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.
Viewing cable 04HARARE397, OPPOSITION LEADER ON TALKS STALEMATE, POSSIBLE
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
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
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION LEADER ON TALKS STALEMATE, POSSIBLE
REF: (A) HARARE 351 (B) HARARE 312 (C) HARARE 298 AND
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
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
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
¶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.
¶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
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
¶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.
¶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