Church leaders from the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Christian Council and the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference all tried to open dialogue between the Movement for Democratic Change and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front but made no headway.
Interestingly both parties wanted to talk but the MDC felt that ZANU-PF had to make a public commitment that it was prepared to negotiate.
ZANU-PF, on the other hand, continued to harass leaders of the MDC and even arrested party leader Morgan Tsvangirai on further treason charges this time of trying to get President Robert Mugabe out of power through mass action.
Here is how the United States embassy reviewed efforts by the church leaders to open negotiations.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1251, CHURCH LEADERS TRY TO FACILITATE DIALOGUE
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001251
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2008
SUBJECT: CHURCH LEADERS TRY TO FACILITATE DIALOGUE
Classified By: Political Officer Peggy Blackford for reasons 1.5b/d
¶1. (C) A group of church leaders representing the
Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), the Zimbabwe
Council of Churches (ZCC) and the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops
Conference have held two meetings with leaders of ZANU-PF and
the MDC in an attempt to get the parties to the negotiating
table. Talks have been slow and produced little to date
though ZANU has, in theory, agreed to an MDC demand for a
public commitment to the process. This commitment has not
yet been forthcoming however. Although many groups appear to
be interested in breaking through the current impasse, so far
success is elusive.
Church group meets with leaders on both sides
¶2. (C) Following up on an article in the Zimbabwe Independent
of June 13 which reported that church leaders were
facilitating dialogue between ZANU-PF and the MDC, AID
officers spoke with Trevor Manhanga, President of the EFZ who
confirmed that a group of nine pastors from the EFZ, the ZCC
and the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference had come
together to lead this initiative. Although they had agreed
to keep their meetings quiet until Mugabe committed himself
to the process, clearly someone in the group had leaked the
story to the Independent. Given this leak, Manhanga agreed
to keep the mission informed but asked that we keep the
¶3. (C) Thus far, the group has held two meetings with each
side. The first occasion was during the second or third week
in May when the pastors met with ZANU-PF and the MDC in back
to back meetings. The ZANU delegation was composed of Nathan
Shamuyarira, the party’s secretary for information and
publicity, Willard Chiwewe, Foreign Affairs senior secretary
and a member of the President’s office whose name Manhanga
could not remember. As the pastors had anticipated,
Shamuyarira started off with a 40 minute lecture on
patriotism, land, the war of liberation, etc. When he
finished the pastors said that they did not plan to respond
to those issues but instead were there to talk about
negotiations. They said that as church leaders they could
not sit by and just watch. They wanted to interact with both
sides and get the dialogue going. The ZANU representatives
promised to report back to Mugabe and the Politburo and get
back to them.
¶4. (C) The group next met with the MDC’s top leadership,
President Morgan Tsvangirai, Vice-President Gibson Sibanda,
Secretary-General Welshman Ncube and Presidential Advisor,
Gandi Mudzingwa. They said that they welcomed the church
initiative but wanted a public commitment from ZANU and asked
if the initiative was strictly the church’s idea or ZANU’s.
The pastors assured them that they had initiated the process
themselves. Their end game is a free and fair election where
the people decide on a government of their choice.
¶5. (C) Both sides were quiet until the week of the stayaway
(June 2-6) when ZANU got in touch and offered to answer the
pastors. The meeting, originally scheduled for June 4,
finally took place on June 9. At that meeting Chiwewe, John
Nkomo, a party bigwig, and Flora Buka, former Minister of
State for Land Reform, represented ZANU and agreed to put
their commitment in writing. Chiwewe is apparently drafting
the response which has not yet been received.
¶6. (C) Later the same day the pastors met with Mudzingwa and
several other lower ranking MDC members; however, with
Tsvangirai imprisoned and Ncube in hiding, they were unsure
how to proceed. The pastors encouraged them to make
Tsvangirai’s arrest part of their response. Mudzingwa
advised the pastors June 17 that a letter had been drafted
and was on its way. Once both letters are received then the
pastors hope to begin the negotiation process in earnest.
They are drawing on USAID funds under the advocacy grant made
to EFZ to finance this activity.
¶7. (C) It is clear that there is a lot of talking going on
behind the scenes in Zimbabwe and a number of actors who want
to facilitate genuine dialogue, but it not clear what is
required to get the key players to the table. When it takes
weeks to even get a commitment to write a letter, one has to
wonder about the sincerity of ZANU, and without some movement
from ZANU, the MDC can not get to the negotiating table.