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Biti says ZANU-PF is too preoccupied with Mugabe succession

Finance Minister Tendai Biti told United States embassy officials that the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front was too preoccupied with the succession of President Robert Mugabe to engage rationally in the political process.

He said he had asked Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa when the old man would leave and had been told that Mugabe intended to resign in December.

He also criticised his party boss Morgan Tsvangirai for being too close to Mugabe and for lacking a strategic plan for the MDC in government. 

He thought ZANU-PF was weak and that the MDC should be more assertive with a reform agenda.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09HARARE622, BITI ON CURRENT ISSUES

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09HARARE622

2009-07-30 15:01

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO0318

OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0622/01 2111501

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 301501Z JUL 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4765

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2960

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3077

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1506

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2340

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2707

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 3125

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5568

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2255

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000622

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B.WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/17/2019

TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM ECON ZI

SUBJECT: BITI ON CURRENT ISSUES

 

Classified By: CDA Katherine Dhanani for reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1.  (SBU) Minister of Finance Tendai Biti told the American

Business Association of Zimbabwe (ABAZ) that Zimbabwe was at

a cross roads; continued progress depended on successful

completion of the constitutional process and resolution of

ZANU-PF succession, the land issue, and Global Political

Agreement (GPA) outstanding issues.  He also briefly reviewed

some of his recent actions as Minister of Finance.

Separately, he discussed MDC internal politics and ZANU-PF

succession, and the threat on his life.  END SUMMARY.

 

2.  (C) Biti addressed the monthly meeting of ABAZ on July

29.  He met with Pol/Econ chief on July 28.

 

———————-

A Political Crossroads

———————-

 

3.  (SBU) Biti prefaced his remarks to ABAZ by noting that

economic progress and development depended on political

reform.  Averring that Zimbabwe was at a crossroads, he

pointed to four problematic areas:  ZANU-PF succession, land,

outstanding GPA issues, and the constitution and elections.

Resolution of all of these was important to the progress of

the new government.

 

4.  (C) Biti said that ZANU-PF was preoccupied with

succession to President Robert Mugabe.  Until this was

resolved, it would be difficult for ZANU-PF to act as a

mature party and engage rationally in the political process.

(NOTE:  In our conversation with Biti on July 28, he said he

had recently talked with Minister of Defense Emmerson

Mnangagwa regarding defense forces needs.  In the course of

the conversation, he asked Mnangagwa when “the old man” would

leave.  Mnangagwa responded that Mugabe intended to resign as

ZANU-PF head in December at the party congress.  Biti

acknowledged that “we’ve heard this before,” and it would be

imprudent to give this too much credence.  END NOTE.)

 

5.  (SBU) Turning to land, Biti said it was imperative that

private land title exist for purposes of investment and

credit markets.  He noted that the GPA called for a land

audit; it was important that this be done as soon as possible

to eliminate multiple farm ownership.

 

6.  (SBU) Biti noted that a number of GPA issues remained

outstanding, including the appointments of Reserve Bank of

Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General

Johannes Tomana  He observed that Prime Minister Morgan

Tsvangirai would meet with South African president Jacob Zuma

this week to discuss the GPA and that SADC would likely

consider outstanding issues in August or September.

 

7.  (SBU) Finally, Biti discussed the constitutional process.

 He said the Kariba draft (which he helped write) had been

designed as an interim constitution for the last elections,

and it was never contemplated that it would be a permanent

document.  Now that there was a process to adopt a new

constitution, it was important to get it right.  Of primary

importance was a term limitation on the executive to avoid

the African syndrome of presidents serving in perpetuity.

Qthe African syndrome of presidents serving in perpetuity.

Without discussing timetables, Biti stressed the need to have

new elections after the adoption of the constitution.

 

———————

On the Economic Front

———————

 

HARARE 00000622  002 OF 003

 

 

 

8.  (C) According to Biti, legislation has been prepared and

will be introduced in the next couple of weeks to restrict

the quasi-fiscal activities of the RBZ and to circumscribe

the powers of the governor.  Additionally, an independent

auditor will be established.  Privately, Biti told us that he

had discussed the legislation with Mugabe and that passage

was assured.  Next, he said he would seek to revise the tax

code.

 

9.  (C) Biti reiterated his public comments that the Zimbabwe

dollar would not return in the foreseeable future.  Zimbabwe

was making plans to abandon the current multi-currency regime

and to adopt either the U.S. dollar or the Rand.  The

advantage to the Rand was that it could eventually be a

regional currency.  Biti said he had discussed the matter

with Mugabe and intimated that a decision had been made.  He

said a decision would be announced in November.

 

10.  (SBU) Biti was asked whether a $23 million judgment by

the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment

Disputes in favor of Dutch farmers who had brought a claim

against the GOZ for expropriation of farms in violation of a

Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement would

permit the attachment of Air Zimbabwe planes.  After joking

that this might not be a bad thing–the airline was losing

$500,000 per week–Biti said he had made provision for

compensation to the farmers in his budget.

 

11.  (SBU) Biti was also asked whether he would provide

compensation to Zimplats and other mining groups which had

had their foreign currency accounts raided by the RBZ.  He

replied he considered the RBZ and not government to be

liable; he would consider a small government contribution,

but his main focus was in helping mineral developers operate

efficiently in the future by establishing reasonable taxes

and royalties.

 

—————————

Politics and a Death Threat

—————————

 

12.  (C) In our private conversation on July 29, Biti

criticized Tsvangirai for being too conciliatory toward

Mugabe and for lacking a strategic plan for the MDC in

government.  He thought ZANU-PF was weak and that the MDC

should be more assertive with a reform agenda.  We noted that

Tsvangirai had made a strong statement at the launch last

week of the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation, and

Integration in which he emphasized the necessity of complying

with the GPA and noted that political violence continued.

Biti said he had prepared Tsvangirai for his speech.  He

commented that recent meetings of the MDC Standing Committee

(10 or so top officials) had been unusually contentious.

Nelson Chamisa and he in particular had urged Tsvangirai to

be more assertive.

 

13.  (C) Biti said he was learning each day how powerful the

finance ministry was.  He had taken unilateral actions such

as the removal of duties on imported newspapers and would

continue to act to liberalize the economy.  As to political

reforms, he downplayed repeal or modification of AIPPA and

Qreforms, he downplayed repeal or modification of AIPPA and

POSA; these acts had been substantially and positively

modified in 2008.  Although Gono’s continued presence at the

RBZ was a thorn in his side and symbolically demonstrated

lack of progress under the new government, Gono had been

almost completely marginalized.  By far the most important

area for reform, in his opinion, was the media.  He noted

that Parliament was in the process of constituting a new

media commission, and he expected the media environment to

open up.

 

 

HARARE 00000622  003 OF 003

 

 

14.  (C) Biti said he took the death threat against him

earlier this week (a bullet and threatening note were

delivered to his residence) seriously.  His wife and young

son had recently joined him from South Africa and he was

considering moving to a more secure neighborhood.  After

having just told us of some of his political differences with

Tsvangirai, Biti said that after receiving the threat he

immediately drove to Tsvangirai’s house to inform him.  He

remarked that Tsvangirai responded to him not as a party

president to a secretary general, but as a father to a son.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

15.  (C) State media reports have attempted to exploit

differences within the MDC as dissension that could lead to

weakening of the party.  Biti is ambitious and undoubtedly

sees himself as the heir apparent.  And he does differ with

Tsvangirai on tactics.  But he and others realize that

Tsvangirai is the only MDC leader with genuine national

stature and we see no challenge to his leadership or

weakening of the party.  It is true that the MDC needs to be

more focused and strategic.  Biti, Chamisa and others are

constructively and forcefully making this point.

 

16.  (C) While Biti has been critical of Tsvangirai’s working

relationship with Mugabe, he himself has realized that

diplomacy is sometimes the better part of valor.  The

relationship he has established with Mugabe permitted Cabinet

approval of his initial budget and has helped him gain

support for the RBZ legislation.

 

 

 

 

 

DHANANI

(11 VIEWS)

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