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Civil society wanted transitional government not GNU

Civil society organisations which met in Harare soon after the announcement that the three major political parties in Zimbabwe had agreed on a memorandum of agreement setting the framework for negotiations, which had not yet been signed, called for a transitional government led by a neutral person and rejected a power-sharing arrangement.

They said this in a press statement that was released by National Constitutional assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku who had convened the meeting.

However, representatives of other civic organisations said the statement did not fully represent the consensus of the dozens of civic organisations that had met.

They accused three leaders, Jenni Williams of WOZA, Takura Zhangazha of MISA, and Munyaradzi Gwisai of the International Socialist Organisation in Zimbabwe, of ‘hijacking’ the statement and changing the language to reflect their thoughts rather than those of the larger group.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 08HARARE636, CIVIL SOCIETY SKEPTICAL OF MOU AND TALKS

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08HARARE636

2008-07-25 12:01

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO6153

OO RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0636/01 2071201

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 251201Z JUL 08

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3218

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2174

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2293

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0825

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1570

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1928

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2349

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4780

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1439

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000636

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN AND L. DOBBINS

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/25/2018

TAGS: ELAB PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM KDEM ZI

SUBJECT: CIVIL SOCIETY SKEPTICAL OF MOU AND TALKS

 

REF: A. A: HARARE 628

B. B: HARARE 625

C. C: HARARE 606

 

Classified By: Ambassador James McGee for reason 1.4(d).

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) While leaders of Zimbabwe’s vibrant civil society

welcome political dialogue, they are deeply skeptical about

the prospect of a future under a government of national unity

(GNU). In recent months, civil society has backed the

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) very openly. However,

recent criticism of MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai’s

handshake with Robert Mugabe and the talks in South Africa

indicate its continued willingness to exercize independence.

A number of civil society organizations have called publicly

for a transitional government and a new election rather than

a GNU. In private, however, they concede that a transitional

goverment is an elusive dream that ZANU-PF may never accept.

Civil society’s criticism reflects fears that the MDC is

going to sell itself short and may be swallowed by ZANU-PF,

eliminating the only strong opposition party in Zimbabwe.

END SUMMARY.

 

——————————————— ——-

Civil society wants transitional government, not GNU

——————————————— ——-

 

2. (C) On July 15, civil society organizations met in Harare

to discuss their position on the current political situation.

In a press conference on July 16, Dr. Lovemore Madhuku,

chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), who

convened the meeting, called for a transitional government

led by a neutral person, and rejected a power-sharing

arrangement. His statement was endorsed by a number of

leading organizations including Women of Zimbabwe Arise

(WOZA), the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), and the Zimbabwe

Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). Some civil society

representatives and journalists privately criticized the

press release as not fully representing the consensus of the

dozens of civil society organizations present.

Representatives told emboff that the majority of

organizations were not satisfied with the document, believing

it did not reflect civil society’s previous statements that

the will of the people was expressed on March 29 and that any

new government should reflect this will. They accused three

leaders, namely Jenni Williams of WOZA, Takura Zhangazha of

MISA, and Munyaradzi Gwisai of the International Socialist

Organization in Zimbabwe, of ‘hijacking’ the statement and

changing the language to reflect their thoughts rather than

those of the larger group.

 

3. (C) On July 16, WOZA leaders, including Jenni Williams,

conceded to poloff that while a transitional authority and a

fresh election would be best, it was also highly unlikely.

Everyone knews, they said, that Mugabe was not going to hand

over the reigns of power and that some kind of government of

national unity (GNU) was the most likely and — regrettably

— the best-case scenario. However, they were skeptical

about the MDC entering into any kind of agreement with

ZANU-PF, saying it could not be trusted and it had

historically swallowed up its opposition. Williams authored

an article in a Kenyan newspaper on July 23 criticizing

Zimbabwean political leadership’s self-importance and

ignorance of the people’s daily plight and the “crashing

economy”. She described her vision for a transitional

authority for 18 months, with a greater role for the UN in

addressing the humanitarian crisis, and called for an

 

HARARE 00000636 002 OF 003

 

 

immediate cessation to the violence, which has not stopped

since the June 27 election (reftel C).

 

—————————————–

Some, but not a lot of optimism for talks

—————————————–

 

4. (U) With the signing of the MOU on July 21 (reftels A

and B), civil society leaders have expressed varying degrees

of receptiveness to the development. In England, Harare

Anglican bishop Sebastian Bakare said that the launch of

talks offered “a little” hope, but he indicated it was too

early to say if the talks would lead to a real solution. He

echoed a familiar concern that the MDC would be swallowed up

by ZANU-PF, as had happened in Zimbabwe’s past.

 

5. (C) MISA Zimbabwe chairman Loughty Dube said on July 22

that he was “cautiously optimistic”. MISA Program Officer

Takura Zhangazha further explained to poloff on July 24 that

these talks were “inevitable”, but he criticized MDC and

ZANU-PF for not including civil society in drafting the MOU.

Specifically, Zhangazha said that ZANU-PF was specific in its

media concerns in adding “external radio stations” to the

agenda. Had MDC consulted with MISA, it would have advised

MDC to include the issues of the prohibition of foreign

journalists, heavily biased public broadcasting, and the

recently imposed taxes on foreign-printed papers. He further

explained that the secretive negotiation process for the MOU

was similar to the negotiation in 2007 that resulted in

Constitutional Amendment 18 that called for harmonized

elections. Zhangazha described a power-sharing arrangement

as a means for ZANU-PF to simply buy time, regain

international credibility, and eliminate sanctions. He

opined that while some elements of the MDC would be strong in

resisting being “swallowed” by ZANU-PF, others would not. He

thought that the Mutambara faction could play a critical role

in tipping the balance in either direction.

 

6. (C) ZCTU Secretary General Wellington Chibebe issued a

press statement “welcoming” the move towards a negotiated

settlement but the statement criticized the consultation

process as closed and called on the facilitators to open the

dialogue to include civil society. In a meeting with poloff

on July 22, Chibebe and ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo

expressed less enthusiasm for the talks. Matombo sighed

that, as labor leaders, they were in the business of

negotiations and you “never” get excited until a deal has

been reached, and certainly not over an agenda for talks.

They echoed Madhuku’s call for a neutral transitional

authority to lead the country, but they also conceded that

some kind of power-sharing agreement was the most likely

outcome. The labor leaders also criticized the negotiation

process as being too closed, saying that the political

leaders needed civil society’s acceptance and participation

to make the political agreement work. They repeated MISA’s

concerns that they had been consulted informally by elements

of the MDC, but in a haphazard manner rather than in a

strategic, systematic fashion.

 

7. (C) NCA president Dr. Lovemore Madhuku (who is also a

constitutional law expert) told poloff on July 25 that he was

“not very optimistic”. He opined that the talks will

collapse unless the MDC agrees to a GNU and that ZANU-PF

would never agree to a transitional government.

Consequently, the constitutional and legal reforms needed to

address the larger issues of poor governance and weak

institutions would remain unaddressed. As the economy

continues to decline, he thought that people could rise up if

the talks collapse and the situation on the ground further

deteriorates.

 

8. (U) Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, which represents over

 

HARARE 00000636 003 OF 003

 

 

350 civic organizations, published a statement on July 22

calling for a solution that represents the will of the

people, as reflected in the March 29 election. Its statement

also pointed out the governance issues and erosion of

constitutionality and democracy over the last 10 years. The

Coalition called for a transitional authority rather than a

GNU, saying that a GNU was just a means to give ZANU-PF

“breathing space” before re-embarking on a war path against

the opposition and pro-democracy movements.

 

———————————–

Zimbabweans’ skepticism decreasing?

———————————–

 

9. (U) One of Zimbabwe’s most important civil society

websites, Kubatana!, requested input by SMS from Zimbabweans

regarding the talks. In April they asked about a possible

GNU and received overwhelmingly negative feedback. In

contrast, respondents now — likely softened by the violence

that wracked the countryside throughout May and June —

indicated that talks were a welcome development, but warned

Tsvangirai and MDC to be careful that they did not get

“swallowed” by ZANU-PF as happened to then-opposition party

ZAPU in 1987. In addition, they received over 300 requests

for a copy of the MOU, indicating the lack of information in

the public domain regarding even the public aspects of the

talks.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

10. (SBU) Zimbabwe’s vibrant civil society is one of the few

remaining causes for optimism in Zimbabwe. These

organizations represent tens of thousands of ordinary

Zimbabweans and they continue to be outspoken about the

political future of their country. It is interesting that

while they publicly call for a transitional government, they

privately acknowledge it will likely never happen. Their

public adherence to a call for a transitional government may

further exclude them from the negotiations as their position

and that of the MDC diverge. END COMMENT.

MCGEE

(8 VIEWS)

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