Four months after signing the Global Political Agreement, it was apparent that the formation of an inclusive government was the only game in town for the three major political parties in Zimbabwe otherwise the country would plunge into another Somalia.
The secretary general of the smaller faction of the Movement for Democratic Change Welshman Ncube said he was a strong supporter of a power-sharing government, not because he necessarily believed it would be successful, but because it offered the only possibility out of Zimbabwe’s desperate situation.
The alternative was to await the demise of ZANU-PF but he was convinced that ZANU-PF would never willingly relinquish power.
The probable outcome of a continuing political stalemate and imploding economy would be a disintegration of ZANU-PF into country-wide power centres presided over by the equivalent of Somali war lords.
Ncube said the MDC-T had no palatable choice. Without a viable Plan B, remaining outside government would give the MDC little prospect of assuming power and it would have to watch the country collapse and the people continue to suffer.
By joining government, MDC-T would make the unenviable decision to work with a party that held it in contempt, did not want to give up power, and was responsible for Zimbabwe’s economic deterioration, myriad human rights violations, and a humanitarian crisis.
The only possibility of political and economic recovery was therefore an inclusive government.
Viewing cable 09HARARE79, ZIMBABWE DEALING WITH OUTSTANDING ISSUES
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/03/2019
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE DEALING WITH OUTSTANDING ISSUES
Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (d)
¶1. (C) MDC-M secretary general Welshman Ncube believes the
power-sharing agreement is imperfect with questionable
chances of success, but failure to form an inclusive
government in his opinion could have resulted in an
increasingly anarchic situation. With all sides supporting
the SADC communique calling for MDC-T president Morgan
Tsvangirai to be sworn in on February 11, representatives
from the parties are now meeting to resolve outstanding
issues. SADC negotiators will discuss the issues of
governorships and the National Security Council. The Joint
Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) has already
met and will continue to discuss breaches of the July 22
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ZANU-PF and MDC and
of the September 15 agreement. These include media hate
speech and restrictions on independent media, and the status
of abductees. Ncube is skeptical that all issues, including
that of the abductees, can be resolved before February 11.
It is unclear what the MDC will do if they are not. END
¶2. (C) Ncube briefed polecon chief February 2 on the
power-sharing agreement and efforts to resolve outstanding
A Hobson’s Choice
¶3. (C) Ncube stated that throughout SADC-sponsored
negotiations, he had been a strong supporter of a
power-sharing government, not because he necessarily believed
it would be successful, but because it offered the only
possibility out of Zimbabwe’s desperate situation. The
alternative was to await the demise of ZANU-PF. He was
convinced that ZANU-PF would never willingly relinquish
power. The probable outcome of a continuing political
stalemate and imploding economy, Ncube told us, would be a
disintegration of ZANU-PF into country-wide power centers
presided over by the equivalent of Somali war lords.
¶4. (C) MDC-T had no palatable choice, in Ncube’s opinion.
Without a viable Plan B, remaining outside of government
would have given the MDC little prospect of assuming power,
and it would have been in the position of wathing the
country collapse and the people continuing to suffer. By
joining government, MDC-T was making the unenviable decision
to work with a party that holds the MDC in contempt, does not
want to give up power, and has been responsible for
Zimbabwe’s economic deterioration, myriad human rights
violations, and a humanitarian crisis. MDC-T had concluded,
as had he, that the only possibility of political and
economic recovery was an inclusive government.
¶5. (C) Even though he supports it, Ncube was skeptical the
new government would ultimately succeed. Amendment 19, which
encapsulates the September 15 agreement, had a number of
internal inconsistencies. There were skeptics in both
parties who were not interested in making the government
work. And skeptics in the international community would
Qwork. And skeptics in the international community would
withhold critical support. “It won’t be easy,” Ncube
¶6. (C) Ncube was scornful of ZANU-PF. ZANU-PF, more than
anyone, needed an agreement to continue to survive as a
viable party and to function as part of a government
attempting to resuscitate the country. If ZANU-PF was
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strategic, it would have attempted to demonstrate a paradigm
shift by ceasing its campaign of terror and easing up on
media hate speech. This would have earned it international
good will, and facilitated the formation of an inclusive
government. The ZANU-PF-orchestrated abductions, coming
during the negotiating period, were “incomprehensible.” The
only explanation, opined Ncube, was that hawks in ZANU-PF
wanted to scuttle the possibility of an agreement.
¶7. (C) Ncube told us that ZANU-PF, MDC-T, and MDC-M
negotiators would meet February 3 and 4 in South Africa to
discuss governorships and the National Security Council.
(NOTE: MDC-T issued a press release this afternoon stating
that ZANU-PF had claimed it was unready to proceed because it
had not received instructions from Zimbabwean president
Robert Mugabe who is in Addis Ababa for the AU Summit. The
MDC-T in the press release attacked ZANU-PF for backtracking
and questioned its good faith in forming a government. END
NOTE.) On governorships, there were three issues to resolve:
a formula for allocating the 10 provincial governorships
between parties, a method of creating vacancies in those
seats that would go to either MDC-T or MDC-M, and timing of
replacing designated ZANU-PF governors. ZANU-PF, according
to Ncube, wants the party that received the most votes in the
March 29 election in a particular province to have the
governorship for that province. This would result in 6
ZANU-PF governors, 3 MDC-T governors, and 1 MDC-M governor.
MDC-T wants to give the governorship to the party that had
won the most parliamentary seats in a particular province in
the March election. Under this formula, it would have 5
governors, ZANU-PF would have 4, and MDC-M would have 1.
MDC-M supports using the same formula as was used to
apportion ministers. This formula looks at the overall
strength of each party and aims to ensure a significant
presence for each party in government. This would result in
ZANU-PF and MDC-T each having 4 governors and MDC-M 2.
¶8. (C) To create vacancies for MDC governors to replace
ZANU-PF governors, ZANU-PF governors could be summarily
discharged, given a retirement package, or reassigned to
other positions. Ncube said ZANU-PF wanted to replace
governors when their terms expired; both MDCs wanted new
governors in place by February 13.
¶9. (C) Ncube told us that MDC-T had drafted a bill to
establish a National Security Council. Under the bill, the
Council would oversee operations and activities of the
security forces, including the Central Intelligence
Organization, the defense forces, the police, and the prison
service. Members would be the president and vice presidents,
the prime minister and deputy prime ministers, Home Affairs
and Defense ministers, chairperson of the Public Service
Commission, and three other ministers assigned by the
parties. Ncube expected no difficulty in reaching agreement
Qparties. Ncube expected no difficulty in reaching agreement
on a draft bill.
JOMIC and Breaches of the MOU and Agreement
¶10. (C) JOMIC was inaugurated by South African mediator
Frank Chikane on January 30. ZANU-PF members are Patrick
Chinamasa, Nicholas Goche, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and Oppah
Muchinguri. MDC-T members are Elton Mangoma, Innocent
Chagonda, Elias Mudzuri, and Tabita Khumalo. MDC-M members
are Ncube, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Frank Chamunorwa,
and Edward Mkhosi. Chair of the Committee will rotate among
the three parties, Ncube will preside for the first month,
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then Mangoma, then Goche.
¶11. (C) Ncube said JOMIC at its first meeting on January 30
discussed administrative details–procedures, funding, office
space, etc. JOMIC met again on February 2 and began to
address the substantive issues of media and abductions. It
will meet again on February 6 with journalists from the
government and independent newspapers to discuss hate speech
and media bias.
¶12. (C) On the issue of abductions, Ncube averred that there
was consensus within JOMIC to convince legal authorities to
release detainees who are now before the court on bail. The
three JOMIC chairs had agreed to speak to Patrick Chinamasa,
acting Minister of Justice, to request he encourage the
Attorney General to agree to bail for all such detainees.
For detained individuals who have not been brought to court,
JOMIC agreed to talk with both the Attorney General and
Commissioner of Police to seek their release from custody as
soon as possible.
¶13. (C) Ncube believed there would be a crisis of confidence
in the power-sharing agreement and prospective new government
if the issue of abductions and detainees was not dealt with
quickly. Absent sucess in talking with Chinamasa, the
Attorney General and Commissioner of Police, Ncube said JOMIC
would consider talking to Mugabe and, if necessary, SADC.
¶14. (C) MDC-T has alleged the reappointment of Reserve Bank
of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono and appointment of Attorney
General Johannes Tomana were breaches of the MOU and
September 15 agreement. Ncube said Gono was willing to
resign; he was interested in a ministerial post, perhaps
foreign minister. But he thought Mugabe might resist
immediately reassigning Gono in order to retain negotiating
leverage on other issues. Tomana’s situation was more
difficult since under the Constitution he could not be
Leadup to February 11
¶15. (C) Ncube said he expected Amendment 19 to be passed by
Parliament on February 5. He was doubtful that all the
outstanding issues, including abductions and detainees, could
be resolved by February 11. Nevertheless, he counseled MDC-T
to avoid conditioning the swearing-in of Tsvangirai and
ministers on resolution of all these issues. An atmosphere
of collaboration was being established and ZANU-PF was wont
to react negatively to conditionality by claiming MDC-T is
acting in bad faith. Ncube was confident that outstanding
breaches would eventually be resolved.
¶16. (C) In the same vein, Ncube opined that Western
condemnation of ZANU-PF was counter-productive. ZANU-PF
wanted at all costs to avoid appearing to follow Western
dictates. Ncube advised a quiet approach in the near future
to allow the new government to take hold. (COMMENT: Ncube
is a general advocate of “quiet diplomacy.” He expressed
displeasure at MDC-M president Arthur Mutambara’s criticism
of the U.S. and other western countries, most recently in
Qof the U.S. and other western countries, most recently in
Davos, for interference in Zimbabwe’s affairs. Ncube said he
and other MDC-M officials had advised Mutambara to lay off;
Ncube despairingly said he follows their advice for a few
days and then goes back to “default mode.” END COMMENT.)
¶17. (C) Even Ncube who has been a prime exponent of a GNU is
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skeptical about its chances of success. But for the moment
this is the only game in town, and there is little we can do
in the immediate future other than to watch events unfold.
The success of a GNU depends in large part on the good faith
of ZANU-PF (historically a commodity in very short supply)
and there are several markers – the outstanding issues – that
in the next 10 days or so will indicate ZANU-PF’s intentions.
Primary among these markers is the fate of abductees.
Failure to release them soon will doom the government before
it begins. And even if they are released, that would be but
a first step on a long road.
¶18. (C) Tsvangirai at a diplomatic briefing on January 30
was asked what the MDC’s position would be if outstanding
issues were not resolved by February 11. He sidestepped the
issue, and in private conversations MDC officials have
indicated they expect resolution of these matters by February
¶11. But if this is not the case, as Ncube suspects, the MDC
will have to make a decision. If Tsvangirai is inaugurated
with issues pending, particularly that of abductees, he will
appear to have been manipulated by ZANU-PF. And if he
insists on conditionality, he will be accused once again,
rightly or wrongly, of flip-flopping and obstructing the
formation of a GNU. END COMMENT.