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Masamvu said Zuma was expected to be more robust on Mugabe

Although United States embassy officials in Pretoria did not believe that the election of Jacob Zuma as President of the African National Congress would see an immediate change in South Africa’s foreign policy, Idasa analyst Sydney Masamvu believed that Zuma would be “more robust” in his criticism of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Masamvu said this was likely to be the case because Zuma’s allies in COSATU and SACP were openly sympathetic to the opposition in Zimbabwe.

He said Zuma would also be more sensitive to the growing domestic resentment of Zimbabwean immigrants, estimated at between one and three million, as they were perceived to be taking jobs and housing away from poor South Africans.

According to a cable released by Wikileaks, embassy officials said Zuma had already exhibited a firm grasp of Zimbabwean politics, noting that Mugabe’s seizure of white farms had nothing to do with land reform.

He had also criticised African leaders for staying in office too long, which the officials thought was a likely reference to both Mugabe and South African President Thabo Mbeki.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2007-12-18 19:54

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Pretoria



DE RUEHSA #4218/01 3521954


R 181954Z DEC 07




















E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/17/2017





REF: A. 05 PRETORIA 2383





PRETORIA 00004218 001.2 OF 004



Classified By: Chief of Mission Eric M. Bost. Reasons 1.4(b) and (d).


1. (C) SUMMARY. The election of Jacob Zuma as African

National Congress (ANC) President (Ref C) will not result in

any immediate changes in South Africa’s foreign policy.

Should Zuma become national president following parliamentary

elections in early 2009 — not a foregone conclusion with

corruption charges hanging over him — we would expect the

South African Government (SAG) to focus more on domestic

issues and less on foreign policy. Zuma would not

micromanage foreign policy, as Mbeki has done, and would rely

more on his Foreign Minister and team, which remain unknown

at this time. Key strands of Mbeki’s approach would likely

continue, such as the focus on Africa and South-South

cooperation, but Zuma’s foreign policy would probably be less

ideological, more pragmatic, and less inclined toward

complicated intellectual debates and grand initiatives. Some

analysts believe that Zuma, a more typically “African” leader

than the British-educated Mbeki, could be more effective in

building ties with other regional leaders and promoting South

Africa’s agenda in Africa. While Zuma’s pragmatism could

result in improved U.S.-South African relations, many of his

key advisors come from the far left of South Africa’s

political spectrum and are suspicious of the United States.

Analysts believe Zuma’s poor judgment in his personal and

professional life raises questions about his leadership

skills and effectiveness in promoting South Africa’s future

foreign policy agenda. END SUMMARY.



Mbeki Still National President



2. (C) Despite Jacob Zuma’s election as ANC President, Thabo

Mbeki will remain South Africa’s national President until

early 2009 when parliamentary elections are due to be held,

and thus will continue to drive the country’s foreign policy

for the remainder of South Africa’s UN Security Council

tenure. (NOTE: The national President is elected by

parliament, which can only remove him/her via a no-confidence

vote or for misconduct, violating the law, or inability to

perform the functions of office. The only other way to force

an early Mbeki departure would be early parliamentary

elections, called by a majority of the National Assembly. We

believe this is unlikely, and Zuma allies have stated that

they will not try to remove Mbeki. END NOTE.)


3. (C) As ANC President, Jacob Zuma will have some influence

on major foreign policy issues in 2008, but day-to-day

decisions will remain in Mbeki’s hands and those of his key

advisors. The ANC sets broad policy guidelines for

government, but generally does not tie the hands of the

executive in its implementation. South Africa’s current

foreign policy strategy, set by the ANC National Executive

Committee, will continue to guide Mbeki, as well as the

future president. The policy resolutions under debate in

Polokwane following ANC elections deal almost entirely with

domestic issues, evidence that South Africa’s foreign policy

remains generally non-controversial among ANC members.


4. (C) Zuma’s election as ANC president does not/not mean

Q4. (C) Zuma’s election as ANC president does not/not mean

that he is assured of becoming national president in 2009.

Zuma was charged in 2005 with corruption and fraud in

connection with an arms deal (ref A). Although the case was

dropped from the court rolls in August 2007 pending

resolution of related appeals, prosecutors have a strong case

and could charge Zuma again once the Constitutional Court has

decided the last remaining appeal. If Zuma is convicted, he

has said he would step down as ANC President. (NOTE: The

South African Constitution prohibits anyone convicted of a

serious crime from becoming a member of parliament, and thus

the party candidate for President. END NOTE.)



Zuma Team Unclear




PRETORIA 00004218 002.2 OF 004



5. (C) Should Zuma become national president, he would be

less likely to micromanage foreign policy than President

Mbeki has done, and would rely more on advisors, according to

head of the Brenthurst Foundation Greg Mills. Mills

speculated that Zuma might chose an “Mbeki-ite,” such as

current Minister for Provincial and Local Government Sydney

Mufamadi as Foreign Minister, as an olive branch to the Mbeki

camp. Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA)

Director Ivor Jenkins said that Zuma understands that foreign

policy and finance are two of his weakest points and will

strive, at least initially, for continuity in these areas.

Zuma might even keep current ForMin (and ex-wife) Nkosazana

Dlamini-Zuma to reassure the Mbeki wing of the ANC and the

international community.


6. (C) Zuma’s current crop of senior advisors, such as COSATU

Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi and South African Communist



Party (SACP) head Blade Nzimande, include few foreign policy

experts. Newly-elected ANC Deputy President Motlanthe would

likely be a key voice on international issues, particularly

if he assumes the Deputy Presidency of the country. Mo

Shaik, former head of the Department of Foreign Affairs Unit

for Policy, Research and Analysis, Ambassador to Algeria, ANC

intelligence operative, and a brother of imprisoned fraudster

Schabir Shaik, is a close Zuma ally and would have influence

on international issues. Others mentioned by Embassy

contacts as possible foreign policy advisors in a Zuma

administration include: former chief of the South African

National Defence Force Siphiwe Nyanda; South African

Ambassador to Washington Welile Nhlapo; KwaZulu-Natal MEC for

Finance and Economic Development Zweli Mkhize; former Zuma

political advisor Ebrahim Ebrahim; and SAG Great Lakes Envoy

Kingsley Mamabolo.



More Focused on Domestic Issues



7. (C) Should Zuma become national president, he would likely

focus his energies, at least initially, on domestic issues,

according to Mills, Jenkins, and South African Institute for

International Affairs (SAIIA) head Elizabeth Sidiropolous.

Zuma owes his election, at least in part, to the trade

unions, who expect him to deal first with issues of poverty,

HIV and AIDS, income inequality, unemployment, and service

delivery. Mills believes that the Mbeki era may represent

the peak of South Africa’s activity on foreign policy,

although perhaps not its effectiveness. Mbeki has a profound

personal interest in foreign policy and spent most of his

life in exile. Mbeki was schooled in the philosophy that

South Africa’s future was deeply intertwined with the future

of the world, and that broader international forces held the

key to South Africa’s development. Zuma is much more a

creature of internal politics and struggles, and is less

convinced of the importance of global institutions and power

dynamics to the country’s future.



Less Dogmatic on Multilateral Issues?



8. (C) Zuma’s multilateral diplomacy would be more pragmatic

and straightforward, Mills suggested. Zuma would not

“over-intellectualize” issues, like South Africa’s vote

Q”over-intellectualize” issues, like South Africa’s vote

against the Burma resolution in the UNSC on “jurisdictional”

grounds or more recent opposition to the U.S.-sponsored UN

resolution on rape. In this sense, Mills believes that Zuma

would be more straightforward and transparent, without the

“liberation politics paranoia,” and, thus, easier to deal

with. Advisor Mo Shaik told PolOff that South Africa under

Zuma “will talk less, and listen more,” and stop trying to

tell every country how to solve its conflicts using the South

African model.


9. (C) Certain elements of Mbeki’s foreign policy would

continue, particularly South-South cooperation, Sidiropolous

said. Zuma would continue to have close ties with countries

such as Cuba that supported the ANC during the anti-apartheid

struggle and would strongly support the Non-Aligned Movement

(NAM) and G-77. South Africa would continue to side with the

Africa bloc in multilateral fora, although perhaps would be


PRETORIA 00004218 003.2 OF 004



more sensitive to its perceived role as “big brother” on the

continent. On international economic issues, SAIIA’s

Sidiropolous suggested that there is a danger that Zuma might

become more protectionist due to pressure from the trade

unions, leading the SAG to become an even less helpful player

in multilateral trade talks.



Continuity in Africa



10. (C) Zuma would likely continue South Africa’s intensive

engagement in Africa, particularly on conflict resolution and

post-conflict reconstruction. Even a domestic-focused

administration would view peace and stability in Africa as

important to South Africa’s future. Mbeki’s “grand

initiatives,” like the New Partnership for Africa’s

Development (NEPAD) and the “African Renaissance,” would

largely fade away under Zuma, according to Mills. (NOTE:

Mills believes that NEPAD is already irrelevant, noting that

he has spent three months traveling around Africa and not

once did NEPAD come up; only Mbeki and donors talk about



11. (C) Zuma has some policy experience in Africa. Most

prominently, he served as regional mediator in Burundi from

2002-2005, and by most accounts did a good job. According to

Henri Boshoff, Great Lakes expert at the Institute for

Security Studies (ISS), Zuma was a patient and effective

mediator, listening to all sides and gently nudging the

parties toward an agreement. IDASA’s Jenkins also noted that

Zuma, who comes from rural KwaZulu-Natal and has at least

three wives, is a more typically African leader than the

British-educated, elitist Mbeki, and may in fact be more

effective in promoting South Africa’s agenda in Africa.

(COMMENT: Despite Mbeki’s reputation as peacemaker, one

could argue that Burundi is the SAG’s most obvious conflict

resolution success, and that Zuma — not Mbeki — deserves

most of the credit. Mbeki’s mediations in Cote d’Ivoire and

Zimbabwe to date have not been successful, and South Africa

was one of many players in the DRC peace talks. END COMMENT.)


12. (C) On Zimbabwe, there are signs that Zuma would be more

publicly critical of President Robert Mugabe and would end

South Africa’s policy of “quiet diplomacy.” At a 10 December

2007 speech at the University of Witwatersrand on Human

Rights Day, Zuma criticized “world leaders” (read: Mbeki) for

standing by and watching “the deterioration of nations”

(read: Zimbabwe). IDASA’s Sydney Masamvu believes that Zuma

would be “more robust” in his criticism of Mugabe’s policies.

Zuma’s allies in COSATU and SACP are openly sympathetic to

the opposition in Zimbabwe, Masamvu noted, and Zuma would

also be more sensitive to the growing domestic resentment of

Zimbabwean immigrants (estimated between one and three

million) who are perceived to be taking jobs and housing away

from poor South Africans. In a May 2, 2007, meeting with

then-Charge (ref B), Zuma exhibited a firm grasp of

Zimbabwean politics, noting that Mugabe’s seizure of white

farms had nothing to do with land reform. Zuma criticized

African leaders for staying in office too long, a likely

reference to both Mugabe and Mbeki.



Improved Bilateral Relations?



13. (C) It is too soon to tell whether a Zuma presidency

Q13. (C) It is too soon to tell whether a Zuma presidency

would affect significantly U.S.-South African relations.

Much depends on whom he would select for his foreign policy

team and how Mbeki and Zuma navigate the transition ahead.

We agree with the think tank analysts that Zuma would likely

be more pragmatic than Mbeki, would not

“over-intellectualize” issues, and would be less inclined to

involve South Africa in disputes where it has minimal

national interest (like the Middle East). Zuma likely would

be more straightforward in his policymaking, making him

somewhat easier to work with than Mbeki. Zuma’s style is

more open and consensual, and could result in enhanced access

to senior policymakers. This may create opportunities for

new initiatives and closer cooperation on key issues.



PRETORIA 00004218 004.2 OF 004



14. (C) Zuma’s openness and pragmatism make him susceptible

to lobbying from the full range of international actors. On

any given issue, this could result in positions sympathetic

or contrary to U.S. interests. For example, Zuma might not

vote against a UNSC Burma resolution on technical or

legalistic grounds, but an interested regional power could

still negotiate a “no” vote via a “pragmatic” backroom deal.


15. (C) SAIIA’s Sidiropolous and other analysts raise the

valid concern that Zuma has exhibited poor judgment in his

personal and professional life, most recently in connection

with corruption and rape allegations. He sometimes makes

bizarre public statements, such as claiming that showering

prevents the spread of HIV, and he lacks formal education.

Many of Zuma’s closet allies come from the far left of South

African politics, and are deeply suspicious of the United

States. All these elements raise questions about Zuma’s

ability to make consistently thoughtful decisions and his

commitment to promoting good governance and economic reform

in Africa, hallmarks of Mbeki’s Africa policy. They also add

a degree of unpredictability to the future direction of South

Africa’s foreign policy should Zuma succeed in winning the

national presidency in 2009.




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