The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front wanted elections by March to take advantage of the divided opposition according to the secretary-general of the smaller faction of the Movement for Democratic Change Welshman Ncube.
Ncube, who was also one of the chief negotiators, said ZANU-PF was convinced that because of the divided opposition it would win the elections because of its traditional control of patronage and election machinery.
But if the elections were postponed beyond March, the worsening economy would adversely affect its chances.
Viewi-ng cable 07HARARE821, CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM” ON SADC TALKS
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STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/09/2012
SUBJECT: “CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM” ON SADC TALKS
REF: HARARE 781
Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Glenn Warren under 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C) MDC pro-Senate secretary-general Welshman Ncube, one
of the MDC’s lead negotiators in the SADC mediation, told
polecon chief on September 10 he is “cautiously optimistic”
that an agreement between ZANU-PF and the MDC on
constitutional and electoral reforms will be reached.
ZANU-PF is motivated to reach an agreement in order to
normalize international relations, which it sees as crucial
to righting the economy. Intense negotiations are continuing
on the electoral law, Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act (AIPPA), and the Public Order and Security Act
(POSA); these are all issues the MDC feels are critical to
free and fair elections. The focus will then shift to agenda
items proposed by ZANU-PF: land and sanctions. ZANU-PF
would like elections as currently scheduled in March; the MDC
is pushing for June or later to take advantage of presumed
reforms. End Summary.
Progress on Negotiations
¶2. (C) Tracking what fellow-negotiator Tenday Biti told us
earlier (Ref), Ncube said tentative agreement had been
reached inter alia on establishment of a bill of rights, an
independent electoral commission, size of the parliament,
delimitation of new constituencies, parliamentary approval of
executive appointments, and simultaneous presidential,
parliamentary, and local elections. Negotiations would next
turn to an electoral law, and reform of AIPPA and POSA.
Lastly, negotiators would consider issues tabled by ZANU-PF:
the land question and sanctions.
¶3. (C) Both sides would continue negotiating this week in
Harare (without South African mediation), according to Ncube.
After a week’s break (while Biti is in the United Kingdom),
they would resume, also in Harare. Negotiators would then
report to the South African mediators on September 29 and
September 30. The South African would be prepared to assist
if there were still unresolved issues.
The Way Forward
¶4. (C) Ncube opined that ZANU-PF had made significant
concessions. This was partly because of SADC pressure and a
tough negotiating stance by the MDC. Most important in his
opinion, however, was the realization on the part of ZANU-PF
that the government would not be able to dig its way out of
its economic hole without international assistance.
Therefore, it needed the removal of “indirect” sanctions that
precluded bilateral donor assistance and aid from the
international financial institutions. ZANU-PF was hoping
that with agreement on constitutional and electoral reform,
the MDC would join in a request for the removal of sanctions
and the resumption of international assistance.
¶5. (C) Ncube said the MDC position was that an agreement on
reform was not sufficient for international
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reengagement–actual free and fair elections were needed.
But to achieve an agreement permitting such elections, and
allowing the opposition to benefit from reforms would require
time. With the economy continuing its freefall, the poor
would suffer while conditions for fair elections were being
¶6. (C) Ncube said the government favored holding elections
as currently scheduled in March. It was confident that with
a divided opposition and its traditional control of patronage
and election machinery, it would win. If elections were
postponed past March, the worsening economy would adversely
affect ZANU-PF’s electoral chances.
¶7. (C) Ultimately, Ncube expected that elections would be
held no earlier than June. He hoped for an agreement and,
while reforms were implemented, that the government would
take interim (unspecified) measures to deal with the economy
and get it back to where it was before the June 28 price
controls. Otherwise, he feared economically deprived voters
would become apathetic.
A Note on Constitutional Amendment 18
¶8. (C) According to Ncube, ZANU-PF proposed that Amendment
18, in addition to its original provisions, be a repository
for agreement reached by ZANU-PF and the MDC in the SADC
negotiations. The MDC, on principle opposed to piecemeal
reform, rejected this. Since its introduction, however,
Amendment 18 had been modified to reflect some agreements
reached in the negotiation apposite to the Amendment. These
included the size of Parliament, the transfer of electoral
responsibilities from the Registrar of Voters to an
independent electoral commission, and size of constituencies.
The 1994-1995 constitution (Ref), negotiated by Ncube and
ZANU-PF’s Chinimasa, would continue to be the basis of any
¶9. (C) ZANU-PF, which early on appeared disinterested in the
talks, appears to now be taking them seriously. This is
driven in large part by the crumbling economy, devastated
even more by ZANU-PF’s colossal miscalculation in imposing
price rollbacks in June. Even with an agreement, however,
the devil is in the implementation. Will the government
adhere to a new constitution and related reforms to permit
democratic space? Finally, even if it is possible to create
a legal and regulatory environment conducive to free and fair
elections, can the country hold on long enough to achieve
this in light of the desperate economic situation?