Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s former spokesman George Sibotshiwe said he was afraid the Movement for Democratic Change leader might be losing support for failing to make progress on the outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement.
The key issues were the positions of central bank governor Gideon Gono and attorney-general Johannes Tomana and the swearing in of MDC-T treasurer Roy Bennett as deputy Minister of Agriculture and the governors.
He said Tsvangirai was very defensive of the inclusive government because if it failed, Tsvangirai would take it as a personal failure.
Sibotshiwe added: “This government is going to limp on until kingdom come with no progress on democratic reform” until President Robert Mugabe dies or the people become restless enough to take action, which he said was highly unlikely.
He criticised the MDC and Tsvangirai specifically for failing to promote the enfranchisement of the Zimbabwean diaspora in order to capture those votes.
Viewing cable 09PRETORIA1450, A DIASPORA PERSPECTIVE ON ZIMBABWE POLITICAL
P 171536Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9081
INFO AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
AMCONSUL DURBAN PRIORITY
AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG PRIORITY
NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L PRETORIA 001450
DEPT FOR AF/S – BISTAS AND AF/S – WALCHB
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/16/2019
SUBJECT: A DIASPORA PERSPECTIVE ON ZIMBABWE POLITICAL
Classified By: Acting Political Counselor Madeline Q. Seidenstricker.
Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).
¶1. (C) Summary: In a meeting with Poloff on July 15, 2009,
George Sibotshiwe, former spokesman for Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) President Morgan Tsvangirai and a
Zimbabwean national residing in South Africa, provided his
analysis of changing political dynamics in Zimbabwe. He said
Tsvangirai was under heavy criticism from some of the top MDC
leadership for lack of progress on outstanding issues. He
discussed the political strategy of President Robert Mugabe
and his ZANU-PF party to discredit Tsvangirai as an authority
in Zimbabwe. Sibotshiwe had no hope that SADC would
intervene to enforce compliance with the Global Political
Agreement to improve the political situation, but thought
SADC might be influenced to address the economic crisis,
which could be used to bring about results on the political
front. End summary.
TSVANGIRAI LOSING SUPPORT?
¶2. (C) Sibotshiwe worried that Tsvangirai could be losing
political support. He said participants at the MDC Caucus
meeting on July 13 were “very angry” with Tsvangirai for
failing to make progress on the outstanding issues, e.g.
positions of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney
General Johannes Tomana and swearing in of Agriculture Deputy
Minister-designate Roy Bennett and governors. He said
Tsvangirai is very defensive of the inclusive government
because if it failed, Tsvangirai would take it as a personal
failure. Sibotshiwe added, “This government is going to limp
on until kingdom come with no progress on democratic reform”
until President Robert Mugabe dies or the people become
restless enough to take acton, which he said was highly
unlikely. Sibotshiwe predicts that Tsvangirai will lose
30-35 percent of his votes by next June if emigration trends
continue at current rates. He criticized the MDC and
Tsvangirai specifically for failing to promote the
enfranchisement of the Zimbabwean diaspora in order to
capture those votes.
MUGABE STILL IN CONTROL
¶3. (C) Sibotshiwe perceives Mugabe’s storming out of the
meeting with Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson on the
margins of the African Union Summit as a strategy to
undermine Tsvangirai’s perceived authority days after
Tsvangirai met with President Obama and European leaders. In
Sibotshiwe’s view, Mugabe sent the message that regardless of
Tsvangirai’s standing on the international stage, he has no
control in Zimbabwe. He added, “Tsvangirai was given power
in theory by the Global Political Agreement, but not power in
¶4. (C) Sibotshiwe also commented on ZANU-PF political
dynamics. He recently launched the African Democratic
Institute (ADI) with headquarters in Johannesburg and through
which he conducts democratic development activities in
Zimbabwe (more information septel). Through ADI’s work in
Matabeleland, Sibotshiwe learned that there has been a
genuine split in ZANU-PF. He said all of the ZANU-PF party
structures there had converted to ZAPU. He said this
occurred about 2 1/2 months ago when ZAPU re-emerged with an
active, although not strong, presence on the ground.
SADC DONE WITH POLITICAL CRISIS IN ZIMBABWE
¶5. (C) Sibotshiwe said his contacts in President Jacob Zuma’s
office told him they were waiting for South Africa’s term as
Southern African Development Community (SADC) Chair to expire
and let the next chair deal with Zimbabwe. Sibotshiwe said,
“SADC is not going to solve (the problems in Zimbabwe)”
because the region’s leaders think they have resolved the
political crisis. Sibotshiwe claimed that Tanzanian
President Jakaya Kikwete told him, “The problem is solved.”
He said South African officials had told top MDC leaders to
“deal with it” and compared negotiations with Mugabe to the
ANC’s negotiations with former South African President F.W.
de Klerk. Sibotshiwe does think, however, that SADC could be
convinced to get more involved in addressing the economic
crisis in Zimbabwe in order to bolster stability in the
SOUTH AFRICA POSSIBLY MORE HELPFUL UNDER ZUMA
¶6. (C) Sibotshiwe suggested the U.S. engage with South Africa
on providing solutions to the economic crisis in Zimbabwe by
offering to tie specific assistance to specific benchmarks.
He believes South Africa under Zuma’s leadership may be
willing to broker a deal to get Mugabe’s cooperation.
Sibotshiwe said since Zuma came into power, the South African
Government (SAG) has been more responsive to his requests,
adding that his greatest success has come by channeling his
requests through the Congress of South African Trade Unions
(COSATU). For example, he said he complained to COSATU about
its and the SAG’s lack of action on illegal diamond mining.
Within days COSATU issued a statement on the subject and a
Kimberley Process group went to Zimbabwe to investigate,
which Sibotshiwe believes the SAG put in motion in response
to COSATU’s interventions. He lamented that MDC had
neglected COSATU and the relationship was “not good.” He
added that his dealings with COSATU were as an interested
individual, not representing MDC.
¶7. (C) Comment: Sibotshiwe has lost influence within the MDC
and is no longer in Tsvangirai’s inner circle. While he has
voiced strong criticism of Tsvangirai’s tactics in private,
his agenda is to promote democracy and not to undermine
Tsvangirai’s support. Sibotshiwe purposely has kept a low
profile in carrying out ADI activities, such as work with the
National Constitutional Assembly on the people-driven
¶8. (C) Sibotshiwe is a good example of the interest level and
involvement of the Zimbabwe diaspora in what is happening on
the ground in their home country. While most diaspora in
South Africa do not have Sibotshiwe’s level of access to key
political players and resources, average Zimbabweans here are
observing events in Zimbabwe with great interest and take
every opportunity to comment via radio, newspapers, civil
society organizations and other venues. End comment.