Tsvangirai said Mugabe will not last another six months


Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai told a visiting United States delegation in December 2002 that President Robert Mugabe would not last another six months.

Just over a decade down the line, they are in government together and Mugabe who is now 89 says he will contest the next elections.

“How can a government function” Tsvangirai asked, “with no foreign exchange, with a worthless currency, and with an inflation rate predicted to rise soon to 500 percent?”

MDC secretary general at the time Welshman Ncube who now leads after faction of the MDC was not optimistic, declaring that those with influence in ZANU-PF were hardliners who were convinced they could run the country “through propaganda”.

“Those in control,” he said, “are simply not interested in dialogue.”

He said that ZANU-PF’s “retribution machine” had kept party moderates toeing the party line.

“ZANU-PF MP’s often agree in private with their colleagues across the aisle, but they are not willing to express that agreement in public because they are afraid of what their own party might do to them.”


Full cable:


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Reference ID






2002-12-17 10:25

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 002805









E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/12/2012





Classified By: political section chief Matt Harrington. Reasons: 1.5 (

B) and (D).





1. (C) Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) President

Morgan Tsvangirai told a visiting staffdel that Zimbabwe

needed a 12-18 month transitional period during which

critical national issues must be resolved to lay the

foundation for a new election and long-term political

stability. He predicted that the Mugabe regime would not be

able to last another six months, given the country’s dramatic

economic decline, but MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube

lamented that those in control in ZANU-PF are unwilling to

engage in dialogue on the way forward, no matter how bad the

economy gets. Ncube implied that the MDC would try to

reverse the damage to commercial agriculture done by the fast

track resettlement program, but said it was politically

unviable to make such a promise publicly. Tsvangirai thought

the international community had done an effective job of

isolating the Mugabe regime, but he urged Kofi Annan and

South African President Thabo Mbeki to become more engaged in

the search for a solution. Ncube was strongly critical of

South Africa, which he said was working actively to undermine

the prospects for democracy in Zimbabwe. End Summary.



Transitional government the way forward?



2. (C) On December 11, members of the Flynn/Chaka staffdel,

joined by the Ambassador and polchief, lunched with MDC

President Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC Secretary-General Welshman

Ncube, and party spokesman Paul Themba-Nyathi. The

Ambassador asked Tsvangirai to elaborate on his recent public

call for a a 12-18 month transitional period leading to a new

presidential election. That was not a new proposal, the MDC

president replied, but was consistent with the party’s

position at the aborted talks with the ruling party brokered

in April and May by Presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo.

Tsvangirai said he had merely “reinforced” that suggestion in



his recent public remarks. A transitional arrangement was

needed, he said, as a “cooling-off” period before a new

election was held, and critical national issues must be

addressed during that period to lay the foundation for

long-term political stability. Asked whether the MDC would

accept President Mugabe in a prominent decision-making role

during the proposed transitional period, Tsvangirai said no,

his retirement was a precondition for the MDC to endorse such

an approach. MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube was less

dismissive, saying this would depend on how Mugabe’s status

was handled during a transitional period. For instance,

Mugabe could keep his title as president, while most of his

decision-making powers could be shifted to the transitional



Economic decline an effective motivator?



3. (C) Asked whether he felt significant time pressure to

forge a political solution, Tsvangirai said there is

tremendous pressure on both sides. He predicted that

Mugabe’s regime would be unable to last another six months.

How can a Government function, he asked, with no foreign

exchange, with a worthless currency, and with an inflation

rate predicted to rise soon to 500 percent? The Ambassador

noted that senior ZANU-PF insiders had made the same 6-month

prediction to him of the GOZ’s demise, if the country

continues on the same path. The main pressure on the current

Government, Tsvangirai asserted, would be exerted by the

dramatic economic decline, a factor which might make the

ruling party more inclined to negotiate. Ncube was not

optimistic, declaring that those with influence in ZANU-PF

are hardliners who are convinced they can run the country

“through propaganda.” Those in control, he said, are simply

not interested in dialogue. He warned that the ruling

party’s infamous “retribution machine” has kept ZANU-PF

moderates toeing the party line. ZANU-PF MP’s often agree in

private with their colleagues across the aisle, but they are

not willing to express that agreement in public because they

are afraid of what their own party might do to them.


Restoring the rule of law



4. (C) Staffdel member Malik Chaka asked whether extra-legal

forces such as the youth militia and war veterans pose a

major obstacle to a restoration of stability. Once the

Government of Zimbabwe withdraws support from such groups,

Ncube replied, they will become irrelevant, and disbanding

them would be one of the top priorities of a transitional

authority. According to Tsvangirai, any transitional

authority also must be able to resolve two delicate issues

relating to the military; how to deal with all the land

allocated to members of the military under the fast track

program, and how to handle the fact that many security

service members have committed atrocities.





5. (C) Asked whether an MDC government would be able to

restore commercial agriculture, Tsvangirai replied that the

first step would be to carry out a comprehensive audit of the

former commercial farming sector. Armed with that

information, the MDC would move to restore property rights

and the right to buy and sell land. The Ambassador pointed

out that, whether one liked it or not, there is a new reality

on commercial farms. Did the MDC plan to formulate a new

policy on land which took into account this new reality?

Ncube insisted that, in every nation that has ever carried

out radical land reform — citing the USSR and Mozambique —

that reform has slowly been reversed over time. It is not

politically viable for the MDC to say that it would reverse

what has been done under the fast track resettlement program

but, realistically, any future government will have to find a

way to restore commercial agriculture. What has happened in

Zimbabwe, Ncube said, is that all the property acquired has

simply been transferred from private ownership to government

ownership, so government has complete control over what

happens to that land.   MDC spokesman Themba-Nyathi remarked

that an additional challenge for a future government would be

to change people’s psychology away from land and toward

poverty eradication. Tsvangirai agreed, saying people were

more interested in jobs than land, and that no country has

ever developed by removing people from industry and sending

them to rural areas to farm.


Role of International Community



6. (C) Tsvangirai said he thought the international

community had played an effective role in increasing pressure

on the Mugabe regime, by not recognizing the legitimacy of

the March 2002 election. He expressed concern, however, that

the EU regularly makes exceptions to the travel ban imposed

on certain GOZ officials. He expressed hope that Kofi Annan

would play a more active role in focusing attention on

Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis and that African countries —

South Africa in particular — would engage more actively in

the search for a solution here. Welshman Ncube was much more

critical of the South African government, which he accused of

working actively to undermine the prospects for democracy in

Zimbabwe. He had particularly harsh words for South African

Foreign Minister Zuma, whom he claimed had been in Europe the

previous week lobbying the European Union not to renew its

targeted sanctions against Zimbabwean officials in February

2003. Themba-Nyathi exprssed concern that such lobbying by

Pretoria might be having an effect, reporting that the

Portuguese ambassador in Harare had recently “dressed down”

two senior MDC legislators when the latter suggested that

President Mugabe should be excluded from next year’s

EU-African Union summit in Lisbon.


7. (C) Asked to describe the MDC’s relations with the

Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Tsvangirai

said COSATU is facing tremendous pressure from the ANC, which

accuses it of being ultra-leftist, “whatever that means.”

The MDC, its leader said, has tried to avoid direct contact

with the ANC and those in coalition with it, and is focusing

more on working to strengthen linkages with South African

churches and civic organizations.





8. (C) As usual, Tsvangirai portrayed himself as a

conciliator committed to achieving change through peaceful,

democratic means. At the same time, his recent public

remarks have become much tougher, stating explicitly that the

MDC can no longer restrain Zimbabweans from expressing their

anger and frustration and pledging the party’s support of

“all peaceful means” to achieve change. In one public

speech, he criticized party supporters for being afraid of

the GOZ’s security forces — telling them to “vomit up their

fear” — and for waiting for him to tell them what to do.

Zimbabwe’s economic decline in the last three weeks alone has

been dramatic — with the fuel shortage becoming critical and

many essential commodities simply disappearing from the

shelves — and raises increasing concerns of civil unrest

that could quickly spiral out of control.


9. (C) Welshman Ncube has in the past criticized what he has

viewed as South Africa’s duplicitous efforts on Zimbabwe, but

this is the most vehement criticism we have heard from him.

We would be interested in learning whether FM Zuma has indeed

been pressing the EU to drop its targeted sanctions against

Zimbabwean officials, and, if so, why.



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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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