Britain was so frustrated by South African President Thabo Mbeki’s failure to put pressure on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to step down after losing the 2008 elections that Prime Minister Gordon Brown arranged a 30-minute meeting with African National Congress president Jacob Zuma to discuss Zimbabwe though British officials were worried about corruption allegations against Zuma and what they termed other “political baggage”.
The UK was also frustrated by the inaction of the Southern African Development Community that it decided to threaten to bring the Zimbabwe crisis before the United Nations Security Council because it believed that “just the threat of doing so would serve as a swipe at SADC and South African diplomacy, and (might) prod Mbeki and SADC to take more effective, and vocal, diplomatic action toward Zimbabwe”.
The frustrations are expressed in two diplomatic cables just released by Wikileaks one dispatched barely a week after the elections on 9 April 2008 and the other three weeks after the elections on 22 April.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office even ordered its Zimbabwe Section Chief Ben Llewellyn-Jones to draft a “game plan” examining Britain’s options for various contingencies as well as possible outcomes.
According to the cables, Britain was not prepared to be “in the driver’s seat” because of its colonial past in Zimbabwe and the fact that there were about 14 000 British nationals in Zimbabwe.
“For now, in order not to give Mugabe and ZANU-PF additional “anti-imperial ammunition,” Mbeki and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should be seen as the primary actors working to resolve the stalemate there,” one of the cables said.
It was also prepared to issue more “forceful public statements” and “press” a non-governmental organisation the Zimbabwe Election Supervisory Network (ZESN) to publicise anomalies or evidence of vote rigging raising question as to what leverage it had over the NGO.
Despite its frustrations, Britain was convinced that time was running out for Mugabe and he would be forced to leave office sooner or later but at the same time it felt that the initial “shock” of Mugabe’s defeat had worn off and his “cronies” were gaining more confidence by the day.
Britain was also worried by Movement for Democratic Change leader, Morgan Tsvangirai’s absence from the country. It said while his repeated lobbying and regional travels had kept international attention focussed on Zimbabwe, his extended absence from the country could end up costing him political capital.
HMG CONSIDERING OPTIONS IN AFTERMATH OF ZIMBABWE’S ELECTIONS, INCLUDING POSSIBLE UNSC ACTION
Ref ID: 08LONDON1014
Date: 4/9/2008 14:41
Origin: Embassy London
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C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 001014 SIPDIS NOFORN SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR AF AND EUR/WE/UK E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/09/2018 TAGS: EC, PGOV, PREL, SA, UK, EU, UNSC, ZI SUBJECT: (C) HMG CONSIDERING OPTIONS IN AFTERMATH OF ZIMBABWE’S ELECTIONS, INCLUDING POSSIBLE UNSC ACTION Classified By: Political Counselor Richard Mills for reasons 1.4 (b) an d (d).
1.(C) Foreign Office Zimbabwe Section Chief Ben Llewellyn-Jones confirmed to Poloff on April 7 that Prime Minister Brown had urged South African president Thabo Mbeki to use his influence in an effort to bring a positive end to Zimbabwe’s political crisis when the two men meet on April 6. Llewellyn-Jones said that because of the UK’s colonial past in Zimbabwe, and the fact that approximately 14,000 British nationals reside in Zimbabwe, HMG prefers not to be “in the driver’s seat” on the issue. For now, in order not to give Mugabe and ZANU-PF additional “anti-imperial ammunition,” Mbeki and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should be seen as the primary actors working to resolve the stalemate there. Llewellyn-Jones said that Mbeki and the SADC are expected to make more appeals and recommendations, and Brown strongly suggested to Mbeki that the SADC push for additional election observers to operate throughout Zimbabwe in the event that a run-off takes place.
2.(C) According to Llewellyn-Jones, HMG is willing to wait until mid-April for the Mugabe-controlled Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) to release the results of the presidential election. He also agreed that bringing the issue before Zimbabwe’s High Court may well further complicate matters. Nevertheless, should the ZEC continue its delaying tactics, HMG will begin issuing more forceful public statements over the coming days while also pressing the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) to publicize any anomalies or evidence of vote-rigging in an effort to avoid any repetition in a future run-off of “techniques” the ZESN may have uncovered.
EU Playing More Helpful Role —————————-
3.(C) On a more positive note, Llewellyn-Jones conveyed the FCO’s pleasure at seeing the European Commission assume an increasingly helpful role towards Zimbabwe and a willingness to weigh in more effectively. He believes this is happening because the UK, France and Germany have all lined up together, thereby “making it harder for the other European countries to ignore what is going on.”
UK Considering a UNSC “Threat” —————————–
4.(C) Acknowledging the reluctance of the SADC, Mbeki, and other African political leaders to criticize Robert Mugabe, Llewellyn-Jones indicated that HMG is prepared to “threaten” to bring the Zimbabwe crisis before the UN Security Council. Just the threat of doing so would serve as a swipe at SADC and South African diplomacy, and may prod Mbeki and the SADC to take more effective, and vocal, diplomatic action toward Zimbabwe, Llewellyn-Jones suggested.
Foreign Office Preparing Options Paper ————————————-
5.(C/NF) FCO has ordered Llewellyn-Jones to draft a “game plan” examining HMG’s near-term options for various contingencies, as well as possible outcomes for Zimbabwe. Llewellyn-Jones promised to share a copy of the plan with Post once it has been finalized. Visit London’s Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX cfm Tuttle
AN UPDATE ON HMG EXPECTATIONS AND PREDICTIONS FOR ZIMBABWE
Ref ID: 08LONDON1135
Date: 4/22/2008 12:31
Origin: Embassy London
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C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 001135 SIPDIS NOFORN SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR AF AND EUR/WE/UK E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/22/2018 TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PREL, UN, UK, EU, SA, CH, ZI SUBJECT: (C) AN UPDATE ON HMG EXPECTATIONS AND PREDICTIONS FOR ZIMBABWE REF: LONDON 1014 Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Maura Connelly for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(C) Summary. The head of the Foreign Office’s Zimbabwe section indicated on 21 April that time is running out for Robert Mugabe. Ineffective African mediation efforts may still yield positive results if all interested parties, including the African Union and the United Nations, coordinate with the Southern African Development Community. A proposal that respected African elder statesmen meet with Mugabe face-to-face is another “regional” tool worth bringing to bear. As violence within Zimbabwe is on the rise, the FCO also is proposing that HMG, the U.S., and France work to pursuade China to halt all arms shipments to Zimbabwe for the time being. In light of the lacklustre mediation shown by South African President Mbeki, Prime Minister Brown is scheduled to meet with ANC President Zuma on 23 April to discuss Zimbabwe. The ongoing crisis there continues to remain of very high interest to the Prime Minister’s office, according to the FCO Zimbabwe section chief. End Summary.
2.(C) In a meeting with Poloff on 21 April to discuss the latest developments in Zimbabwe, FCO Zimbabwe Section Chief Ben Llewellyn-Jones predicted that the current political stand-off could not last indefinitely and that Mugabe would be forced to leave office sooner or later. Finding the proper political levers to make this happen sooner is proving to be increasingly difficult, however, as HMG is “hitting the limit” of available options with individual actors or groups. In light of South African President Thabo Mbeki’s moribund efforts to resolve Zimbabwe’s crisis, for example, Llewellyn-Jones noted that PM Brown will hold a brief 30-minute meeting with ANC leader Jacob Zuma on 23 April. Zuma’s past experience in dealing with prickly regional negotiations could well be useful, but corruption allegations and other “political baggage” Zuma carries illustrate that no particular African political figure can seemingly tackle the problem alone.
Send In The AU Team ——————–
3.(C) Although the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) recent mediation efforts also have fallen short (reftel), and the regional UN representative in Harare appears to be doing Mugabe’s bidding, Llewelyn-Jones maintained that Western nations should strongly encourage the United Nations and the African Union (AU) to engage more heavily on Zimbabwe. If SADC, AU, and even the local UN representative carry the same message that HMG, the USG, and the European Commission have been pushing recently, the message would resonate more convincingly with Zimbabwe’s ruling elite. As another useful “regional” tool the SADC and AU could bring to bear, Llewelyn-Jones suggested that an entourage of respected African elder statesmen should visit Mugabe personally with the requisite assurances for his safety and immunity from prosecution, if he agrees to step down.
Fending off the Chinese ———————–
4.(C) Llewellyn-Jones expressed unexpected delight that several of Zimbabwe’s neighbors had thus far prevented the docking and unloading of the An Yue Jiang, a Chinese ship carrying arms and ammunition intended for Zimbabwe. He was not sanguine that Angola would act in the same way. In light of increasing reports of violent confrontations within Zimbabwe, he suggested that, through the UN Security Council, the P-3 (U.S., HMG and France) should push the PRC to halt all arms shipments to Zimbabwe for the foreseeable future.
Elections Theft Rewarded? ————————-
5.(C) Llewellyn-Jones agreed that the initial “shock” of Mugabe’s presumed electoral defeat has clearly worn off. Mugabe and his cronies gain more confidence with each passing day that the crisis continues, increasing the violence directed at opponents and ratcheting up pressure throughout the country while the voting “recount” proceeds at a snail’s pace. Meanwhile, although Morgan Tsvangirai’s repeated lobbying and concurrent regional travels have succeeded in keeping international attention focused on his homeland, Llewellyn-Jones wondered whether the MDC chief’s extended absence from Zimbabwe would end up costing him ever-increasing political capital.
6. (C) Zimbabwe continues to be of strong media interest in the UK and Llewelyn-Jones remains “without a doubt gainfully employed” in light of what he described as intense and repeated daily inquiries on Zimbabwe from the Prime Minister’s office. Visit London’s Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX TUTTLE