Former Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa was confident that President Robert Mugabe would be defeated in the 2008 elections.
He told American embassy officials on 12 March, just two weeks before the elections, that the candidacy of Simba Makoni, who had announced his challenge and was now heading a party called Mavambo-Kusile-Dawn, was not about Makoni but about rescuing the nation.
Dabengwa said Makoni did not have any money but he did not want Western support for fear of being tainted in the electoral campaign as the puppet of the West.
According to a cable released by Wikileaks several senior Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front officials were behind Makoni but they preferred to stay in the background because of fear of Mugabe.
Contrary to what Dabengwa had said, however, British ambassador to Zimbabwe Andrew Pocock had told American officials the same day that the UK had provided financial assistance to Makoni.
American embassy contact Sydney Masamvu had also told them that South African businessmen were supporting Makoni and Dabengwa had raised 80 000 Euro and two tankers of fuel for the Makoni campaign.
Viewing cable 08HARARE200, AMBASSADOR’S MEETING WITH DUMISO DABENGWA
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STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/13/2018
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR’S MEETING WITH DUMISO DABENGWA
REF: A. A) HARARE 197
¶B. B) HARARE 175
Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (d)
¶1. (C) According to Dumiso Dabengwa, who met with the
Ambassador on March 12, Simba Makoni’s candidacy is not about
Makoni, but is an effort to rescue the country. Although
short on money, Makoni does not want Western support for fear
of being tainted in the electoral campaign as the puppet of
the West. Dabengwa is optimistic that Mugabe can be
defeated. Solomon Mujuru supports Makoni and will probably
make his support known before the election. If there is a
runoff between Mugabe and either Makoni or the MDC’s
Tsvangirai, he expects “horse trading” to establish an
alliance between Makoni and Tsvangirai to oppose Mugabe.
Electoral rigging can be controlled; the biggest concern is
postal voting by the security forces. Dabengwa is concerned
that if Mugabe is defeated at the polls he will not accept
defeat. He believes, however, that the military, with
exceptions, will accept the will of the voters. If Makoni
wins, he will establish a “national authority” made up of
leaders to discuss a new constitution, economic reform, and a
government of national unity. END SUMMARY.
The Genesis of the Makoni Campaign
¶2. (C) Dabengwa told the Ambassador that Makoni’s candidacy
was not about Makoni, but was an effort to rescue the
country. Dabengwa recalled that Mugabe had promised two
years ago at the United Nations to step down at the end of
his current term. When Mugabe last year indicated his
intention to nevertheless run for re-election in 2008,
Dabengwa said he had fought from within the ZANU-PF politburo
for Mugabe to step down. He had intended to challenge him at
the December 2007 ZANU-PF Congress, but Mugabe had rigged it
to prevent a challenge. Dabengwa then became one of the
initiators of a Makoni candidacy.
¶3. (C) Dabengwa said he had been asked by other dissidents
to stand against Mugabe. As an Ndebele and former Zimbabwe
African People’s Union (ZAPU) leader from Bulawayo, he was
concerned, however, that he could not win support in
Mashonaland. After considering the national interest, he
decided that Makoni would be a more viable candidate.
¶4. (C) Dabengwa opined that Morgan Tsvangirai should have
made the same decision. The objective was to get Mugabe out.
Tsvangirai could not win, particularly in light of the MDC
split, and he should have considered the national interest
and supported Makoni.
No to U.S. Support
¶5. (C) According to Dabengwa, Makoni was short on money, but
would manage. There was a stigma attached to the U.S. and
UK, both of which were seen as supporting “regime change.”
Change should be left to the Zimbabwean people, Dabengwa
admonished. The negative impression of the U.S. as a
supporter of regime change had made it difficult for Makoni
to accept Western support without becoming tainted.
Therefore, Makoni did not want our financial support.
Dabengwa acknowledged that Western assistance would be
important once there is a new government; he would look
HARARE 00000200 002 OF 003
forward to discussing this with the Ambassador at that time.
¶6. (S/NF) (NOTE: British ambassador to Zimbabwe Andrew
Pocock told the Ambassador on March 12 that the UK has
provided financial assistance to the Makoni campaign. We
have also received reports that South African businessmen are
supporting Makoni. Embassies Harare and Pretoria contact
Sydney Masamvu recently met with Dabengwa in South Africa.
According to Masamvu, Dabengwa raised Euro 80,000 and two
tankers of fuel during his visit. END NOTE.)
Political Support for Makoni
¶7. (C) Dabengwa averred that Makoni had substantial support
in the country, even though high-profile leaders had, for
personal reasons, chosen not to publicly express their
support. He commented that General Solomon Mujuru also was
one of the initiators of Makoni’s candidacy; Mujuru was still
solidly behind Makoni, but Dabengwa was unsure when and if he
would make his support public. (NOTE: Dabengwa told Sydney
Masamvu that Mujuru had delayed his public support because of
fear of prosecution by Mugabe for corrupt business dealings;
he would make his support public a couple of days before the
March 29 election. END NOTE.) Dabengwa said he was
confident Mugabe would be defeated.
¶8. (C) The Ambassador queried Dabengwa as to Makoni’s
position in the event of a runoff between Mugabe and either
Makoni or Tsvangirai. Dabengwa responded that there would be
“horse trading” in an effort to coordinate opposition to
¶9. (C) Dabengwa commented that he had served in the
government as Minister for Home Affairs and had overseen
elections. He thought as minister he had largely controlled
electoral rigging. The Makoni forces intended to have
polling agents at almost all polling stations. (NOTE: There
will be 8,200 stations. END NOTE.) According to Dabengwa,
the most vulnerable part of the process was military and
police voting as one week before the election, members of the
military and police and their spouses were allowed to vote by
mail. Dabengwa said that in the past, many of these
individuals, at the behest of their superiors, had submitted
multiple ballots through the post. (NOTE: The number of
military and police is about 60,000 to 70,000. END NOTE.)
Mugabe and the Military
¶10. (C) Dabengwa shared the Ambassador’s concern that Mugabe
would not accept defeat. Dabengwa noted that there was
widespread opposition to Mugabe within the ruling party;
nevertheless, at the December ZANU-PF Congress, Mugabe,
despite knowledge that the country was sinking, had chosen to
foreclose discussion of succession and appeared intent on
continuing in office.
¶11. (C) Dabengwa was optimistic the military would not play
a destabilizing role. He noted that as the commander of
ZIPRA, ZAPU’s military arm, he knew the current crop of high
ranking Zimbabwean military officials, many of whom had
served under him. He offered his opinions of the top three
military leaders: Zimbabwe Army Chief Philip Sibanda had
commanded UN forces in Angola and had rescued Zimbabwe from
defeat in the Congo. He was professional and level headed.
HARARE 00000200 003 OF 003
Perence Shiri, Commander of the Air Force, had long been
critical of Mugabe’s leadership and his unwillingness to
permit change within ZANU-PF. He had repented of his role in
Gukurahundi, the Matabeleland massacres instigated by Mugabe
in the early 1980s. Defense Forces Commander Constantine
Chiwenga, on the other hand, was so corrupt that “he would
rather sink with the ship than oppose the captain.” (NOTE:
Chiwenga recently told The Standard newspaper that “elections
are coming and the army will not support or salute sell-outs
and agents of the West before, during and after the
presidential elections.” END NOTE.)
Makoni’s Plan for a National Authority
¶12. (C) If Makoni is elected, Dabengwa told the Ambassador,
he would establish a national authority made up of leaders,
including representatives of political parties. (COMMENT:
This concept is ill-defined. Makoni will be unable to form a
conventional government unless a large number of independent
candidates win seats, since all ministers must be members of
the legislature, and floor-crossing is forbidden under
Zimbabwean law. END COMMENT.) He would then determine
priorities, including constitutional and economic reform.
Finally, he would choose a cabinet from independent
parliamentarians and from ZANU-PF and the MDC in an effort to
establish a government of national unity. According to
Dabengwa, Makoni was not now offering solutions. These would
come from the national authority, and later from the
¶13. (C) Nicholas Goche told the Ambassador that Solomon
Mujuru had pledged his loyalty to Mugabe (Ref A), and a March
13 banner headline in The Herald announced that “Gen Mujuru
Disowns Makoni.” Nevertheless, Dabengwa, a long-time ally of
Mujuru from the pre-independence days when Mujuru commanded
ZANLA (the military arm of ZANU) forces and Dabengwa
commanded ZIPRA forces, is in a position to know the truth.
His assertion that Mujuru is backing Makoni jives with what
we have heard from other Makoni supporters. Mujuru appears
to be deceiving Mugabe in the same way Makoni did before
announcing his candidacy.
¶14. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: We have received numerous
reports that a large number of the military are dissatisfied
with the status quo and support a change in leadership.
Solomon Mujuru continues to enjoy widespread support from
within the military. Sibanda and Shiri can be expected to
act professionally. Despite Chiwenga’s loyalty to Mugabe, at
this point there is little reason to believe that the
military would attempt to contravene a Mugabe electoral loss.