Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general Tendai Biti said party leader Morgan Tsvangirai was weak and was listening to the wrong people, some of whom were tired of the present situation and favoured what for him was an unacceptable compromise.
He said this soon after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding paving the way for negotiations between the two factions of the MDC and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front following the indecisive 2008 elections.
Biti said that because of his personal hard line position both sides had talked of replacing him.
Biti had been part of the negotiating team for more than five years.
His comments echoed those of former United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell a year earlier, though Dell’s comments were only revealed three years later.
Biti stressed that he would fight such a compromise and “would not give an inch” and would not be part of one.
He thought Elton Mangoma was a capable co-negotiator and he was glad to work with him.
He was suspicious of Mutambara faction negotiators Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga who he thought, given the weakness of their faction, might be willing to cut a deal with ZANU-PF.
Viewing cable 08HARARE621, MDC SEEKS AU ROLE IN NEGOTIATIONS BEFORE SIGNING
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/18/2018
SUBJECT: MDC SEEKS AU ROLE IN NEGOTIATIONS BEFORE SIGNING
REF: A) HARARE 607 B) HARARE 605
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Katherine Dhanani for reason 1.4 (d)
¶1. (C) The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU),
which would provide a framework for negotiations between
ZANU-PF and the MDC, is on hold awaiting talks today in South
Africa between South African president Thabo Mbeki and Jean
Ping, chairperson of the African Union commission. The MDC
hopes that an agreement for AU participation in the mediation
process will emerge. Regardless, it appears that the MOU
will be signed early next week and negotiations will begin a
week later. Given the entrenched positions of the two sides,
a favorable outcome to the negotiations appears as of now
unlikely. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) Negotiators for ZANU-PF and the two MDC factions have
drafted an MOU outlining an agenda for substantive
negotiations. The draft MOU has as its goal the creation of
“a genuine, viable, permanent and sustainable solution to the
Zimbabwe situation….” Substantive areas of discussion
include economic, political, security and communication
goals, and the framework for a new government. Additionally,
the parties agree to take measures to end violence; support
the rule of law and its fair application; and ensure the
safety of displaced persons and their return home, and the
ability of NGOs to render necessary assistance. The MOU
“envisages” a time frame of two weeks for negotiations. It
is to be signed by President Robert Mugabe, MDC faction
leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, and Mbeki.
¶3. (C) As part of the MOU, the parties agree not to
negotiate in the media or to take any decisions on matters
included in the agenda. In practice, this means Mugabe has
agreed to defer 33 Senatorial appointments, granted him by
the Constitution, and to postpone cabinet appointments and
the convening of Parliament.
¶4. (C) According to the MDC, ZANU-PF has undertaken some
confidence-building measures contemplated by the MOU.
Violence is down–although not eliminated–and some IDPs are
returning safely to their villages. Police are no longer
seeking to arrest a number of MDC MPs-elect who had been
An AU Mediator
¶5. (C) The MDC is distrustful of Mbeki and has been pushing
for an expanded mediation team. Tsvangirai wrote twice to
SADC asking that Mbeki be replaced or that a co-mediator be
appointed, and at the AU Summit in Sharm El Sheikh the MDC
asked for an AU role. SADC rebuffed Tsvangirai, and the AU
Resolution at the end of the Summit called for the parties to
negotiate but did not address an AU role.
¶6. (C) Ping is scheduled to meet today in South Africa with
Mbeki. According to MDC sources, he has told them he will
push for an AU role, but the MDC believes he has told Mbeki
that the AU will support him as the sole mediator. (Note:
According to news reports, UN assistant secretary general for
political affairs Haile Menkarios, who visited Zimbabwe, in
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June, will also meet with Ping and Mbeki. End note.)
¶7. (C) The MOU was completed last week with a goal of
signing it on July 16. Tsvangirai decided not to sign in the
hope that the Ping-Mbeki meeting would result in an AU role.
While there is substantial sentiment within the MDC not to
proceed with negotiations absent an AU mediator, MDC
secretary general (and negotiator) Tendai Biti told us today
he expected Tsvangirai to defer to Ping. In other words, if
after the Ping-Mbeki meeting, Ping blesses a sole mediator
role for Mbeki, Tsvangirai will sign the MOU. Biti expected
the signing to take place at the beginning of the week with
negotiations to begin a week later.
Outlook for Negotiations
¶8. (C) ZANU-PF is seeking a government of national unity and
is intent on maintaining power, while the MDC favors a
transitional government led by the MDC (based on the March 29
election) (Ref B). The MDC’s Biti told us both sides were
entrenched in their positions and he couldn’t see the
¶9. (C) Biti commented that because of his personal hard line
position, both sides had talked of replacing him. He though
Tsvangirai was “weak” and was listening to the wrong people,
some of whom were tired of the present situation and favored
what for him (Biti) would be an unacceptable compromise. He
stressed he would fight such a compromise–he “would not give
an inch”– and would not be part of one.
¶10. (C) Biti thought Elton Mangoma was a capable
co-negotiator; he was glad to work with him. He was
suspicious of Mutambara faction negotiators Welshman Ncube
and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga who he thought, given the
weakness of their faction, might be willing to cut a deal
¶11. (C) ZANU-PF realizes Zimbabwe is becoming increasingly
ungovernable and that it therefore needs MDC involvement in
government and international reengagement. As we concluded
Ref B, however, and as confirmed by Biti, it is difficult to
see how negotiations can succeed given the respective
positions of the parties. We believe the MOU will be signed
shortly and that negotiations will begin. But there is no
light yet at the end of the tunnel.