.5(b) and (d)
¶1. Summary: South African Ambassador Ndou presented a
positive description of possibilities for progress toward
resolution of Zimbabwe’s political crisis based on President
Mbeki’s Dec 18 visit. Ndou believed the next steps were for
ZANU/PF and MDC negotiators to finalize their discussions on
the constitution and transitional mechanisms to ratify the
constitution and agree on transitional mechanisms to hold
simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections in
¶2005. End summary.
2.(C) South African Ambassador (formerly High Commissioner)
Jeremiah Ndou offered the Ambassador, Jan 8, a predictably
positive description of possibilities for expedited progress
toward resolution of Zimbabwe’s political crisis. He said
that President Mbeki had found President Mugabe very well
versed on the details of informal talks between ZANU
negotiator Patrick Chinamasa and MDC negotiator Welshman
Ncube over a new constitution, notwithstanding Mugabe’s
public statement that he was not well informed about such
discussions. Ndou thought that Mugabe’s absence for a
month-long working vacation in Asia should not impede
progress since Mugabe had called in Chinamasa and other
ZANU-PF negotiators after his meeting with Mbeki to give them
clear instructions. Ndou said that principal issues to be
resolved were how to approve a new constitution, by
parliamentary vote or referendum, when joint presidential and
parliamentary elections should be held, what transitional
mechanisms should be put in place, and how election
preparations, such as selection of an independent election
commission should be chosen. Mugabe had cited March as the
traditional month for parliamentary elections, excluding the
year 2000, and asked whether election preparations would be
able to be put in place by March, 2005, Ndou acknowledged
that election preparations steps could have been taken over
the past several months if ZANU-PF had been willing to
finalize the negotiations earlier, but he was inclined to
excuse ZANU-PF delay due to distractions of the Commonwealth
meeting and the ZANU-PF Conference rather than attribute it
to bad faith. Chinamasa and Ncube would also be expected
to negotiate an agenda and terms for initiation of a formal
¶3. (C) Ndou said that President Mbeki had not rased directly
during his visit the delicate issue of precisely when Mugabe
would leave nor the “environmental issues of dismantlement of
youth brigades, respect for judicial decisions permitting
reopening of the “Daily News”, nor revision of the repressive
public order and media legislation. Ndou said that Mbeki had
chosen to focus on the core issue of agreement on a
constitution and a presidential and parliamentary election.
Ndou acknowledged that Mugabe had failed to fulfill prior
commitments to revise repressive POSA and AIPPA legislation,
since revisions only made legislation worse.
¶4. (C) Ndou said that he would be responsible for follow-up
with the parties, but acknowledged that he had no indication
of progress since Mbeki’s visit and that Chinamasa would only
be returning to Harare this next week. He said that Mbeki
would call Mugabe as necessary and would visit if required.
¶5. (C) Ndou said that he believed it would be important to
have the next election conducted, not just observed, by the
United Nations or the African Union to assure its
credibility. He also suggested international supervision of
the media during the pre-election period. (It was not clear
here whether these were set SAG positions, but we do not
believe they have yet been proposed to the GOZ.) Ndou
acknowledged that there would be Government resistance to
such an idea on the basis of national sovereignty, but
thought that the recent request from Justice Minister
Chinamasa for UN assistance with 2005 parliamentary elections
provided an entry point. Ndou was clear that current GOZ
election mechanisms were inadequate and must be changed. He
also stressed the need to find a means to agree on how to
choose and constitute an independent election commission, as
provided in the new draft constitution.
¶6. (C) On a separate issue, Ndou said that previously
discussed South African food assistance to Zimbabwe was now
less likely in view of drought conditions in South Africa.
He noted his observation that this year’s poor plantings
assured that current crop production would also be poor.
¶7. (C) Comment: Ndou had to be upbeat in view of President
Mbeki’s stake in the success of his quiet diplomacy.
However, Ndou’s description of Mugabe’s commitments to Mbeki
gives a bit more room for hope that progress might be made in
the context of 2005 elections. But Mugabe’s failure to
fulfill previous commitments to Mbeki on repressive POSA and
AIPPA legislation as well as his continued playing for time
on an election date raise serious questions. We come to the
same conclusion as in last month’s reftel that meaningful
engagement by ZANU-PF will require sustained and perhaps more
forceful pressure by Mbeki.
¶8. (C) The UNresrep has treated the GOZ request for election
assistance with kid gloves in view of GOZ past and present
conduct of elections. We intend to discuss further with
resrep the potential of a somewhat more activist UN response
which could have the effect of adding to pressure for free
and fair elections.