Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara had agreed to handle the issue of sanctions personally because President Robert Mugabe had introduced a new tactic of reciprocity.
He told diplomats that Mugabe was now asking: “What’s in this for us?”
If the Movement for Democratic Change got governorships, Mugabe asked, why can’t the sanctions against ZANU-PF be lifted?
Tsvangirai said he and Mutambara would take the diplomatic lead on the sanctions issue and had decided to take it out of the hands of the negotiators and handle it personally.
If necessary, they were going to quietly meet with Western leadership to develop a plan on the issue of sanctions.
“What is needed is some kind of concrete roadmap that all can agree on, linking easing of sanctions with identifiable and quantifiable progress,” he said.
Viewing cable 09HARARE1004, TSVANGIRAI ASKS THE WEST FOR HELP ON CHANGING THE
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Thursday, 24 December 2009, 08:26
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001004
DEPT FOR ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON, DAS PAGE, AND AF/S
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR MICHELLE GAVIN
EO 12958 DECL: 12/24/2019
TAGS PREL, PGOV, PHUM, ASEC, ZI
SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI ASKS THE WEST FOR HELP ON CHANGING THE
REF: HARARE 987
Classified By: AMBASSADOR CHARLES A. RAY FOR REASONS 1.4 B,D
¶1. (SBU) This cable includes an ACTION REQUEST, please see paragraph 8.
¶2. (C) SUMMARY: Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said that while there was tremendous progress in 2009 as compared to 2008, Zimbabwe and its coalition government still faces challenges. Reforms must be implemented quickly, and there has been some progress, though none that affects the ZANU-PF power structure. Implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) has been slow and Mugabe has been using delay to maintain control. In 2010 there must be some progress to show the people, but it will require actions by all parties, including the Western powers, to change the status quo. He expects the recently announced commissions to be installed in early 2010, and is satisfied with their makeup. ZANU-PF has implemented a strategy of reciprocity in the negotiations, using Western sanctions as a cudgel against MDC. He would like to see some quiet moves, provided there are acceptable benchmarks, to ‘give’ some modest reward for modest progress.
¶3. (C) Ambassadors of the U.S., UK, French, and the Netherlands, and a representative of the EU were called to PM Tsvangirai’s residence at 0730 on December 24 for an update briefing on the current discussions among the principals in the coalition government and a request from him for some flexibility on the part of the West on the issue of sanctions. He said that there has been tremendous progress in restoring confidence of the people in government in 2009 as compared to 2008. The people generally endorse the government, but the future holds both opportunities and challenges. The principal challenge is how to quickly embark on reforms. There has been a little progress on that front, but not what was expected. Implementation of the GPA has been too slow, and he is not satisfied with it. ZANU-PF has been using delay on the GPA to maintain control. The negotiators have held 11 meetings up until the end of the year. On the issues of media, land, and corruption, there has been some progress, but none of it touches on the power structure. On the three stickiest issues, Gono, Tomana, and Bennett, there has been no progress. He is hopeful, however, that if some progress can be made on other issues, these too will be settled.
¶4. (C) ZANU-PF seems to have introduced a new tactic in its agenda – reciprocity. What this means, he said, is that Mugabe is asking, “What’s in this for us?” If MDC gets governorships, Mugabe asks, why can’t the sanctions against ZANU-PF be lifted? Tsvangirai said that it seems that Mugabe plans to use the governors as a trade-off against sanctions. He said he has repeatedly told Mugabe that MDC has no control over sanctions. But, he added, lack of any flexibility on the issue of sanctions poses a problem for him and his party. In this he assured us that Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Q In this he assured us that Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara is in full agreement with him. He also acknowledged that his public statements calling for easing of sanctions versus his private conversations saying they must be kept in place have caused problems.
¶5. (C) Tsvangirai said the challenges for 2010 are:
– Get the reforms moving on the constitutional process. – Open media space, national healing, and anti-corruption. – Prepare for elections in 2011. – Move from economic stability to growth. – Deal with human rights violations.
He said the coalition government must expedite action in all these areas because, not only are Western governments watching, but the people of Zimbabwe will expect improvement. He said Security Sector Reform will take center stage in
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2010, using a multilateral approach involving all parties here and SADC. In early 2010, Tsvangirai and Mutambara will take the diplomatic lead on the sanctions issue. The question before us, Tsvangirai said, is how to start moving on rewarding progress without giving the impression we are rewarding lack of progress or bad behavior. We need to establish acceptable benchmarks of progress, and determine what each involved party needs to do to change the status quo. If necessary, he said, he and Mutambara can quietly meet with Western leadership to develop a plan on the issue of sanctions. He said that he and Mutambara have decided to take this issue out of the hands of the negotiators and handle it personally. What is needed is some kind of concrete roadmap that all can agree on, linking easing of sanctions with identifiable and quantifiable progress.
¶6. (C) Tsvangirai wants to go to Mugabe after the negotiators deliver their final report on January 15, 2010, with some idea of what the Western position is on sanctions. He said that in order to change the status quo, all parties might have to take some risks, because maintaining the status quo only guarantees continued stalemate in the reform process. Economic recovery and democratic reform are the essential requirements in Zimbabwe right now. The 2011 elections are a critical goal as well. Winning the election, he said, is not the problem, but a peaceful transfer of power is. The recently announced commissions will be installed early in 2010, he said, and he is satisfied with their makeup. The heads of the Media and Electoral Commissions are honest men who he believes will put the interests of the country first. His goal is to have the Electoral Commission hire its own staff and be independent. The key is to wrest control from the Securocrats.
¶7. (C) On the subject of Mugabe himself, Tsvangirai said that in his recent meetings, though Mugabe seems mentally acute, he appears old and very tired. He comes to many meetings unbriefed and unaware of the content. It appears that he is being managed by hardliners. Tsvangirai said his goal now is to find a way to ‘manage’ Mugabe himself. One way, perhaps, would be to give him something to give his hardliners. Precisely what that something is, he said, is something he is still wrestling with.
¶8. (C) COMMENT AND ACTION REQUEST. We are skeptical of Mugabe’s motives, and worried a bit at what appears to be naivete on Tsvangirai’s part. However, we believe that in one area he is correct: changing the status quo here will require some risk taking on everyone’s part. As we’ve previously discussed (reftel), we think it might be in USG interests to consider some form of incremental easing of non-personal sanctions, provided we see actual implementation of some of these reforms. Post would appreciate Washington’s view on what would be acceptable benchmarks, and possible moves on our part. We also request guidance on what to tell Qmoves on our part. We also request guidance on what to tell Tsvangirai at our next meeting, which is expected early in the New Year. END COMMENT AND ACTION REQUEST.