Finance Minister Tendai Biti said although there were three outstanding “toxic” issues within the Global Political Agreement, President Robert Mugabe was very cooperative and acted as a “bosom buddy”.
There were, however, continuing challenges to the transitional government and reform by Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front hardliners led by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, on whom Biti laid blame for ongoing land seizures.
“They (the service chiefs) have killed for him,” Biti said, “and they have to kill this thing (the transitional government).”
Biti said this during a visit to the United States in April 2009 where he was trying to persuade Washington to bail out Zimbabwe.
He said three “toxic” issues still cast a cloud over the transition and masked some of the progress made to date.
These toxic issues included recurring violent farm seizures, continued politicised detentions, and the failure to appoint Movement for Democratic Change treasurer Roy Bennett as deputy Agriculture Minister.
Recalling the case of the Solidarity movement in Poland, Biti suggested it would be cheaper for the US and other donors to provide resources to Zimbabwe now in order to guarantee a successful transitional government rather than to rescue a country that could fall back into economic collapse.
The US said it would only move beyond humanitarian assistance when it had proof of concrete actions and progress by the government of Zimbabwe.
Viewing cable 09STATE45149, UNDER SECRETARY BURNS’ APRIL 24, 2009
O R 041943Z MAY 09
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY HARARE IMMEDIATE
INFO SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L STATE 045149
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/14/2019
SUBJECT: UNDER SECRETARY BURNS’ APRIL 24, 2009
CONVERSATION WITH ZIMBABWE FINANCE MINISTER TENDAI BITI
Classified By: AF Acting A/S Phillip Carter, Reasons: 1.5 B & D.
¶1. (U) April 24, 2009; 12:15 pm; State Department.
¶2. (C) Summary: Finance Minister Biti, who was in
Washington for meetings with the World Bank and IMF, had a
courtesy call with U/S Burns on April 24. In their
discussion of the transition government, Biti noted that much
work remains to be done by the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ)
in the areas of rule of law, property rights, and freedom of
press. He stressed, however, that Zimbabwe is in transition,
and that life is improving for the people. U/S Burns
recognized the challenges facing Biti and members of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and thanked
Biti for his dedication. Burns reaffirmed that USG funding
decisions will depend on progress on democracy and rule of
law. End Summary.
¶3. (C) U/S Burns recognized the challenges facing Biti and
the transitional government and stressed our desire to see
progress on rule of law. He noted the skepticism in
Washington regarding the commitment of President Robert
Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party to genuine reform. In response,
Biti acknowledged two major sets of outstanding issues
(established in the September 2008 Global Political
–Equitable and shared (ZANU-PF and MDC) appointment of key
government officials, including ambassadors, governors, and
permanent secretaries of ministries; and replacement of the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor and Attorney General;
–Follow-through on needed reforms, including modification of
draconian media and association laws and concrete steps on
drafting a new constitution.
Biti recognized three “toxic” issues casting a cloud over the
transition and masking some of the progress made to date.
These toxic issues include recurring violent farm seizures,
continued politicized detentions, and the failure to appoint
MDC Treasure Roy Bennett as Deputy Agriculture Minister.
¶4. (C) Biti stressed that Zimbabwe is genuinely in
transition, with relative peace and stability and far less
violence than in recent memory. “Things are better, doors
have been opened,” he opined. He called attention to Finance
Ministry progress on reigning in hyperinflation, initial
reforms at the RBZ, and operating from a realistic budget.
He admitted to understanding U.S. reluctance to offer new
assistance (beyond humanitarian), given concerns over money
falling into the hands of Mugabe and his cronies,
specifically the hard-line military chiefs who strongly
oppose the transitional government. Recalling the case of
the Solidarity movement in Poland, Biti suggested it would be
cheaper for the U.S. and other donors to provide resources to
Zimbabwe now, in order to guarantee a successful transitional
government, rather than to rescue a country that could fall
back into economic collapse.
¶5. (C) Regarding inter-party dialogue and co-governance,
Biti noted that Mugabe’s public tone has been largely
conciliatory in recent weeks. He stated that some progress
had been attained in the April 21 and 23 Mugabe-Morgan
Tsvangirai meetings with GPA negotiators. Biti referred to a
recent meeting he had with Mugabe in which the latter was
cooperative and acted as if a “bosom buddy.” But he worried
about continuing challenges to the transitional government
and reform by ZANU-PF hardliners led by Defense Minister
Emmerson Mnangagwa, on whom Biti laid blame for ongoing land
seizures. “They (the service chiefs) have killed for him,”
Biti said, “and they have to kill this thing (the
¶6. (C) U/S Burns closed the meeting by expressing our strong
desire to be able to move beyond humanitarian assistance if
we had proof of concrete actions and progress by the GOZ.
Biti pledged to do a better job at publicizing progress,
including via the PM’s new website.
¶7. (SBU) Participants:
Under Secretary Burns;
Sarah Takats, P;
Brian Walch, AF/S (notetaker).
Tendai Biti, Minister of Finance;
Eria Hamandishe, Advisor.