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Makoni said Mugabe respected and liked self-made businesspersons

Former Finance Minister Simba Makoni told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that the government was not the beginning and end of Zimbabwe so the United States should seek engagement with other potentially influential figures.

He said President Robert Mugabe was religious despite his Marxist leanings and listened to clerics such as Zimbabwe’s senior Jesuit Father Fidelis Mukonori and Anglican Bishop Norbert Kunonga.

Mugabe also respected and liked to engage with self-made businesspersons such as John Chiweshe, chairman of the Tobacco Merchants Association, and safari mogul Mike Chidziwa.

Makoni said he remained on good terms with Mugabe and could see him whenever he asked.

They continued to have frank exchanges and Makoni asserted that Mugabe continued to enjoy intellectual debate.

He dispelled popular notions that Mugabe had dismissed him for his economic proposals; rather, Makoni had resigned when he realised that his proposals would never be adopted.


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Reference ID






2005-04-08 12:01

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

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 03 HARARE 000547







E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010







Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d


1. (C) SUMMARY: In a candid exchange with the Ambassador on

April 6, politburo member and former Finance Minister Simba

Makoni asked about U.S. reaction to the elections. The

Ambassador explained USG objections, sharing with Makoni a

copy of the Embassy press release. Makoni said the U.S.

analysis of election irregularities was the most detailed he

had seen. Still, he predicted it would have little effect,

since ZANU-PF had known the U.S. would never endorse a

ZANU-PF victory. Noting the degree of self-delusion that

exists within the party, Makoni predicted that a more

confident ZANU-PF would emerge from the elections. However,

it was not likely to alter its political or economic policies

significantly. In that regard, Makoni asserted that Mugabe

was not impervious to reason but that most of the government

and senior ranks of the party, and especially the &young

Turks,8 lacked the political courage needed to argue with

Mugabe in favor of needed reforms. Makoni confirmed that

some in the leadership were interested in rapprochement with

the West but not on terms other than their own. Makoni

closed with a pitch for USG support of his candidacy for the

ADB presidency. END SUMMARY



The Election



2. (C) Makoni asked the Ambassador how the USG regarded

Zimbabwe’s parliamentary elections. Recounting a litany of

flaws in the election’s conduct and the Zimbabwe Election

Commission’s (ZEC) failure to address discrepancies, the

Ambassador characterized the election results as not

credible. The Ambassador shared the Embassy’s publicly

released assessment on the elections. Makoni said it was the

most detailed critique he had seen and raised issues about

which he and others in the leadership were unaware. However,

he said most in the party would discount the U.S. statement,

since they believed the U.S. had made up its mind in advance

to reject a ZANU-PF victory.


3. (C) In defense of the elections, Makoni offered a

detailed description about how the presence of party polling

agents throughout the process, including at tabulation

centers, was to have prevented rigging and observed that the

MDC leadership’s claims of “massive fraud” had yet to be

backed up by any details. He added that their claims were

also undermined by the MDC,s (alleged) initial embrace of

the results when early returns from Harare and Bulawayo

showed them sweeping the two urban centers. That said,

Makoni acknowledged that ZEC should have an institutional

interest in clearing up doubts about the election by

releasing the numbers.


——————————————— ————

A Dysfunctional Ruling Party That Can,t/Won,t Lead Reform

——————————————— ————


4. (C) While Makoni defended the election results, he did

concede that popular support for the ruling party was

shallow. He cited a study he had done for the party in the

mid-90s that showed ZANU-PF getting a larger share of the

vote but in a declining electorate. That situation had only

worsened and ZANU-PF was now a “mass-based” party that

depended on a committed minority to hold on to power. Every

day was now &campaign day8 for ZANU-PF as the party had to

work to maintain support in the face of continuing economic

difficulties. The problem was that many in ZANU-PF were

convinced by their own rhetoric and believed they had the

people with them and therefore no need to change. This was

not true, especially with regard to economic policies, where

the populace at large was clamoring for change.


5. (C) Makoni said there was an expectation in some quarters

that the ruling party, more confident of its standing in the

wake of its electoral showing, might move forward with more

constructive economic and political policy agendas. However,

he thought political expediency would undermine any push for

reform. On the economy for instance, his area of expertise,

the leadership would probably assess that the right economic

policies would involve unacceptable political costs. Even

with a decisive election victory, the party would be loath to

embrace painful economic medicine. He added that in any

event, economic liberalization had not been a ZANU-PF

priority since at least 2000.


6. (C) Makoni said further constraining ZANU-PF,s ability

to lead reform was the deference to Mugabe by all in

positions of potential influence. It was true that Mugabe,s

worldview remained suspicious of markets and the West. That

said, in Makoni,s experience, Mugabe was not impervious to

persuasion and could chart a more constructive course if

enough trusted advisers weighed in. Unfortunately, no one in

Mugabe,s inner circle was willing to risk his displeasure

and tell him the hard truths. The Ambassador noted not

without reason, for instance, Mugabe’s suppression of

internal debate on the margins of the December Party Congress

and Makoni’s own dismissal as Finance Minister when he

advocated reforms. Makoni conceded the point.


7. (C) Makoni said that impetus for change, if any, within

the party was most likely to come from some in the ascendant

“Old Guard.” The “Young Turks” and “technocrats” lacked the

courage of their convictions and had proven incapable of

asserting themselves effectively. He recounted his own

experience in falling from grace as Finance Minister several

years ago. Many in the politburo agreed with his

market-oriented prescriptions but left him isolated during

politburo meetings. He concluded that these individuals bore

greater responsibility for Zimbabwe’s economic disaster than

even Mugabe himself because they knew better but were too

timid to act.



Bilateral Relations



8. (C) The Ambassador asked if the country’s desperate need

for re-engagement with international financial institutions

and the West would be a powerful enough incentive to take

concrete measures that are a precondition to any conceivable

rapprochement with the United States and other like-minded

governments. Makoni conceded that, notwithstanding the GOZ’s

“look East” rhetoric, there was nowhere for Zimbabwe to turn

but to the West for economic recovery. However, by any

measure the economy had collapsed years ago and with the rise

of informal markets, was not as bad off (as compared to

2002-03) as it might appear. The GOZ was more likely to

remain in its familiar anti-imperialist posture and just

“muddle through” before it would pursue concrete political or

economic reforms in any “charm offensive.” That said, he

urged the Ambassador to wait for the dust to settle on the

election and then discuss bilateral relations with selected

GOZ and ruling party officials. Makoni suggested reaching

out to Party Chairman John Nkomo, Secretary for

Administration Didymus Mutasa, and Defense Minister Sydney

Sekeramayi. Vice-President Joyce Mujuru would be constrained

for now by the newness of her position but was “open-minded”

and might be a constructive interlocutor down the road.


9. (C) Makoni emphasized that the government was not the

“beginning and end” of Zimbabwe, and also urged strong USG

engagement with other potentially influential figures. Civil

society and the churches remained important. Mugabe was

religious despite his Marxist leanings, and listened to

clerics such as Zimbabwe’s senior Jesuit, Father Fidelis, and

Anglican Bishop Kunonga. Mugabe also respected and liked to

engage with self-made businesspersons such as John Chiweshe

(Chairman of the Tobacco Merchants Association) and safari

mogul Mike Chidziwa. As for himself, Makoni said he remained

on good terms with Mugabe and could see him whenever he

asked. They continued to have frank exchanges and Makoni

asserted the Mugabe continued to enjoy intellectual debate.

He dispelled popular notions that Mugabe had dismissed him

for his economic proposals; rather, Makoni had resigned when

he realized that his proposals would never be adopted.



Pitch for ADB Presidency



10. (C) Makoni closed with a request for American support of

his candidacy for the presidency of the African Development

Bank (ADB) and laid out his (admittedly strong) personal

qualifications for the job. The Ambassador undertook to

relay the request to Washington but noted that Makoni’s

nationality might pose complications given the state of

bilateral relations. Makoni emphasized that ADB candidates

competed as individuals on the strength of their own merits

and not as government representatives. In his case, SADC

members had collaborated to get behind one candidate from

their region; he earned their endorsement in a competitive

process, which spoke to the strength of his credentials and

the breadth of his appeal. He recognized that at least one

candidate was using his “wrong address” against him, shopping

the idea that Makoni was subject to travel sanctions even

though he is not on U.S. or EU sanctions lists. He urged

that the USG weigh these factors and give his candidacy full







11. (C) In a Mass Public Opinion Institute poll a year ago,

Makoni was the only putative successor to Mugabe aside from

MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai who garnered significant

support from all provinces. That Makoni, one of Zimbabwe’s

most impressive senior technocrats, has essentially given up

on Zimbabwe’s politics to seek the ADB job, speaks volumes

about the lack of oxygen inside the ruling party leadership.

We agree with his assessment that post-election ZANU-PF will

be no more dynamic or capable of constructive policy shifts

than pre-election ZANU-PF was. Indeed, his views tend to

confirm our own analysis that ZANU-PF will be incapable of

reforming itself, much less Zimbabwe, as long as it is an

institution made in the image of Robert Mugabe and bent

solely to his personal political ends. As noted in reftel,

we think that endorsement of his ADB candidacy could send the

wrong signal to the GOZ, notwithstanding Mr. Makoni’s

individual merits. Moreover, despite his wishes, we think

Makoni can do more good if he stays in Zimbabwe rather than

in effect joining the millions of other bright Zimbabweans

who have fled their country.




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