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Embassy says Mugabe used Shona to alienate white and international supporters of the MDC

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.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE1958, MUZENDA EULOGY INCLUDES APPEAL TO MDC

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1958

2003-09-26 10:33

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS HARARE 001958

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV ZI

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

 

SIPDIS

foods (sadza and tripe and intestines) and hence were both

Zimbabwean.

 

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

meaningless window-dressing.

SULLIVAN

 

(16 VIEWS)

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