ZANU-PF desperate to repair relations with US


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The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front was so desperate to repair relations with the United States government towards the end of 2004 that it sent businessman John Bredenkamp as an emissary to test the waters but at the same time advising embassy officials that the party was prepared to bend over backwards to accommodate the Americans.

Bredenkamp said the pride of the party leadership and complications of personal rivalries constrained the government’s ability to initiate efforts to mend relations. He had therefore been asked by unnamed party leaders in the past to convey messages for the party to foreign governments.

Central Bank governor Gideon Gono and his deputy Nicholas Ncube had delivered similar messages asking what it would take for Zimbabwe to mend its relations with the US.

President Robert Mugabe had even sent a message to United States President George Bush congratulating him on his re-election. ZANU-PF MP and member of the Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Victor Chitongo told embassy officials that Mugabe’s letter to Bush was a clear indication that the government was trying to pave the way for a rapprochement.

Chitongo said that he, other “Young Turks”, and old guard ZANU-PF Secretary for Information Nathan Shamuyarira wanted to improve relations and had pressed President Mugabe to send such a letter. And he had agreed to despite strong opposition by Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and his own initial misgivings.

The embassy said, however, notwithstanding Bredenkamp’s optimistic appraisal of ZANU-PF flexibility, the party showed little inclination to open up the election environment more than superficially or to negotiate constructively with the opposition.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 04HARARE1913, GOZ SEEKING THAW WITH USG?

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE1913

2004-11-23 14:48

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

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 001913

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR BNEULING

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2009

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KPAO ZI

SUBJECT: GOZ SEEKING THAW WITH USG?

 

REF: (A) HARARE 1901 (B) HARARE 1900 (C) HARARE 1505

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.5 b/d

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: President Mugabe’s congratulatory message to

President Bush on his re-election (ref A) is the latest among

several indications that the GOZ is prepared to seek some

degree of rapprochement with the USG. Exchanges with senior

Reserve Bank officials, a businessman well-connected with the

ruling party, and a ZANU-PF MP from the Foreign Affairs

Committee suggest political will within the ruling party to

probe for an opening with us. The messages remain too

disjointed and uncoordinated to treat them as a formal

solicitation of interest, however. Moreover, we see little

evidence that the leadership is willing to go as far as

engaging in meaningful dialogue with the opposition,

conducting free and fair elections, or otherwise establishing

rule of law in an effort to earn broader legitimacy in the

international arena or to create conditions for genuine

re-engagement. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) At the break-up of a monetary policy briefing for

diplomats earlier this month, Reserve Bank Governor Gideon

Gono invited econoff to his office for a one-hour unscheduled

exchange. Amidst an extended rehash of familiar GOZ economic

policies, Gono delivered a pointed message on bilateral

relations. He said that the GOZ wanted to have better

relations with the USG; what would it take to get relations

back on a constructive track? The following week, Deputy

Reserve Bank Governor Nick Ncube invited econoff to his

office to underscore the message: the leadership wanted

better relations with the United States, which it

distinguished from its public nemesis, the United Kingdom.

He maintained that Mugabe’s congratulatory message to the

President was just one indication; there would be more.

 

3. (C) John Bredenkamp, a Zimbabwean businessman with close

ties to many in the ruling party leadership, delivered a

similar message to poloff the day after Gono’s exchange with

econoff, albeit in more cryptic fashion. At a meeting

Bredenkamp requested, he asserted that when the party was

ready to chart a new course, it would test the waters

indirectly. He implied that in foreign relations, the pride

of the party leadership and complications of personal

rivalries constrained the GOZ’s ability to initiate efforts

to mend relations. He noted in this vein that he had been

asked by unnamed party leaders in the past to convey messages

for the party to foreign governments. He then emphasized,

without attribution, that the GOZ wanted to repair relations

with the USG. He would not elaborate beyond asserting that

“they will bend over backwards for you.”

 

4. (C) Over breakfast on November 17, ZANU-PF MP and member

of the Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Victor

Chitongo told poloff that Mugabe’s letter to the President

was a clear indication that the Government was trying to pave

the way for a rapprochement, albeit tentatively. He reported

that he, other “Young Turks”, and old guard ZANU-PF Secretary

for Information (and Princeton grad) Nathan Shamuyarira

wanted to improve relations and had pressed the President to

send such a letter. Despite strong opposition by Information

Minister Jonathan Moyo and his own initial misgivings, the

President grudgingly agreed to send it.

 

5. (SBU) U.S. policy still receives generally negative

coverage in the state media, with Iraq and the Middle East

featured most frequently. However, the United States is

seldom coupled with the UK as the prime force for regime

change in Zimbabwe, as it was up until a few months ago. And

curiously, after a vicious front page campaign against

Ambassador Dell before his arrival, the state media has had

nary a critical word against him since. The official media

has given favorable coverage of apolitical and cultural

events organized by the Embassy, including prominent print

and broadcast coverage of an Embassy-sponsored “Art for Hope”

charitable event November 19-20. It reported Mugabe’s

congratulatory message to POTUS without extensive comment.

 

6. (C) Months after the Ambassador initiated requests for

courtesy calls with various cabinet officials, doors are only

slowly opening. Indeed, the DATT overhead Minister of

Defense Sidney Sekeremayi telling the Ministry’s Permsec over

the telephone when queried about the Ambassador’s appointment

request: “Why would I want to meet the American Ambassador?”

Fewer than half of the Ambassador’s official appointment

requests to date have met with success. (By contrast, the

Egyptian Ambassador has met with half of the Cabinet.) The

Ambassador’s courtesy calls that have taken place, including

those with President Mugabe, ZANU-PF Party Chairman Nkomo,

Party Secretary for Information and elder statesman

Shamuyarira, Speaker of the House Mnangagwa, and Minister for

State Security Goche, have been surprisingly cordial. And

the Ambassador recently had a meeting with MFA Permsec Bimha

on temporary entry permits for USG-sponsored NGOs which the

A/DCM described as the most normal and business-like of any

he has attended in the last two years.

 

7. (C) At the working level, access remains constrained.

Months of efforts to secure appointments with senior police

officials in connection with our trafficking in persons

agenda, for example, have been politely deflected.

Similarly, most (but not all) GOZ and ruling party officials

continue to snub invitations to Embassy functions and social

events. It is generally difficult to tell whether our

difficulties stem from express orders to avoid us, a lack of

guidance, conflicting priorities, or general fecklessness.

Still, in working level meetings that do occur, including

with police, military, and officials from politicized

ministries such as the Ministries of Youth and Justice, we

are told “Zimbabwe wants better relations with the United

States” — with familiar caveats about sovereignty, no

quarter on land reform, etc.

 

Comment

——-

 

8. (C) The foregoing exchanges are consistent with Mugabe’s

own indication during the Ambassador’s credentials

presentation in August that he wanted to see bilateral

relations improve (ref C). (Ambassador Frazer told

Ambassador Dell in Pretoria earlier this month that,

according to President Mbeki, Mugabe privately reiterated to

Mbeki his interest in better relations with the United

States.) However, it was unclear whether our interlocutors

during these recent instances here were advancing a

semi-coordinated GOZ campaign to improve relations with the

United States or were simply pushing their own agenda. In

any event, a growing impetus is evident among the ruling

party’s younger and more business-oriented figures for

broader international re-engagement, including with

international financial institutions. (An IMF team visiting

earlier in November was accorded meetings with President

Mugabe and other senior officials and given

uncharacteristically favorable media coverage; ref B) For

now, however, Mugabe and key hard-liners are unlikely to

accept more than a tentative testing of the waters or

foundation-laying for possible greater engagement after the

March parliamentary election. Career aspirations of certain

key players such as Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and

the suspicions and resentments of others (including Mugabe

himself) will continue to fuel anti-Western sentiments.

 

9. (C) Still, we are seeing a marked departure from GOZ

rhetoric of the past few years. Until recently, the ruling

party seemed quite prepared to divorce Zimbabwe from the West

completely, regardless of the cost to the country. It is now

betraying a growing recognition of the need for help, which,

coupled with increasing intra-party tensions on the issue,

may afford us opportunities or leverage to exert influence

down the road on issues of primary concern (rule of law,

human rights, good governance) where to date we have had

none.

 

10. (C) At every opportunity, including during the

Ambassador’s courtesy calls to date, we have reiterated the

priority attached by the USG to free and fair elections, rule

of law, human rights, and good governance, and their

importance to bilateral relations. In response,

interlocutors have made little more than token efforts to

sell electoral reforms underway as a basis for re-engagement,

testifying perhaps to their lack of official authority to

push re-engagement or their discomfort with accepting a

connection. And notwithstanding Bredenkamp’s optimistic

appraisal of ZANU-PF flexibility, the party shows little

inclination to open up the election environment more than

superficially or to negotiate constructively with the

opposition. Indeed, the unpopular party’s ability to control

the outcome of the scheduled March elections will likely

remain a priority that trumps all others, at least until

after the March elections. It remains to be seen whether the

party – spurred by domestic political confidence, outside

pressure, and/or economic need – will take more definitive

action to renew engagement with the West after the elections.

 

DELL

(18 VIEWS)

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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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