Bishops from Manicaland who were arranging for talks between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change said they would oppose any move in which ZANU-PF would swallow the MDC like it had done to the Zimbabwe African People’s Union in 1987.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told United States ambassador Joseph Sullivan that initially Vice-president Joseph Msika poo pooed the MDC, calling them puppets of United States President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The Bishops argued, however, that the country could not afford to proceed on its present course and asked President Robert Mugabe what it would take for him to meet Tsvangirai.
Mugabe wanted him to drop the presidential election results challenge among other things but the bishops said the court challenge was immaterial to the impasse between the two parties.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1548, TSVANGIRAI BRIEFS AMBASSADOR ON MEETINGS WITH
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 02 HARARE 001548
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013
SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI BRIEFS AMBASSADOR ON MEETINGS WITH
REF: A. HARARE 1532
¶B. HARARE 1491
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) The Ambassador met with MDC President Morgan
Tsvangirai on July 29 to discuss the mediation effort by the
Manicaland Bishops. Tsvangirai reported that when the
Bishops’ discussion with President Mugabe turned to the
possibility of a unity government, Bishop Mutume said they
would oppose any deal in which ZANU-PF swallowed MDC.
Tsvangirai asked the Ambassador for USG help to ensure South
African accountability to better guarantee the negotiations
make progress, and also to put pressure on ZANU-PF to be
sincere. A key indicator of whether Mugabe takes this
initiative seriously will be the ZANU-PF position document,
if it is submitted, and if it is reasonable. End Summary.
Tsvangirai on Bishops’ Meeting with Mugabe
¶2. (C) In a meeting with the Ambassador on July 29, MDC
President Morgan Tsvangirai confirmed much of what was
reported (Ref A) on the meeting between President Mugabe and
the Manicaland Bishops on July 25. He added that the meeting
lasted about two hours. Tsvangirai said that initially Vice
President Joseph Msika poo pooed the MDC, calling them
puppets of Bush and Blair. The Bishops argued that the
country could not afford to proceed on its present course,
and that they were actually helping the GOZ. The Bishops
asked Mugabe what it would take for him to meet Tsvangirai.
Mugabe suggested what terms were necessary (Ref A). The
Bishops responded that the court challenge was immaterial to
the impasse between the two parties. When the discussion
turned to the possibility of a unity government, Roman
Catholic Bishop Patrick Mutume mentioned that they would
oppose any deal in which ZANU-PF swallowed MDC, noting he had
been involved in the interparty talks in 1987 when ZANU-PF
¶3. (C) Tsvangirai said there were no sticking points in the
MDC discussion with the Bishops on July 28. The Bishops said
they would remain in the process until the end. They said a
next step would be to explain to the South African Government
that they were taking this role. The idea was raised during
the MDC-Bishops’ meeting that the discussion with ZANU-PF
could start on constitutional issues, as a way of avoiding
the legitimacy issue. The two sides agreed to submit
documents to the Bishops outlining their positions. The
Bishops said they would compare the two and come up with an
outline for negotiations.
¶4. (C) Contrary to speculation in the local press, Tsvangirai
confirmed to the Ambassador that the MDC plans to pursue its
challenge of the March 2002 in court (currently scheduled for
November 3). However, pursuing that case could become
irrelevant depending on the amount of progress on talks with
South Africa as Guarantor
¶5. (C) Tsvangirai also said that South African High
Commissioner Jeremiah Ndou had phoned him to pass along
President Mbeki’s thanks for Tsvangirai going to the opening
of Parliament on July 22. Tsvangirai told the Ambassador
that the Bishops do not want to exclude South Africa from the
mediation process, and that they could play an important role
as a guarantor. Tsvangirai said the Bishops would send a
team to South Africa soon to brief the SAG directly.
Tsvangirai said that MDC was speaking with civil society
colleagues, such as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
(ZCTU) to firm up alliances. None of MDC’s civil society
allies opposed exploring prospects for dialogue.
US Backing Needed
¶6. (C) Tsvangirai asked the Ambassador if the USG could help
to ensure South African accountability to better guarantee
the negotiations make progress, and also to put pressure on
ZANU-PF to be sincere. Tsvangirai mentioned that incidents
of violence were still being perpetrated on MDC candidates
(Ref B) and if ZANU-PF was sincere about reaching common
ground, these should stop. Tsvangirai said that the MDC was
raising the need to end political violence with Justice
Minister Patrick Chinamasa rather than making such cessation
a pre-condition for talks. Similarly, the MDC was
petitioning the courts to re-open the nomination process in
those urban councils where MDC was excluded (Ref B). MDC
would avoid setting any pre-conditions for dialogue in order
to keep the pressure on ZANU-PF to agree to unconditional
¶7. (C) The next important step is the position documents from
each side. We have no doubt the MDC will follow through with
theirs; however it is unclear whether and how Mugabe’s team
will follow through on their side. This will be a key
indicator of whether Mugabe might actually take this effort
seriously. End Comment.