President Robert Mugabe is reported to have used Shona to call for unity with the Movement for Democratic Change to separate Movement for Democratic Change members from their white constituents and international supporters, according to the United States embassy.
The embassy said this was based on the fact that the written speech by Mugabe that was circulated at the burial of his deputy Simon Muzenda was totally different from what he delivered in Shona.
In Shona, Mugabe drew on cultural themes and social norms, especially hierarchy and the status of elders. He welcomed MDC figures present and encouraged the need for dialogue between the two parties without interference by Western interests.
Mugabe said Zimbabweans should work together regardless of political affiliation and told the crowd that he and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai were the same -they ate the same traditional foods (sadza and tripe and intestines) and hence were both Zimbabwean.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1958, MUZENDA EULOGY INCLUDES APPEAL TO MDC
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 001958
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: MUZENDA EULOGY INCLUDES APPEAL TO MDC
REF: (A) HARARE 1931 (B) HARARE 1600
¶1. (U) SUMMARY: Robert Mugabe’s eulogy on September 24 to
Vice President Simon Muzenda, who died on September 20 (ref
A), is not likely to change the political climate here. As
with previous speeches, Mugabe seized the opportunity to
extol the virtues of land reform, to vilify the British and
Americans, and to dangle the carrot of reconciliation with
the MDC. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (U) President Mugabe’s speech commemorating the life of
Simon Muzenda combined English, Shona, and Ndebele in
prepared and impromptu comments. In English, Mugabe praised
the life and contributions of the late Vice President,
promoted the success of land reform program and vilified the
British and the Americans. He accused white commercial
farmers of attempting to get the EU to impose sanctions on
Zimbabwean beef exports and urged such “Rhodesians” to leave
the country. Reiterating the irreversability of land reform,
Mugabe maintained that the peasants in Zimbabwe were land
reform’s true beneficiaries chastised the British and
Americans for being obstacles in Zimbabwe’s independence
during the 1970s.
¶3. (U) In Shona and Ndebele, Mugabe drew on cultural themes
and social norms, especially hierarchy and the status of
elders. He welcomed MDC figures present and encouraged the
need for dialogue between the two parties without
interference by Western interests. He alluded to the need
for the MDC to show respect to ZANU-PF by relating the story
of a younger brother who disagreed with an older brother but,
because of the elder’s status, had to disagree in private
even when he knew elder was wrong. He used another idiom
that preached against airing dirty laundry, and he encouraged
exclusion of the British from any interparty dialogue.
Mugabe said Zimbabweans should work together regardless of
political affiliation and told the crowd that he and
Tsvangirai were the same — they ate the same traditional
foods (sadza and tripe and intestines) and hence were both
¶4. (U) In conclusion, Mugabe talked about bequeathing a
legacy to upcoming generations and the need to not forget the
past. He was not explicit as to who would be taking over but
mentioned several times the need to continue the journey laid
out by the Zimbabwe founders.
¶5. (SBU) COMMENT: Mugabe’s speech as delivered differed
considerably from his circulated written text, which made no
mention of the MDC or bequeathing legacies. Underscoring the
eulogy’s intended connection to the domestic political
context, the September 25 government daily featured
“President’s Calls for Unity With Opposition” on its front
page. In fact, the message did not break significantly new
ground and echoed the message of his Heroes Day speech last
month (ref B): the ruling party is prepared to engage with
the opposition but only on its own terms and with proper
deference. The unusually heavy reliance on local dialect,
especially in the “outreach” to the MDC, represented an
effort to establish common ground with MDC elements in a way
that would separate them from the party’s white constituents
and international supporters. Several MDC leaders were in
the crowd but reported MDC reaction to Mugabe’s appeal so far
has been entirely negative, labeling Mugabe’s remarks as