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Mbeki told Tsvangirai Zimbabweans had to find own solution

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki told Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai that Zimbabwe’s political crisis had to be solved by Zimbabweans and should not be externally dictated.

He said this four years before he finally came up with a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis which involved Zimbabwe’s political leaders but cost the South African president his job.

Tsvangirai had sent Mbeki a letter in which he urged the South African leader to be more circumspect in his public comments on Zimbabwe and interparty talks.

Mbeki had responded with appreciation for the MDC’s constructive and flexible posture on dialogue, emphasising that Zimbabwe’s political crisis would have to be resolved by Zimbabweans.

Tsvangirai said the tone of Mbeki’s letter suggested that Mbeki was rethinking South Africa’s equities in dialogue and its relative relations with the two parties.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 04HARARE397, OPPOSITION LEADER ON TALKS STALEMATE, POSSIBLE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE397

2004-03-04 08:57

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

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 000397

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. DELISI, L. AROIAN, M. RAYNOR

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/03/2009

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ZI MDC

SUBJECT: OPPOSITION LEADER ON TALKS STALEMATE, POSSIBLE

ELECTION BOYCOTT

 

REF: (A) HARARE 351 (B) HARARE 312 (C) HARARE 298 AND

PREVIOUS

 

Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5(b), (d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told

the Ambassador on March 2 that MDC and ZANU-PF delegations in

South Africa March 1 each rebuffed South African government

efforts to convene a meeting between the two. He was

encouraged by President Mbeki’s meeting with the MDC

delegation and by the South African leader’s response to a

recent letter Tsvangirai had conveyed. Tsvangirai advised

that in the in the run-up to next March’s scheduled national

parliamentary election, the party would lay out explicit

conditions necessary for a free and fair election and would

continue to weigh a boycott if conditions were not met. He

asserted that the party had gotten past publicized divisions

associated with candidate selection for the upcoming Zengeza

parliamentary by-election and expressed confidence that the

party would carry the election absent significant

manipulation by the ruling party. END SUMMARY.

 

South African Effort Stymied

—————————-

 

2. (C) Tsvangirai told the Ambassador over lunch at the

Residence that an MDC group, including Party Vice-President

Gibson Sibanda, Secretary-General Welshman Ncube and Deputy

Secretary-General Gift Chimanikire, visited South Africa

 

SIPDIS

early in the week to follow up on a meeting party

representatives had had with a South African delegation

(including Deputy Foreign Minister Pahad and Ambassador Ndou)

the week before.   Visiting South Africa at the same time was

a ZANU-PF delegation that included principal talks-on-talks

negotiator Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa. Tsvangirai

reported that the South Africans had suprised the Zimbabweans

by proposing the two groups meet each other, an offer each

delegation declined. He said the MDC delegation had demurred

because neither party would have had any mandate; he surmised

that ZANU-PF refused because it lacked instructions as well.

Tsvangirai reported that the MDC group did meet with

 

SIPDIS

President Mbeki but that he lacked details on the meeting.

 

2. (C) Tsvangirai added that he had a productive letter

exchange with Mbeki on the heels of Mugabe’s birthday

outburst, in which Mugabe appeared to rule out talks with the

MDC and castigated African leaders for their lack of unified

solidarity with him (ref A). Tsvangirai said he had sent

Mbeki a letter in which he urged him to be more circumspect

in his public comments on Zimbabwe and interparty talks;

Mbeki had responded with appreciation for the MDC’s

constructive and flexible posture on dialogue, emphasizing

that Zimbabwe’s political crisis would have to be resolved by

Zimbabweans and not an externally dictated solution.

 

3. (C) Tsvangirai asserted that the SAG wanted to increase

contacts and to deepen its relationship with the MDC and was

frustrated by ZANU-PF’s intransigence. He implied that just

weeks ago, the SAG appeared to be complicit in ZANU-PF

efforts to freeze Tsvangirai outside negotiations,

essentially serving to drive a wedge among MDC ranks and

delegitimize Tsvangirai. He said the tone of Mbeki’s letter

suggested Mbeki was rethinking South Africa’s equities in

dialogue and its relative relations with the two parties.

 

Elections: To Boycott or not to Boycott…

——————————————

 

4. (C) Turning to elections, Tsvangirai indicated that the

party will be attaching highest priority on addressing the

country’s election environment, recognizing that MDC cannot

possibly compete successfully in next March’s parliamentary

elections without significant changes being undertaken very

soon. Tsvangirai planned to conduct a briefing of the

diplomatic community to this effect on March 3 (reported

septel). The government’s withdrawn invitation to the UN

election assessment team laid bare its intention to conduct

an unacceptable election and sharpened the situation’s

urgency. He suggested SADC norms and standards offered

non-threatening benchmarks in that Zimbabwe had subscribed to

them already. He pondered aloud the potential utility of a

letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

5. (C) Tsvangirai stressed special concern about ruling

party plans to manipulate food stocks to its electoral

advantage, consistent with prior practices. He maintained

that the GMB was clearing its existing stocks because it was

not sufficiently treated to survive long storage; people were

already complaining that some distributed stocks were rotten.

Adequate rains assured a decent harvest throughout much of

the country and the government would supplement stocks with

imports. The MDC could compete in areas where most of the

population was food-sufficient, but government control of

food distribution in other areas would give it potentially

decisive advantage.

 

6. (C) Tsvangirai observed that there were compelling

arguments each way on the prospects for a boycott, and the

issue would be subject to ongoing debate within the party.

For now, though, the party did not have to take a decision

that would ultimately depend on the government’s

responsiveness in ameliorating the election environment.

 

7. (C) Tsvangirai did not elaborate on prospects for mass

action, noting only that the party was “looking at options.”

He reported that the party was reviewing the methodology of

mass action and recognized that stay-aways would not work.

He reiterated the importance of coordinating a broad alliance

with civil society. No single organization “owned” a

potential process of mass action and each would be

responsible for mobilizing its own constituency. He

discounted potential disagreements over priorities and

methodology among the MDC and civil society players,

maintaing that all recognized the need to resolve the

political crisis first in order to open the democratic space

all needed to address their separate priorities.

 

By-election Preview

——————-

 

8. (C) Responding to adverse publicity over the party’s

contentious selection of a candidate to stand in the Zengeza

parliamentary by-election scheduled later this month,

Tsvangirai asserted that the difficulty was resolved and

 

SIPDIS

would not prejudice MDC chances in that contest. He allowed

that the party needed to refine its selection process; in the

meantime, however, he had to “step in” to stop in-fighting

that was distracting the party from its ultimate objective of

retaining the seat. He maintained that divisions surrounding

the selection were not lasting and he expected to campaign in

the urban jurisdiction on Sunday without any problem.

 

9. (C) Tsvangirai recognized that the yet-to-be scheduled MP

by-election for Lupane could prove more problematic for the

party. A rural district, Lupane was more remote and thus

more vulnerable to manipulation by violence and politicized

food distribution. The ruling party also was co-opting

significant portions of the electorate through manipulation

of influential chiefs, a practice that could be decisive in

Lupane.

 

Leadership Shake-Up?

——————–

 

10. (C) Tsvangirai was somewhat evasive when queried about a

rumored shake-up in the party’s leadership. Alluding to

press reports of fisticuffs between Shadow Minister for

Foreign Affairs Moses Mzila-Ndlovu and senior adviser Eliphas

Mukonoweshuro, he conceded that there had been a

“regrettable” incident and that the party was going to

reorganize its structures on international relations.

Embassy will report on personnel shifts and other intra-party

tensions via septel.

 

Comment

——-

 

11. (C) Internal distractions are complicating the MDC’s

uphill electoral struggle. The opposition will have a hard

time getting an uncompromising ruling party to address severe

imbalances in the electoral environment, even superficially.

Indeed, Chinamasa’s reported announcement February 25 that

the GOZ had no intention of making any changes to its

electoral laws seemed calculated to goad the MDC toward a

boycott. Notwithstanding both parties’ snub, Mbeki’s quiet

effort to facilitate a meeting will serve to buoy the MDC,

which has little prospect of commanding ZANU-PF’s attention

by itself.

SULLIVAN

(3 VIEWS)

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