Former Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front politburo member Eddison Zvobgo, who had fallen out with President Robert Mugabe, told United States embassy officials that Mugabe’s new cabinet, which saw Finance Minister Simba Makoni being kicked, out was rotten to the core.
He said it comprised exclusively of yes-men and yes-women, a sign that the political and economic crises would get worse.
Zvobgo said the cabinet and the ZANU-PF politburo now functioned merely as rubber stamps for Mugabe’s decisions, and never engaged in any genuine discussions of how to extricate Zimbabwe from its current plight.
In another cable just after the reshuffle the embassy said Mugabe rewarded loyalty and not competence when appointing his cabinet.
“Loyalty, not competence, appeared to be the primary criterion for the personnel moves, as Mugabe and his inner circle hunker down in the face of increasing international and domestic pressure,” the cable says.
“The new Cabinet is composed almost entirely of Mugabe sycophants who will continue to lead Zimbabwe in the same disastrous policy direction, perhaps with more zeal, and even worse results.”
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001992
SIPDIS NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER LONDON FOR CGURNEY NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER PARIS FOR NEARY E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/29/2012 TAGS: PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], PINR [Intelligence], ZI [Zimbabwe] SUBJECT: NEW CABINET “ROTTEN TO THE CORE” Classified By: Political Officer Kimberly Jemison. Reasons: 1.5 (B) an d (D).
¶1. (C) In an August 26 meeting, Eddison Zvobgo, an elder statesman in ZANU-PF, provided insight into the Cabinet reshuffle and pressure points for the international community to pursue and he commented on the food situation, the Public Order and Security Act, and the likelihood of a new constitutional amendment to name a successor. Zvobgo said the Cabinet and ZANU-PF politburo function merely as rubber stamps for Mugabe’s decisions and he predicted the political and economic crisis will worsen. He was unsure of next steps from the international community but did say that comments akin to those delivered by Assistant Secretary Kansteiner and using NEPAD as leverage to encourage other African leaders to do more on Zimbabwe would go a long way towards isolating and increasing pressure on Mugabe. He also claimed that South Africa has been providing Zimbabwe with electricity free of charge for the last six months. End Summary. Cabinet Reshuffle —————–
¶2. (C) On August 26, Polchief and Poloff met with Eddison Zvobgo, an elder statesman in the ruling party who has been estranged from President Mugabe since 2000. Zvobgo said the new cabinet is “rotten to the core” and is comprised exclusively of yes-men and yes-women, a sign that the political and economic crises will get worse. According to Zvobgo, the Cabinet and ZANU-PF politburo now function merely as rubber stamps for Mugabe’s decisions, and never engage in any genuine discussions of how to extricate Zimbabwe from its current plight.
Succession Scenarios ——————–
¶3. (C) Polchief noted the requirement in Zimbabwe’s constitution that an election be held within 90 days after the presidency becomes vacant, and asked whether President Mugabe intends to push through an amendment allowing his successor to fill out the remaining years of his mandate. Zvobgo, who chairs Parliament’s legal committee, was dismissive, saying that the ruling party does not have the two-thirds majority in Parliament necessary for approval of such an amendment. All ZANU-PF MPs would likely vote in favor, Zvobgo thought, but it was unlikely that any MDC parliamentarians would cross the aisle. (Comment: We have heard from several sources that the ruling party is trying, with financial inducements, to lure several MDC legislators to support such an amendment. We would not be surprised if Zvobgo is unaware of such efforts. End Comment.) Since such an effort would almost certainly fail, Zvobgo predicted, Mugabe likely will serve his full six-year term. Although ZANU-PF had stolen the presidential election, Mugabe and his inner circle are not convinced they could steal another one. Food Shortages ————–
¶4. (C) Zvobgo described the food situation in his home constituency of Masvingo south as “frightening” and said the shortages in most rural areas of Masvingo province are “terrible and getting worse.” He was frustrated with his inability to help his hungry constituents and criticized the GOZ’s Grain Marketing Board for attempting to provide food assistance only to ZANU-PF supporters. He claimed that ZANU-PF supporters are bearing the brunt of food shortages, since they are concentrated in rural districts, while MDC supporters, concentrated primarily in urban areas, are in much better shape. Zvobgo expressed hope that the food crisis would soon overwhelm GOZ’s capacity to respond, resulting in NGO’s carrying the predominant load in distributing food, a development he anticipated would minimize incidents of people going hungry because of their political affiliation. Selective application of rule of law ————————————
¶5. (C) Zvobgo condemned the GOZ’s repression of the opposition MDC and its supporters, saying the degree of intolerance is “absolutely amazing.” He said the Public Order and Security Act requires only that groups “notify” police four days in advance of any public gathering, but police are interpreting this provision as giving them the right to grant or deny permission for such events. In recent weeks, Zvobgo said, police are not allowing any MDC meetings or rallies to take place. He also lamented continued selective application of the law, noting that ZANU-PF supporters who break the law usually go scot-free. Pressure points —————
¶6. (C) Zvobgo said remarks of the kind delivered recently by Assistant Secretary Kansteiner are helpful in isolating and increasing pressure on Mugabe. Kansteiner’s comments, he said, engendered anger and anxiety among those in the inner circle. Asked what additional steps he thought the U.S. should take on Zimbabwe, Zvobgo suggested expelling the children of those responsible for the country’s political and economic crises, and providing as much food as possible to rural areas, which were facing an “absolute calamity.”
¶7. (C) NEPAD, Zvobgo suggested, should be used as leverage to encourage President Obasanjo and Mbeki to do more on Zimbabwe. Other potentially useful pressure points, he said, are Zimbabwe’s inability to cover its external debt, particularly its lack of resources to purchase fuel and electricity. Zvobgo claimed that South Africa has been supplying Zimbabwe with electricity free of charge for the last six months, and he wondered how much longer the South African government would be willing and able to continue that arrangement. Comment ——-
¶8. (C) The 60-something Zvobgo looked even more tired and frail than usual. He and his wife planned to travel to Cape Town the following morning for several weeks of R&R and medical consultations. He seemed at a loss as to what steps might force Mugabe to step back from the brink but believed, as do most observers, that South Africa and President Mbeki can play a key role should they choose to do so. At the very least, Zvobgo’s claim that South Africa is supplying Zimbabwe with electricity gratis certainly bears exploration.