What Mugabe said about Zuma- the full cable


Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has described South African President Jacob Zuma as a “man of the people” who likes to make promises without necessarily knowing how to fulfil them. In contrast, he described his predecessor Thabo Mbeki as a “great man” who even his adversary Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had agreed should be honoured for bringing peace to Zimbabwe.

Mugabe described Mbeki as “judgmental and calculating” and cautious with policies and felt that Mbeki had been treated badly by being removed from office in the midst of helping Zimbabwe.

Mugabe’s sentiments are expressed in a cable by former United States ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee which was released by Wikileaks. McGee wrote the cable after a three hour meeting between Mugabe and United States congressman Donald Payne on May 30 last year.

Mugabe said Zuma had an enormous task before him because he had made promises to the South African people which they expected him to fulfil. Zuma would therefore have to take from whites to give to blacks.

“The question, Mugabe believed, is if they (the whites) are willing to share their businesses with blacks. He said it was “easier” in Zimbabwe where there were “not that many whites,” but “South Africa has four million whites… plus the Indians.” He trailed off, remarking that South Africa “truly is a rainbow nation,” the cable says.

Though reports have so far focussed on South Africa because the cable was obtained by Media24 Investigations unit, the three-hour meeting was not about South Africa at all. South Africa was just mentioned in passing towards the end of the meeting.

According to McGee, Mugabe spent almost an hour talking about the history of Zimbabwe which led the ambassador to conclude that Mugabe was stuck in the past. But he says that throughout the meeting which last two hours and 40 minutes, “Mugabe was alert, articulate, in apparent good health, and defiant.”

McGee even described Mugabe as “possibly the healthiest 85-year-old in Zimbabwe”. He also said during the conversation Mugabe did not include the appointments of central bank governor Gideon Gono and attorney-general Johannes Tomana as outstanding issues in the implementing of the Global Political Agreement.

Sub-headings of the cable include: Stuck in the past: Mugabe’s revisionist history lesson; Dismissive tone towards MDC; Mugabe on the economy;  Mugabe on Zimbabwe’s golden age of education; Lift the sanctions; Payne praises and confronts Mugabe; and Tea time.

Here is the cable in full so that you can make your own assessment.



JUN. 02, 2009


SOURCEEmbassy Harare









C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 HARARE 000456







E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2019





B. 08 HARARE 140

Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).




1. (SBU) On May 30 President Robert Mugabe received

Congressmen Donald Payne (D-NJ), Ambassador McGee, and

staffers at his State House office for a nearly

three-hour-long meeting. Throughout the marathon meeting

Mugabe was alert, articulate, in apparent good health, and

defiant. Congressman Payne gently and masterfully praised

Mugabe for his liberation credentials before confronting him

about human rights abuses. Mugabe neither confirmed nor

denied the abuses. His version of Zimbabwe,s history, which

he explained in an hour-long monologue, painted him as the

victim of international abuse and broken promises — largely

led by Britain and George W. Bush. Despite his defiance,

Mugabe articulated his deep desire for acceptance into the

international community again, although he did not offer to

make any concessions or policy revisions that would lead to

Zimbabwe’s full reintegration in the community of nations.

The meeting covered a wide range of topics including a

discussion of last year’s elections, and finally a friendly

chat over tea about pirates in Somalia, South African

politics, and the global economic crisis. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On the occasion of the visit of Congressman Donald

Payne (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa

and Global Health, the Ambassador and a group of staffers met

with President Mugabe at State House on May 30. The two-hour

and forty minute long meeting was cordial, despite Payne’s

direct confrontation of Mugabe on human rights abuses. This

was the first private meeting we have had with President

Mugabe since the Ambassador last called on him in February

2008 (ref B). It was also by far the longest of the four

meetings Ambassador McGee has had with the president during

his assignment. President Mugabe was accompanied by Minister

of Agriculture Joseph Made, Americas Division Chief from the

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Sengwe, and the MFA

United States desk officer Energy Chawonetka. Congressman

Payne and the Ambassador were accompanied by poloff and

professional congressional staffers Dr. Pearl-Alice Marsh,

Noelle LuSane, and Ted Dagne.


Stuck in the Past: Mugabe’s

Revisionist History Lesson


3. (C) Mugabe opened the meeting by thanking Payne for his

visit, commenting that Zimbabwe hadn’t had many visitors

lately. He then launched into a one-hour lecture explaining

Zimbabwe’s history, from the arrival of British colonials a

century ago, through the liberation war, the Lancaster House

agreement, and up until the present. Although his voice

trailed at times, he spoke clearly and logically and only

turned to Minister Made and Ambassador Sengwe occasionally to

be reminded of specific names and dates. Predictably, Mugabe

Qbe reminded of specific names and dates. Predictably, Mugabe

described land as the “number one grievance” of the people at

the Lancaster House negotiations that led to Zimbabwe’s

independence in 1980. He spoke highly of the willingness of

the Carter administration to help fund land reform. His tone

changed to dismay and embitterment as he described the policy

reversal during the Reagan and subsequent Bush (Bush 1)

administrations that stopped the funding for land reform.

4. (C) Mugabe spoke fondly of George H.W. Bush, noting that

HARARE 00000456 002 OF 006

they became friends when Bush was Reagan’s vice president and

that he later visited Washington at President Bush’s

invitation. Mugabe was dismayed, however, that Bush agreed

only to restore health assistance and not the land reform

assistance he believes was promised at Lancaster House.

Mugabe further bitterly recalled the dismissive letter from

then-Development Minister Clare Short that denied British

responsibility for continued funding of land reform.

5. (C) Speaking more forcefully and loudly, Mugabe went on to

describe former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s response

to Zimbabwe’s fast track land reform. Mugabe explained that

because Blair “couldn’t honestly say Zimbabwe was wrong”

Blair had to “look for the usual thing (to fault Zimbabwe) —

democracy, human rights, rule of law.” Frustrated, Mugabe

explained that the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) tried to seek

intervention from the EU president at the time, Jacques

Chirac, who refused to hear the issue. “So,” Mugabe sighed,

“we were to be condemned by Britain for following tenets of

democracy that they never obeyed. And then the sanctions


6. (C) Reaching this point in history, Mugabe became

increasingly adamant and agitated, as he asked, “in the

context of all the countries in the world — are we really

the worst?” Mugabe then, predictably, said that the Zimbabwe

Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) and sanctions had

caused the suffering of the Zimbabwean people and should be

lifted. He went on to deny turning away from democracy,

recalling that he was in prison for 11 years because he

fought for democracy.


Dismissive Tone Towards MDC


7. (C) Having completed his hour-long history lecture, Mugabe

turned to recent events. He spoke more slowly and carefully

and in a way that subtly dismissed the Movement for

Democratic Change (MDC). For instance, he described the 2008

elections as “controversial” because the MDC and ZANU-PF had

nearly tied. He carefully explained the parliamentary

results by saying that ZANU-PF had a narrow majority in

parliament. (NOTE: This is true only because he included the

Senate in his math, which includes numerous seats that he

personally appoints. END NOTE.) When the MDC refused to

participate in the June 2008 run-off, Mugabe said some

refused to accept the results “for political reasons.”

Despite winning the run-off, Mugabe explained that even if he

had wanted to form a government, with only a small majority

in parliament he needed to rely on others. Consequently,

they relied on recommendations from SADC. Mugabe appeared

increasingly uncomfortable in his seat as he explained the

structure of the inclusive government and said it was working

well “so far.”

8. (C) He acknowledged that there were a few “sticking

issues” in the agreement — which he described as an

“intermarriage” — including governorships, permanent

Q”intermarriage” — including governorships, permanent

secretaries and ambassadorial appointments. (NOTE: He did not

mention the continued controversial appointments of Reserve

Bank Governor Gideon Gono or Attorney General Johannes Tomana

as outstanding issues. END NOTE.) On the issue of governors,

he said that their appointments were the “prerogative of the

president” but he agreed to make changes in the “spirit” of

the agreement. Although Tsvangirai wants to make the

appointments “now,” Mugabe said that would not be fair and

noted that the governors would be given two to three months’

notice before being asked to vacate their seats. (NOTE:

Separately we learned the governors will likely be sworn-in

in August. END NOTE.)

HARARE 00000456 003 OF 006

9. (C) Regarding permanent secretaries, Mugabe said that the

six principals (himself, the two vice presidents, the prime

minister, and the two deputy prime ministers) had

re-evaluated the permanent secretaries in each of the

ministries. He appeared to dismiss the exercise, which he

described as a “review” of the Public Service Commission

(PSC) appointments. (NOTE: The PSC is a semi-independent body

heavily biased towards ZANU-PF. All of the permanent

secretaries, who oversee internal ministerial operations,

have maintained their positions after the review by the six

principals. END NOTE.)

10. (C) Regarding ambassadorships, Mugabe confirmed that new

ambassadors would be a mix of appointments from MDC-T, MDC-M

and ZANU-PF as ambassadors’ terms end or they retire from

diplomatic service. He also noted that Zimbabwe will re-open

its embassy in Dakar, Senegal.


Mugabe on the Economy


11. (C) Turning to the economy, Mugabe opined that while the

sanctions are allegedly targeted, perhaps they are designed

to affect the economy as well. He noted that the

agricultural sector was the mainstay of the economy, and that

manufacturing had suffered recently because of its reliance

on agricultural outputs. Mugabe remarked that Zimbabwe has

rich mining resources yet to be tapped, mentioning gold and

platinum specifically. Regarding diamonds, Mugabe said they

have not yet established exactly where the deposits are.

Finally, while there are uranium deposits in the north,

Zimbabwe doesn’t intend to “go nuclear” like some countries

have done, he commented with a giggle.


Mugabe on Zimbabwe’s Golden Age of Education


12. (C) Mugabe then turned back to his history lesson as he

explained the educational reforms undertaken in the early

1980s. He went on to describe in detail a plan with Cuba to

train math and science teachers that arose from Zimbabwe’s

hosting of the non-aligned countries in 1986. Because

sanctions on Cuba proved to be too much of a burden, the math

and science university was established in Bindura, Zimbabwe

rather than Cuba.


Lift the Sanctions


13. (C) After talking non-stop for over an hour — and

without so much as a sip of water or a clearing of the throat

— Mugabe turned to Congressman Payne and the Ambassador in a

much more engaged fashion. He said he was happy Payne had

come, and summarized the priorities for Zimbabwe: food,

education, infrastructure such as roads, and — above all —

land. He noted that the manufacturing sector is struggling

and that Zimbabwe wants to recover. The way to recover, he

said, is by lifting sanctions. Mugabe continued by declaring

that “we want to engage with the world,” as he cited the

international organizations that Zimbabwe ascribes to,

Qinternational organizations that Zimbabwe ascribes to,

including the United Nations and World Bank. He continued,

“we want to play our role as a free Zimbabwe in a free world.

Why should we be punished for sins we’ve not committed?

Perhaps you’ve brought us the flag of freedom to lift

sanctions.” He spoke with cautious optimism as he noted that

the “problem” with American sanctions is that you have

congress and the administration, and you don’t know where to

HARARE 00000456 004 OF 006



Payne Praises and Confronts Mugabe


14. (C) After listening attentively, Congressman Payne

finally addressed Mugabe and began by praising him for his

liberation credentials. Payne noted that he had been

Mugabe’s “fan” as a young person and throughout the

liberation movement in Zimbabwe. He recalled that Mugabe had

received significant support from Americans for standing up

to the Rhodesians and fighting for voting rights and

education for Zimbabwe’s blacks. Payne skillfully noted that

he had followed Mugabe’s “distinguished” career since its

inception but noted that he is now concerned about the things

he reads.

15. (C) Payne continued carefull, saying that all countries

have problems, including the United States, but that we have

a system to clean it up and prosecute wrongdoers. He noted

that we want to see the people of Zimbabwe have a better life

and his tremendous admiration for the Zimbabwean people.

However, the administration will make determinations on

sanctions, but usually it will not make a change until there

is evidence that changes have been made to correct what was


16. (C) Payne cited the Obama administration’s recent changes

to the policy towards Cuba to allow for remittances and

visits as an example that there is a willingness of the new

administration to change old policies. However, Payne noted,

we can’t make changes to the Zimbabwe policy as long as we

continue to see people getting arrested for “no reason.” He

noted the “dichotomy” between the compassionate statesman who

fought for freedom that he respects and the current

government that now allows police to beat black women who

dare protest.

17. (C) As Payne confronted him, Mugabe sank into the couch

and appeared expressionless and somewhat stunned. At the

mention of police beating women, he responded with a puzzled

look, “Which women? Where did they get them from?” The

Ambassador and Payne cited Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)

protests as an example of women who have been beaten, and

Mugabe went on the defensive, saying that they were

manipulating and creating problems to seek more donor funds

from their sponsors.

18. (C) Payne continued by commenting that citizens have a

right to agitate and governments have a duty to protect them.

He noted that Mugabe started as a civil agitator and spent

11 years in prison for it. “I was a civil agitator, too. I

wouldn’t be in congress if I hadn’t been a civil agitator.”

19. (C) Continuing with his cautious, but firm approach,

Payne noted that the new administrations in Zimbabwe and the

U.S. are an opportunity for change. He explained the “smart

power” doctrine to establish more peace, more justice, and

more smart power. He invited Zimbabwe to be part of these new

attitudes, but said that there have to be some changes in



20. (C) The Ambassador continued by noting that the USG

approach to Zimbabwe had changed in subtle but significant

ways in recent months and reaffirmed our desire to see the

inclusive government work. He described the visit as an

opportunity for dialogue “if we can talk about issues.” He

raised the issue of the American-owned property in the Save

Valley Conservancy that is currently under threat (ref A) and

the issues of credit to farmers as issues up for discussion,

HARARE 00000456 005 OF 006

but reiterated that the USG wants to see conditions change.

Payne again reiterated that we share the goal of having

positive relations with Zimbabwe and noted that he and others

in congress want to see the U.S. end isolationist policies.

21. (C) Mugabe responded well to Payne’s gentle confrontation

and noted that “we’ve never taken a decision to have a

hostile relationship with anyone — especially you. You were

there when we started.” Payne noted that it is a new day and

there is hope for more dialogue.


Tea Time


22. (C) At the end of the fairly confrontational discussion,

Mugabe commented, “well, I think we deserve some tea,” at

which point a white-gloved butler emerged and began the very

formal process of serving tea. After the butler poured water

over the guest’s hands into a bowl and offered each guest a

clean towel to dry their hands, the butler served tea,

parmesan bread sticks, dinner rolls, sausage, and a

beef/onion dish. Mugabe took his tea with milk and a few

bread sticks but did not eat anything else.

23. (C) Over tea, the conversation mellowed significantly and

Mugabe engaged Payne about his recent trip to Somalia and

asked about the Somali pirates, South Africa, and the global



Mugabe on South Africa


24. (C) Responding to the Ambassador’s questions about the

new administration in South Africa, Mugabe noted that it is

“still the ANC” but sighed that he didn’t think they treated

Thabo well, particularly as he was in the midst of helping

Zimbabwe. Mugabe continued to note that “to us (Mbeki) is a

great man.” He told the delegation that he will be giving

Mbeki an award, something that “even Tsvangirai” agreed to.

Mugabe described Mbeki as “judgmental and calculating” and

cautious with policies. In contrast, Mugabe considers Zuma a

“man of the people” who likes to make promises without

necessarily knowing how to fulfill them. He noted that the

South African people want to see their social needs attended

to. While Zuma has made promises, it remains to be seen if

they will come true. Mugabe opined that in order to fulfill

his campaign promises, Zuma will have to take from the haves

— the whites — and give to the have-nots. The question,

Mugabe believed, is if they (the whites) are willing to share

their businesses with blacks. He said it was “easier” in

Zimbabwe where there were “not that many whites,” but “South

Africa has four million whites… plus the Indians.” He

trailed off, remarking that South Africa “truly is a rainbow


25. (C) As the tea cups emptied, the Ambassador informed

Mugabe that the Congressman was on his way to meet

businessmen and we needed to be on our way. Mugabe seemed to

be enjoying himself as he engaged on Somalia and South Africa

in a non-confrontational and exceedingly normal diplomatic

conversation. He appeared almost sad to see us go. If the

Qconversation. He appeared almost sad to see us go. If the

Ambassador had not ended the meeting, we could have well been

there another thirty minutes.


Mugabe: Possibly the Healthiest

85-year-old in Zimbabwe


HARARE 00000456 006 OF 006

26. (C) Throughout the lengthy meeting, Mugab was alert and

engaged. We noted, however, that he could not sit still.

Although he was seated on a soft, comfortable leather sofa,

he adjusted his weight to the left and right, and then later

sat on the forward edge of the sofa and then slouched to the

back, almost constantly. At times he appeared to be leaning

heavily on the right arm rest, as if to alleviate pressure

from sitting. He also constantly pulled up his socks.

Despite previous rumors of possible throat cancer, we noted

that his voice was fairly strong although he did speak softly

at times during the first hour. Aside from frequent

shifting, he rarely cleared his throat and appeared to be a

vigorous 85-year-old in superb health.




27. (C) This extraordinarily long meeting was surreal, and

Congressman Payne is to be commended for his suave

confrontation of Mugabe. As an older African American who

rooted for the liberation struggle, Payne connected with

Mugabe in a way few probably can. While Mugabe did not

acknowledge or apologize for the human rights abuses, he

didn’t deny the possibility that police had used excessive


28. (C) Mugabe is clearly stuck in the past, as evidenced by

his longwinded rehashing of Zimbabwe’s history. Furthermore,

based on Mugabe’s interpretation of sanctions and his

international isolation, he clearly believes he has done the

right thing along the way and has been betrayed by the West

and their broken promises. His continued refusal to

acknowledge the human rights abuses and stifled political

environment represent a serious disconnect between his view

of the world and the realities the Zimbabwean people struggle

with every day. Nonetheless, Mugabe appears desperate to

re-engage with the world and to be treated as an elder

statesman. He appeared genuinely appreciative and relaxed

when the Ambassador asked for his opinions on South Africa.

Overall, this meeting was a success. In a subsequent dinner

with other western ambassadors serving in Harare, the

ambassadors indicated that perhaps they, too, would seek

meetings with Mugabe and attempt to slowly re-engage with the

recalcitrant leader. END COMMENT.



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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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