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Botswana said GPA was dead

Botswana’s Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani told United States diplomats that the power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe was dead and Movement for Democratic Change leader and Prime Minister designate Morgan Tsvangirai might announce the withdrawal of the MDC from outside Zimbabwe to avoid being arrested.

Skelemani said he was worried that once the MDC formally withdrew, the government would step up arrests of members of the opposition and engage in a campaign of political violence.

He was concerned that Tsvangirai would be arrested almost immediately and Zimbabwe’s complaints that Botswana was training MDC youth would be used as pretext to charge Tsvangirai and other MDC leaders with subversion.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 08GABORONE994, SKELEMANI: ZIM POWERSHARING DEAL IS DEAD

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08GABORONE994

2008-11-17 13:09

2011-08-30 01:44

SECRET

Embassy Gaborone

VZCZCXRO2751

PP RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHOR #0994/01 3221309

ZNY SSSSS ZZH

P 171309Z NOV 08

FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5381

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA PRIORITY 0369

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0196

RUEHMV/AMEMBASSY MONROVIA PRIORITY 0054

RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0091

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0171

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0382

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 GABORONE 000994

 

SIPDIS

 

ADDIS FOR USAU

LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/17/2018

TAGS: PREL ZI BC

SUBJECT: SKELEMANI: ZIM POWERSHARING DEAL IS DEAD

 

REF: GABORONE 975

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR STEPHEN J. NOLAN FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: During an office call with Foreign Minister

Phandu Skelemani November 17, Ambassador Nolan asked for

Botswana’s view on the status of the powersharing agreement

in Zimbabwe and next steps that SADC and the wider

international community should take. Skelemani declared that

“the deal is dead,” and said that he and President Khama hope

to meet with South African President and SADC Chair Motlanthe

later this week to try and convince him that the powersharing

negotiations have failed and that SADC is “back to square

one” on Zimbabwe. The Foreign Minister counseled that

elevating the Zimbabwe problem to the African Union would be

the next logical step, but he had little hope that the AU

would take any useful action. He maintained that the western

friends of Zimbabwe should continue providing food

assistance, but warned that other actions may be

counterproductive. Skelemani remains concerned about hunger

in Zimbabwe, and he believes there is a strong possibility of

political violence against the MDC once the powersharing

agreement formally collapses. END SUMMARY.

 

“The Deal is Dead”

——————-

2. (C) During an office call with Foreign Minister Phandu

Skelemani November 17, Ambassador Nolan asked for Botswana’s

view on the status of the powersharing agreement in Zimbabwe

and next steps that SADC and the wider international

community should take. Ambassador was accompanied by DCM and

Pol/Econ Chief, and Skelemani was joined by the MFA’s

Director for African and Asian Affairs and Director for

American and European Affairs. The Foreign Minister was

deeply pessimistic about the prospects for powersharing in

Zimbabwe, and he opened the meeting by declaring that “the

deal is dead” even though none of the players have formally

said so. Giving a brief read-out of the November 9 summit in

Sandton, Skelemani said the South African delegation vocally

supported the proposal that ZANU-PF and MDC-T should simply

co-share the disputed Home Affairs Ministry and immediately

form a government. The Foreign Minister noted that the RSA

Defense Minister Charles Nqukula was the biggest advocate of

co-sharing within the SADC summit. He explained that only

Lesotho, Zambia, and Tanzania had sided with Botswana against

co-sharing, and admitted that the clear consensus among the

other 10 SADC members (eleven if you include Zimbabwe) was

for co-sharing the Home Affairs Ministry. Zimbabwe’s

allegation that the GOB has trained MDC members to fight

against the Government of Zimbabwe were briefly raised at the

Summit. When Botswana refuted this notion as ridiculous and

invited SADC to investigate, President Mugabe spoke up to

“clarify” the charge, explaining that he had never said

Botswana was training MDC soldiers but instead mentioned some

kind of “youth symposium” from which MDC supporters have

emerged who could later “infiltrate” Zimbabwe. (Note:

Skelemani dismissed this idea again as pure fantasy on

Mugabe’s part, and he seemed to have no idea what sort of

“youth symposium” Mugabe was talking about or how/why the

“infiltration” would take place. End Note.)

 

No African Solution Likely for this African Problem

——————————————— ——

3. (S) Minister Skelemani said that he and President Khama

hope to meet with South African President and SADC Chair

Kgalema Motlanthe later this week to try and convince him

that the powersharing negotiations have failed and that SADC

is “back to square one” on Zimbabwe. He said that elevating

the Zimbabwe problem to the African Union would be the

logical next step, but Skelamani offered little hope that the

AU would be of any assistance. He explained that SADC was

already selling the idea of co-sharing the Home Affairs

Ministry to the AU, and he doubted that the AU would take any

action that would contradict the SADC consensus position.

Furthermore, Skelemani despaired that the African Union would

see reason with regard to Zimbabwe. He complained that “half

of the AU members don’t even know what democracy is about”

and said that most of them think the only problem in Zimbabwe

is hunger. He called the African Union “useless” and noted

 

GABORONE 00000994 002 OF 002

 

 

that many of its member states won’t criticize Mugabe because

they aren’t doing much better than he is. Skelemani

mentioned that Liberia was the only AU member likely to side

with Botswana and criticize the GOZ.

 

4. (S) Ambassador Nlan asked what the United States and

other westen friends of Zimbabwe could do to assist. The

Miister replied that th US, UK, and Europe should cntinue

to provide food to the people of Zimbabweand to engage

diplomatically behind the scenes, ut he counseled that right

now the west cannot do much else to bring pressure to bear on

Mugabe without providing him the excuse of “western

interference” to use to gain sympathy. Skelemani said that

Mugabe would find a way to twist any western actions against

him and said that Mugabe “is good at manufacturing stories

with a straight face.” The Foreign Minister also mentioned

that the Russian Ambassador had called on him November 14 to

ask about next steps regarding Zimbabwe. Skelemani told the

Russian envoy that after the AU is brought in, the next step

would be the United Nations, but the Russians asked

skeptically what the UN could do. Skelemani maintained that

AU or the UN need to say that “time is up” in Zimbabwe and

call for internationally supervised elections. He also

repeated his idea from our previous meeting on Zimbabwe

(reftel) that Mugabe would quickly step down and agree to new

elections if Zimbabwe’s petrol supply was cut off.

 

 

GOB Concerned About Hunger, Violence in Zimbabwe

——————————————— —

5. (C) Minister Skelemani predicted that the MDC will soon

announce publicly that the September 15 powersharing

agreement is finished, since it cannot be implemented in

practice. He worried that once the MDC formally withdraws,

the GOZ will step up arrests of opposition supporters and

engage in a campaign of political violence. In particular,

Skelemani is concerned that Morgan Tsvangirai will be

arrested almost immediately upon the failure of the

powersharing agreement, and the Minister believes that

Zimbabwe’s complaints about Botswana training MDC youth will

be used as a pretext to charge Tsvangirai and other MDC

leaders with subversion. The Foreign Minister noted that

Tsvangirai told the SADC summit that at least 12 MDC members

have gone missing and they are believed to have been seized

by the government. Skelemani speculated that MDC Members of

Parliament will be targeted (either arrested or attacked) in

order to keep them out of Parliament and reduce the MDC’s

presence in the legislature. He hinted that Tsvangirai might

announce the MDC’s withdrawal from the powersharing agreement

from outside Zimbabwe (perhaps South Africa or Botswana) in

order to avoid arrest. Skelemani stressed that the

humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe is severe and he reported

that according to one of his sources, some parts of

Matabeleland North province are not receiving any food

deliveries.   The Minister also noted that stocks of mealie

meal in Francistown and surrounding communities have been

completely bought out by visiting Zimbabweans.

 

Comment– Seeking Hope Among the Hopeless

—————————————–

6. (C) COMMENT: Foreign Minister Skelemani was not able to

offer much hope about the future of Zimbabwe. He seems to

have no faith that within SADC or the AU there will be any

African solutions to this African problem (or perhaps any

other). It is clear that Botswana feels increasingly

isolated within SADC and the AU for its stance on Zimbabwe.

The USG and other friends of democracy must do all we can to

quietly bolster and support Botswana for its courageous

stance, and perhaps find opportunities to bring together the

few like-minded African nations (including Liberia, which has

undergone its own renaissance and transformation from

tyranny) to build alliances and search for new solutions for

Zimbabwe. For now, the mood is not optimistic in Gaborone,

while SADC slumbers. End Comment.

NOLAN

 

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