Econet boss Strive Masiyiwa told United States embassy officials in Pretoria that former army commander Solomon Mujuru was essentially a “mafia boss” and President Robert Mugabe could simply threaten to arrest him if he got out of line.
Masiyiwa was commenting on whether Mujuru was behind former Finance Minister Simba Makoni or not.
Publisher Trevor Ncube said Makoni had decided to run for president without Mujuru’s blessing. Mujuru had only started quietly supporting Makoni after realising that Makoni was gathering momentum.
Core supporters of Makoni therefore resented Mujuru’s late conversion and there were fears that Mujuru could become a negative factor in Makoni’s campaign.
Masiyiwa, on the other hand, said Mujuru and Dumiso Dabengwa had started the “Makoni project” to get rid of Mugabe.
The Econet boss said Mujuru would never publicly back Makoni because he was essentially a “mafia boss,” and Mugabe could simply threaten to arrest Mujuru if he got out of line.
He also questioned the conventional wisdom that Mujuru controlled much of the military, noting that Mujuru had been out of uniform for some 16 years and might not have as much influence as experts believed.
Viewing cable 08PRETORIA419, ZIMBABWEAN EXILES NCUBE AND MASIYIWA UPBEAT ON
RR RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #0419/01 0591728
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 281728Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3630
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2185
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 5340
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 9606
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PRETORIA 000419
DEPT FOR AF/S E. BROWN, S. HILL
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/19/2018
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWEAN EXILES NCUBE AND MASIYIWA UPBEAT ON
REF: A. PRETORIA 139
¶B. HARARE 130
¶C. PRETORIA 348
PRETORIA 00000419 001.2 OF 003
Classified By: Ambassador Eric M. Bost. Reasons 1.4(b) and (d).
¶1. (C) SUMMARY. Prominent exiled Zimbabwean businessmen
Trevor Ncube and Strive Masiyiwa agreed that the upcoming
March 29 elections offered opportunities for political change
in Zimbabwe, but differed on the electoral prospects for
independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni. Ncube, a
strong Makoni supporter, claimed that Makoni has generated
significant excitement in Zimbabwe and would do well in the
upcoming poll, whereas Masiyiwa questioned Makoni’s
organizational strength on the ground. Both believed that
Makoni’s candidacy has created sharp divisions in ZANU-PF,
and that Makoni and Tsvangirai may still form a coalition
before the election. Some key ZANU-PF officials who were in
involved in the rigging in previous elections now support
Makoni, potentially making it harder — but not impossible —
for Mugabe to steal the upcoming election. The MDC will
attempt to combat rigging, but has not yet devised a plan for
the “day after” in the event of a Mugabe victory. Masiyiwa
expressed his growing concern about the spiraling inflation,
suggesting that there may be “no more room” for the economy
to collapse. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) Visiting DAS Carol Thompson, AF/S Office Director, and
PolOff met February 27 with prominent and influential
Zimbabwean exile businessmen Strive Masiyiwa and Trevor
Ncube. Harare Ambassador McGee joined the meeting with
Masiyiwa. Ncube is publisher of the respected South African
weekly newspaper the Mail & Guardian, as well as the
Zimbabwean newspapers The Sunday Standard and The Zimbabwean
Independent. Masiyiwa is founder and CEO of Econet Wireless
Group, a global telecommunications company with operations in
Zimbabwe and 14 other countries.
Prospects for Makoni Candidacy
¶3. (C) A long-time advocate of a “third way” in Zimbabwe (ref
A), Trevor Ncube expressed his enthusiastic support for the
presidential candidacy of Simba Makoni (ref B). (NOTE: Ncube
appears to be deeply involved in the Makoni campaign, and
even received a phone call from Makoni during the meeting.
END NOTE.) Makoni has generated “tremendous excitement” on
the ground in Zimbabwe, Ncube claimed, leading to an upsurge
in voter registration. Makoni’s biggest enemies are time and
resources. Ncube said that the diaspora is helping to fund
Makoni’s campaign through a Johannesburg trust fund (Ncube
offered to provide the account number to the USG for
contributions, an offer we did not follow up on). Ncube
suggested that Makoni is making inroads in Mashonaland East,
where former General Solomon Mujuru has broad support, in
Harare, and in Matabeleland, both urban and rural areas.
This support would spread into other areas, Ncube believes.
¶4. (C) DAS Thompson stressed to Ncube that the United States
does not support particular political parties in Zimbabwe,
despite rumors that the USG backs the opposition MDC.
Instead, the United States wants to see leaders with vision,
who can create political and economic change in Zimbabwe and
a better life for the Zimbabwean people. Ncube said he
appreciated the message and would pass it to Makoni. Ncube
Qappreciated the message and would pass it to Makoni. Ncube
noted that any association between Makoni and the U.S. or
U.K. would be the “political kiss of death,” so urged the USG
to speak carefully when commenting on the campaign.
¶5. (C) Strive Masiyiwa was much more cautious about the
Makoni candidacy, questioning whether Makoni has support on
the ground. He noted that Makoni does not have any “foot
soldiers” to campaign for him, and thus limited ability to
communicate with the man on the street, many of whom are
deeply suspicious of Makoni due to his long association with
President Mugabe and ZANU-PF. Both Masiyiwa and Ncube agreed
that Makoni’s candidacy has divided ZANU-PF, including the
security structures. While no one knows the exact extent of
the division, Ncube said it is “extensive.” This division
has created tension, distrust, and even paranoia within
PRETORIA 00000419 002.2 OF 003
Complicated Ties to Mujurus
¶6. (C) Ncube and Masiyiwa provided differing accounts of the
relationship between Makoni and ZANU-PF heavyweight retired
General Solomon Mujuru. Ncube claimed that Makoni decided to
run for president without Mujuru’s blessing. Now that Makoni
is “gathering momentum,” Mujuru has begun quietly supporting
him, but many core Makoni supporters resent Mujuru’s late
conversion. Mujuru is a controversial figure in ZANU-PF and
could even become a negative factor in the Makoni campaign.
¶7. (C) Masiyiwa, on the other hand, said that Mujuru and
former Home Affairs Minister Dumisa Dabengwa created the
“Makoni project” as a means to get rid of Mugabe. Dabengwa
will publicly endorse Makoni in the coming days, which will
be “symbolically powerful” and will bring the former ZAPU
leadership firmly behind Makoni. Masiyiwa helped organize a
meeting in Johannesburg between Dabengwa and MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai (ref C), a potentially important bridge
between Makoni and the MDC. According to Masiyiwa, Mujuru
will never publicly back Makoni. Mujuru is essentially a
“mafia boss,” and Mugabe could simply threaten to arrest
Mujuru if he got out of line. Masiyiwa also questioned the
conventional wisdom that Mujuru controls much of the
military, noting that Mujuru has been out of uniform for some
16 years and may not have as much influence as experts
Alliance between Tsvangirai and Makoni?
¶8. (C) Both Ncube and Masiyiwa believed it was still possible
for Simba Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai to form an alliance
before the presidential elections on March 29 — or perhaps
for a second round of elections if no one candidate receives
50 percent plus of the vote (a prospect both Ncube and
Masiyiwa thought likely). Ncube, a harsh Tsvangirai critic,
argued that the MDC-Tsvangirai has been “seriously weakened”
by its failure to reunite with the MDC-Mutambara faction, and
that Tsvangirai has no more than 20 percent support in the
country. Tsvangirai is under significant pressure, even
“rebellion,” from within his own party. Masiyiwa said that
both Makoni and Tsvangirai are still sizing up their support,
but at the appropriate time in the next couple weeks, he
expected — and would in fact help ensure — that the two
would meet and discuss forming a coalition. Masiyiwa floated
the idea of Makoni serving as Prime Minister and head of
government, while Tsvangirai would become president and head
¶9. (C) Asked about the possibility that Mugabe would rig the
election to ensure he received 51 percent of the vote, Ncube
and Masiyiwa noted that the “people who did the rigging last
time” are now divided between Mugabe and Makoni (Masiyiwa
even joked that one CIO contact expressed concern that Makoni
could steal the election from Mugabe!). Ncube said you
cannot rule out the impact of fear and intimidation from
Mugabe’s thugs, but that there were “competing forces at
work.” Blatant rigging might not be accepted by the young
people, Ncube observed, noting that many youth were
frustrated when they were unable to register to vote.
Qfrustrated when they were unable to register to vote.
Masiyiwa is helping the MDC set up an “anti-rigging unit”
that hopefully will help reduce the amount of electoral theft.
¶10. (C) The MDC does not have a clear plan for the “day
after” the election, Masiyiwa said. The party is beginning
to hold those discussions, but remains committed to
non-violence. Tsvangirai is concerned that post-electoral
protests could spin out of control. Masiyiwa has recommended
to the MDC that they view the election as part of the process
of de-legitimizing Mugabe — shrinking his international
support base to a couple countries in the region like Namibia
and Angola. Masiyiwa wants as many regional observers and
journalists as possible in Zimbabwe to witness the election.
He and others are urging the South African Communist Party
(SACP) and trade union federation COSATU — both sympathetic
PRETORIA 00000419 003.2 OF 003
to the MDC — to send observers through the ANC and South
African Government delegations.
¶11. (C) Concluding, Masiyiwa expressed concern about
spiraling inflation and economic meltdown in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe is continuing to print and spend money in advance of
the election, creating a “roaring monster.” “We have talked
about the economy” for a long time, Masiyiwa said, but this
time there “may be no more room” for collapse.
¶12. (C) Simba Makoni’s presidential bid has created
excitement among the well-educated Zimbabwean diaspora in
South Africa. Many, like Trevor Ncube, are supporting Makoni
and are likely contributing resources to his campaign. A
significant number of the elite and successful Zimbabweans
dismiss Morgan Tsvangirai as ineffective, uneducated and
incapable of ruling Zimbabwe, and see Makoni as the best hope
for change in Zimbabwe. Others, like Strive Masiyiwa,
continue to back the MDC and Tsvangirai, and Tsvangirai
retains strong support among the working class and poor
Zimbabwean exiles in South Africa. We expect few Zimbabweans
living in South Africa, estimated between one to three
million, will return to Zimbabwe to vote in the March 29
elections, although their financial resources, international
connections, and ties to family members may make them an
influential factor in Zimbabwean politics.