United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray says Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change lacks strategic vision because its secretary general Tendai Biti has more than a full-time job as Minister of Finance and has insufficient time to devote to his party job.
In a cable just released by Wikileaks which he dispatched on 17 December 2009 shortly after meeting Biti, Ray said Biti was impressive in his exposition of current political and economic dynamics.
“While Tsvangirai may be the most popular politician in Zimbabwe and the spiritual head of the MDC-T, Biti is head and shoulders above anyone else in the party in his analysis and strategic view,” he said.
“But he has more than a full-time job as Minister of Finance and has insufficient time to devote to his other job as MDC-T Secretary General. In this regard, it continues to be obvious that the MDC lacks strategic vision.
“With “disengagement’ from ZANU-PF in November, MDC-T played its only trump card and it has no Plan B if ZANU-PF refuses to make concessions on the GPA.”
Biti had just trashed the just-ended Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front congress which had seen Mugabe re-elected president with John Nkomo as second vice-president.
Biti described the congress as a “charade of mendacity”.
“An 86-year-old man swearing in a 75-year-old man is a disaster,” he said.
Biti said Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sidelined by the Congress, had more support within the party than Joice Mujuru. But Mujuru had more support than Mnangagwa nationally, and both were “unelectable” in a national presidential election.
Newly elevated Party Chairman Simon Moyo “couldn’t win an election in a bar.”
But Biti was not celebrating the disarray in ZANU-PF and said instead: “I think we’re in trouble” because while the leadership vacuum persists, it would be even more difficult for Mugabe to abide by the terms of last year’s Global Political Agreement.
The political paralysis within ZANU-PF created conditions for “military opportunism”, he added.
Viewing cable 09HARARE987, BITI ON STATE OF PLAY IN ZIMBABWE
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STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/17/2019
SUBJECT: BITI ON STATE OF PLAY IN ZIMBABWE
REF: A. HARARE 941
¶B. HARARE 886
¶C. HARARE 959
Classified By: Ambassador Charles A. Ray for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d).
¶1. (U) This message includes an action request. See para 13.
¶2. (C) ZANU-PF is a party in disarray, according to Minister
of Finance and MDC-T Secretary General Tendai Biti.
As a consequence, Mugabe will find it more difficult to
comply with the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and a window
is opened for the military. The MDC recognizes the
importance of security sector reform but does not yet have a
plan for engaging with the military. GPA negotiations are
deadlocked. The current South African team is a marked
improvement on the former Mbeki team, but is naive and does
not clearly understand ZANU-PF. If the MDC cannot make
progress in resolving GPA issues, it will appeal to SADC to
create a framework for elections.
¶3. (C) The U.S. should adopt a more strategic and flexible
policy toward Zimbabwe. The MDC is making progress and the
U.S. should recognize this. Adjustment of sanctions and
indirect budgetary support are suggested responses.
¶4. (C) Revenues are up and should cover recurrent expenses.
Biti hopes to avoid using special drawing rights for
investment programs, but this would be made easier by donor
commitments to fund infrastructure projects. Reserve Bank
of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono is increasingly unpopular
within ZANU-PF. While his departure may not be imminent, he
more likely to go than Attorney General Johannes Tomana. END
¶5. (SBU) The Ambassador called on Biti on December 16 at the
Ministry of Finance.
“I THINK WE’RE IN TROUBLE”
¶6. (C) The Ambassador initiated the meeting by asking Biti
generally how he viewed the current situation. Biti
responded by first addressing last week’s ZANU-PF Congress,
which he described as a “charade of mendacity.” The party
was unable to resolve the internal struggle over succession.
Referring to the selection of John Nkomo as a party
vice-president, Biti said, “An 86-year-old man swearing in a
75-year-old man is a disaster.” Since there were no proper
elections to senior party posts, “Lots of people in the
provinces have huge axes to grind.” Emmerson Mnangagwa, who
was sidelined by the Congress, had more support within the
party than Joice Mujuru. But Mujuru had more support than
Mnangagwa nationally, and both were “unelectable” in a
national presidential election. Newly elevated Party
Chairman Simon Moyo “couldn’t win an election in a bar.”
¶7. (C) Far from celebrating the disarray within Mugabe’s
party, Biti said, “I think we’re in trouble.” While the
leadership vacuum persists, it would be even more difficult
for Mugabe to abide by the terms of last year’s Global
Political Agreement (GPA). Even worse, the political
paralysis within ZANU-PF created conditions for “military
opportunism.” Biti said it was no accident that senior
military figures were visible participants in the party
No Plan for Security Sector Reform
QNo Plan for Security Sector Reform
HARARE 00000987 002 OF 004
¶8. (C) Biti acknowledged the importance of security sector
reform, particularly a plan to marginalize the securocrats.
It was more important to deal with them, in his opinion, than
with Mugabe. “We are negotiating with the wrong people,”
Biti said. Freedom from prosecution and financial security
were essential if the top-level securocrats were to step
down. He said some efforts had been made by MDC-T to speak
with them, but he admitted MDC-T had no strategic plan for
engagement. We asked whether, in light of the fact that
MDC-T had no liberation war veterans to serve as
interlocutors with the ZANU-PF generals, the South African
negotiators could undertake this task. Biti demurred. The
South Africans did not sufficiently understand the
political-military dynamic in Zimbabwe. MDC-T would have to
find a way of dealing directly with the securocrats.
DEADLOCK IN GPA TALKS
¶9. (C) Biti (one of the MDC-T negotiators) said negotiations
between ZANU-PF and the MDC factions were deadlocked on key
issues. Nearly two weeks after the December 5 deadline set
by leaders of the Southern African Development Community
(SADC), the parties had not found a way forward on Mugabe’s
unilateral appointments of the Attorney General and Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Mugabe’s refusal to make Roy
Bennett a deputy minister, and appointment of MDC candidates
as provincial governors. Each of these issues had been part
of the SADC-brokered settlement that brought the MDC into
Mugabe’s government, but “Mugabe doesn’t want to implement
the agreement,” Biti said. He added, “We need to bring these
negotiations to an end as soon as possible. I’m tired.”
¶10. (C) If the parties cannot resolve the deadlock through
the current SADC Troika mediation led by South African
President Jacob Zuma, Biti said the next step should be a
SADC summit that creates a framework for new elections. SADC
would need to make provisions for security and also
explicitly address the prospect of an election leading to a
transfer of power. With or without SADC, Biti added, the way
forward must include “black and white” deadlines on
constitutional reform and preparations for elections. (NOTE:
GPA principals Mugabe, Tsvangirai, and Mutambara are set to
meet on December 21 in Harare to announce progress; Biti
thought the only item resolved by then would be the
membership of commissions. END NOTE.)
¶11. (C) Biti said the team of facilitators Zuma sent to the
negotiations was “a breath of fresh air.” The new South
African team was a big improvement over Thabo Mbeki’s
representatives, whom Biti described as “conniving little
idiots” who were frequently spotted having private
discussions with ZANU-PF officials and MDC-M negotiator
Welshman Ncube. The new team was “forthright,” Biti said,
but “they still have a lot of naivete, especially Lindiwe
Zulu” (Zuma’s international relations advisor), and do not
clearly understand ZANU-PF and how to deal with it.
“WAIT AND SEE” SANCTIONS WON’T WORK
¶12. (C) As in previous meetings, Biti said he hoped the USG
Q12. (C) As in previous meetings, Biti said he hoped the USG
could adjust elements of its sanctions regime for Zimbabwe.
Restoration of voting rights at the International Monetary
Fund would be a positive step. Biti also argued that some
state-owned enterprises should no longer be listed as
specially designated nationals (SDNs) prohibited from doing
business with the U.S. Biti specifically mentioned ZB Bank
and Agribank as clear cases for de-listing. Other entities
worthy of consideration were Zisco, Zimre Holdings, Scotfin,
Industrial Development Corporation, and Intermarket Holdings.
Biti said he would supply us with the rationale for
delisting, looking at the control of these entities, who has
beneficial interests, and their impact on the economy. He
would also furnish names of any other entities he thought
HARARE 00000987 003 OF 004
should be delisted.
¶13. (C) ACTION REQUEST: Post recognizes OFAC has classified
information on the entities listed above which cannot be
shared with Biti. Nevertheless, we would appreciate
receiving this information so that we can better understand
the rationale for their listing and we can develop
information that would be useful in deciding whether, at an
appropriate time, they should be considered for delisting.
END ACTION REQUEST.
¶14. (C) Biti said the U.S. should adopt a more strategic and
realistic (read flexible) approach toward Zimbabwe. Views in
Washington were driven by headlines that perpetuated the
image of a vile dictatorship. “We are chipping away at the
dictatorship, but that doesn’t get headlines.” Despite the
deadlock over outstanding GPA issues, Biti continued, there
had been “sufficient” progress with ZANU-PF to warrant a
response from the USG. Biti said the U.S. should use
sanctions strategically to recognize the progress that had
been made. Additionally, the U.S. should provide indirect
budget support by looking at areas where assistance could be
provided without directing funds through the government.
REVENUE UP, GONO MIGHT BE OUT
¶15. (C) Biti said the latest revenue figures showed receipts
in October had reached US$132 million, well above the
US$90-million plateau for monthly revenue in the middle of
the year. He thought it was likely that by March monthly
receipts would reach US$150 million. While this level of
revenue would take Biti beyond the annual target in his 2010
budget (Ref A), he had already given thought to where there
would be cuts in the event of a shortfall: revenue would
certainly cover recurrent expenditures, including wages, but
some parts of the investment program might have to be
postponed. Biti said that even though his budget speech
identified Zimbabwe’s balance of special drawing rights at
the International Monetary Fund as a source of financing, he
still hoped to avoid using it. This would be easier to do,
he added, if donors could make commitments to fund
¶16. (C) Biti sounded pessimistic on prospects for early
passage of a central bank reform law that is now with the
Senate. Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono had “bought most
of the Senate,” so further action on the legislation might
take time. But Biti said Gono was increasingly out of favor
with ZANU-PF. His departure from the bank might not be
imminent, but Gono was more likely to go than Attorney
General Johannes Tomana. Biti said he had been disappointed
by the relaxed attitude bankers had taken on Gono’s
misappropriation of banks’ reserves (Ref B), which he termed
“theft” comparable to a lawyer stealing from a trust fund.
Given what Biti considered egregious conduct, we asked why he
had not made more of it. He replied he had raised it with
the principals but had received no response. He speculated
that Tsvangirai might be disinterested because of his
relationship with Gono — they are both Karanga from the same
¶17. (C) As usual, Biti was impressive in his exposition of
Q17. (C) As usual, Biti was impressive in his exposition of
current political and economic dynamics. While Tsvangirai
may be the most popular politician in Zimbabwe and the
spiritual head of the MDC-T, Biti is head and shoulders above
anyone else in the party in his analysis and strategic view.
But he has more than a full-time job as Minister of Finance
and has insufficient time to devote to his other job as MDC-T
¶18. (C) In this regard, it continues to be obvious that the
HARARE 00000987 004 OF 004
MDC lacks strategic vision. With “disengagement” from
ZANU-PF in November, MDC-T played its only trump card and it
has no Plan B if ZANU-PF refuses to make concessions on the
GPA. Biti suggests a SADC Summit to plan for elections, but
SADC cannot impose elections, and elections will not take
place before 2013 (provided for in the current constitution)
unless Mugabe agrees. END COMMENT.