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Mbeki wanted Mugabe out before he left office

South African President Thabo Mbeki wanted to “get Bob” before he left office so that he could enhance a legacy battered by his lack of response to the HIV/Aids pandemic and inability to deal with violent crime, a cable just released by Wikileaks says.

The cable which was dispatched on 24 April 2007 says: “True, Mugabe has outplayed Mbeki before, but Mbeki is a shrewd, effective diplomat who (hopefully) has learned from his past dealings with Mugabe.”

IDASA’s Sydney Masamvu, the cable says, had even speculated that Mbeki sought the Southern African Development Community mandate to handle the Zimbabwe issue because he wanted to “get Bob” before he left power.

“We doubt Mbeki would have taken on the mediation role without some confidence that he could succeed.

“The internal dynamic in Zimbabwe is different now, with strong elements within ZANU-PF opposed to Mugabe’s continued rule. The SAG remains in close contact with the various ZANU-PF camps, and thus has better information about internal ZANU-PF developments and will seek ways to influence events,” the cable says.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 07PRETORIA1447, PROSPECTS FOR MBEKI FACILITATION IN ZIMBABWE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

07PRETORIA1447

2007-04-24 14:50

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Pretoria

VZCZCXRO5259

RR RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSA #1447/01 1141450

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 241450Z APR 07

FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9385

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 0966

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2054

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0481

RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 1071

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0505

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1259

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1729

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1170

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 6376

RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 0455

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1059

RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1184

RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0064

RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 4225

RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1191

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC

RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0392

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 PRETORIA 001447

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR AF/S D. MOZENA, S. HILL, M. TABLER-STONE, DRL J.

KRILLA

NSC FOR AF SENIOR DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/23/2017

TAGS: PREL PHUM KDEM ZI SF

SUBJECT: PROSPECTS FOR MBEKI FACILITATION IN ZIMBABWE

 

REF: A. 06 PRETORIA 0582

B. 05 PRETORIA 4522

C. CAPE TOWN 0060

D. HARARE 0326

E. PRETORIA 1054

F. TRENKLE-DELL EMAIL OF 03/29/2007

 

Classified By: Ambassador Eric Bost. Reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

 

1. (C) SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION. As recently-appointed SADC

“facilitator” for Zimbabwe, President Mbeki is off to the

races but may not make it to the finish line. Mbeki has

taken on Mugabe in the past and failed, and we should not

underestimate Mugabe’s ability to outfox him again.

Nevertheless, we recommend giving Mbeki space to pursue his

ultimate goal of facilitating Mugabe’s retirement. Mbeki

wants Mugabe replaced by a ZANU-PF-led “government of

national unity,” which he believes will reform the economy

and open political space. At this stage, we suggest

maintaining a restrained public posture on the initiative,

while privately stressing the need for free and fair

elections, noting our skepticism about Mugabe’s intentions,

and asking about “plan B” if the SADC-Mbeki initiative does

not succeed. It also may be useful to encourage regional

allies to engage Mbeki regularly and to support efforts by

South African civil society organizations, the press, and

Zimbabwean exile groups to keep the Mbeki facilitation on

track.

 

2. (C) This message and its recommendations draws on the

conversations with Pretoria-based diplomats, South African

analysts, Zimbabwean exile leaders and businessmen, and civil

society organizations. Ambassador hosted a lunch April 19

with the High Commissioners from Australia, the United

Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada to discuss Mbeki-SADC

initiative. The envoys agreed with Post’s assessment that

the Mbeki initiative faces an uphill battle and were

skeptical that he would succeed. Despite their concerns,

they concurred that the Mbeki effort is the “only game in

town,” and deserves space and quiet support, at least for the

time being. END SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION.

 

————————————–

SADC Appoints South Africa as Mediator

————————————–

 

3. (C) The March 28-29 Extra-Ordinary Southern African

Development Community (SADC) Summit “mandated” South African

President Mbeki to “continue to facilitate dialogue between

the opposition and the government” in Zimbabwe. The SADC

appointment is the first time that South Africa has been

formally designated by the regional organization to deal with

the crisis in Zimbabwe, although the SAG has tried a number

of bilateral initiatives over the years, including

negotiating a compromise constitution (ref A) and offering a

conditional loan (ref B). The SADC blessing is important to

the South Africans and may make them more aggressive than

they otherwise would be. Mbeki strongly prefers to act under

a multilateral mandate, even if it’s largely a figleaf for

SAG bilateral interests.

 

4. (C) Mbeki and his core Zimbabwe advisors — Minister of

Provincial and Local Government Sydney Mufamadi, Director

General in the Presidency Frank Chikane, Presidential Legal

 

PRETORIA 00001447 002 OF 006

 

 

Advisor Mojanku Gumbi, and Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad

— are devoting significant time and attention to Zimbabwe.

The combination of the continuing economic collapse in

Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s brutal and public attacks on opposition

leaders, the flood of millions of Zimbabweans into South

Africa, and the specter of the upcoming (and potentially

violent) elections in Zimbabwe have reenergized SAG

diplomatic efforts. DefMin Lekota told Ambassador February

22 that the SAG was so concerned about unpredictable

situation in Zimbabwe that they were keeping troops in

reserve capable of responding to the situation (ref C). We

also believe that South Africa wants Zimbabwe “solved” before

it hosts the soccer World Cup in 2010.

 

————————-

Persuade Mugabe to Retire

————————-

 

5. (C) While South Africa’s tactics as mediator in Zimbabwe

remain murky, the SAG appears to be pursuing its strategy

along two main tracks. First, we believe the SAG and ANC are

intensifying behind-the-scenes efforts to persuade Mugabe to

step aside before the upcoming 2008 elections. Mbeki knows

that it will be difficult for Zimbabwe to hold free and fair

elections — or for the GOZ to undertake any real economic

and political reform — with Mugabe as the president and

ZANU-PF candidate. Mbeki is reportedly playing with several

formulas to give Mugabe a “soft landing,” such as convincing

him to accept a position as ceremonial president or to retain

the party presidency. Other reports of the SAG’s efforts to

facilitate Mugabe’s retirement include:

 

— During the March Extra-Ordinary Summit, SADC quietly

tasked Tanzanian President Kikwete to put together a package

to deal with Mugabe’s financial and physical security,

according to IDASA analyst Sydney Masamvu. This package

would deal with prosecution for crimes against humanity,

retirement location, and financial guarantees for Mugabe and

his family.

 

— Masamvu also learned that following a meeting with former

President Nelson Mandela, senior ANC leader Tokyo Sexwale

called GOZ Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono on April 6

indicating that the feeling within the ANC as a party was

that Mugabe should retire now (ref D).

 

— We understand from several sources that the ANC is staying

in close touch with the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions of

ZANU-PF — both of whom reportedly want Mugabe gone —

looking for opportunities to influence internal ZANU-PF

dynamics.

 

—————————————–

Promote Political Dialogue Leading to GNU

—————————————–

 

6. (C) The second track is promoting dialogue between the GOZ

and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), centered

around creating conditions for free and fair elections in

2008. We believe Mbeki views the elections not as an end in

themselves, but rather as a tool to facilitate dialogue

between the government and opposition, to end the country’s

economic and political crisis, and to bring Zimbabwe out of

its international isolation. Our sources suggest that

 

PRETORIA 00001447 003 OF 006

 

 

Mbeki’s preferred scenario is the creation of a ZANU-PF-led

government of national unity (GNU), preferably before the

elections, with the MDC (or at least elements thereof)

working with ZANU-PF to deal with the economic crisis and to

open political space before the elections. Mbeki might even

recommend delaying the elections if he believes the GNU

scenario is going to pan out.

 

7. (C) This formula draws heavily on South Africa’s own

transition experience, as well as SAG mediations in the DRC,

Burundi, and Cote d’Ivoire. Mbeki’s team has met the two MDC

Secretaries General, Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube, twice in

 

SIPDIS

recent weeks to tease out their negotiating positions (ref

E). MDC Treasurer Roy Bennett told PolOff April 19 that the

South Africans gave the two officials a six-page letter from

Mbeki, which Bennett characterized as a “long-winded” request

for MDC views on the conditions for elections and soliciting

their commitment to dialogue. (NOTE: Bennett understands

that Mbeki sent Mugabe a similar letter. END NOTE.) In

return, the MDC factions, largely working together on this

initiative, agreed to dialogue and provided South Africa with

a “Roadmap” demanding six reforms before the MDC will agree

to participate in elections:

 

— a new constitution;

— repeal of repressive laws;

— new voter’s roll;

— establishment of an independent electoral commission which

is answerable to parliament and constituted in a way that

“shows the diversity of Zimbabwean politics”;

— demilitarization of state institutions; and,

— international supervision of elections.

 

MDC’s Bennett also said that he believed Tsvangirai would ask

for a second mediator to be added to the mix, perhaps

UN-appointed, to “keep Mbeki honest.” Bennett mentioned

someone like former UNSYG Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who is not

seen as pro-Western.

 

8. (C) The South Africans will take the MDC demands to GOZ

leaders, likely Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and

perhaps to Mugabe directly. South Africa will then attempt

to find middle ground between the MDC and ZANU-PF, and secure

MDC’s participation in the election.

 

—————–

Suspicious of MDC

—————–

 

9. (C) While the SAG has little choice but to engage the MDC,

the SAG does not respect or trust the opposition party —

particularly the Morgan Tsvangirai-led faction — and doubts

they could govern Zimbabwe. Elements of the ANC also believe

that liberation movements like ZANU-PF have an inherent right

to rule. South African commentators, such as Moeletsi Mbeki,

brother of the president, argue that South Africa does not

want a party with labor union roots emerging as a governing

party in southern Africa, since the trade union federation

COSATU is one of the few threats to ANC political dominance

in South Africa.

 

10. (C) The USG is viewed in South Africa as sympathetic to

the MDC, particularly the Tsvangirai faction. The release of

the 2007 Promoting Democracy Human Rights report, which

 

PRETORIA 00001447 004 OF 006

 

 

described USG support for “the efforts of the political

opposition,” received prominent coverage on the front pages

of the April 08 Sunday Times (“Americans are backing

Zimbabwe’s dissident groups”) and April 07 Business Day

Weekender (“Revelations of US meddling in Zimbabwe hurts

Mbeki plan”). These reports reinforced mistaken perceptions

in South Africa that the MDC is a tool of Western interests.

We also understand from MDC Treasurer Bennett that Welshman

Ncube complained about USG “meddling” in the internal

politics of the MDC in his meeting with SAG officials (ref

F). Bennett suspects that South Africa does not want close

MDC-USG engagement, believing the USG might counterbalance or

even undermine SAG efforts to pressure the MDC to accept

compromises. (NOTE: Bennett and other sources believe that

the SAG is much closer to the Mutambara MDC faction,

particularly Welshman Ncube (based in part on historical

links during the liberation struggle between the ANC and

ZAPU), and consults them regularly. Bennett has even

suggested that the SAG provides funds to the Mutambara

faction, a report we have not confirmed. END NOTE.)

 

—————–

Destined to Fail?

—————–

 

11. (C) Given the SAG’s failed attempts to resolve the

Zimbabwe crisis in the past, we share the skepticism of many

pundits about this new effort. Mugabe has outplayed Mbeki

time after time. The SAG will be reluctant to use its

economic leverage — cutting off electricity, closing the

border, or imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe — actions they

believe would further destabilize Zimbabwe.

 

12. (C) The wily Mugabe could manipulate the SADC-Mbeki

initiative in a number of ways, including for example:

 

— dragging out the talks by promising to meet with Mbeki and

the SAG, but never making the necessary compromises;

 

— making conciliatory statements while stepping up police

pressure and repression against the opposition;

 

— making key concessions, like repealing repressive

legislation, late in the campaign season, so late that the

opposition will not be able to take advantage of the “open”

political space; or

 

— promising to step down after the 2008 elections, but then

reneging after the elections have passed.

 

13. (C) Despite our overall skepticism, we note that the new

SADC-Mbeki mediation contains several new elements compared

with previous SAG initiatives:

 

— Mbeki believes that the SADC endorsement of South Africa’s

mediation gives him greater clout to take on Mugabe. Mbeki

himself emphasized this point in his April 1 Financial Times

interview, distinguishing the current initiative from

previous ones (“this time we are acting for the region”).

 

— We believe Mbeki wants to “solve” the Zimbabwe issue

before he departs office in 2009, in part to enhance a legacy

battered by his lack of response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and

inability to deal with violent crime. True, Mugabe has

 

PRETORIA 00001447 005 OF 006

 

 

outplayed Mbeki before, but Mbeki is a shrewd, effective

diplomat who (hopefully) has learned from his past dealings

with Mugabe. IDASA’s Masamvu even speculated that Mbeki

sought the SADC mandate because he wants to “get Bob” before

he leaves power. We doubt Mbeki would have taken on the

mediation role without some confidence that he could succeed.

 

— The internal dynamic in Zimbabwe is different now, with

strong elements within ZANU-PF opposed to Mugabe’s continued

rule. The SAG remains in close contact with the various

ZANU-PF camps, and thus has better information about internal

ZANU-PF developments and will seek ways to influence events.

 

— We believe the involvement of Minister of Provincial and

Local Government Sydney Mufamadi as Mbeki’s point person on

Zimbabwe is a positive development. Mufamadi was one of the

key players in the successful DRC peace talks. He has a

strong reputation as a pragmatic and effective negotiator.

 

— South Africa is under increasing internal pressure to deal

with the situation Zimbabwe. While there was initially

sympathy for Mugabe among black South Africans in the early

part of the decade, we believe this has dissipated.

Editorialists and civil society groups have been fiercely

critical of Mugabe in recent weeks, and skeptical of Mbeki’s

mediation effort. Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa

(estimated between two and three million) are increasingly

blamed for the country’s severe crime problem and the drain

on social services, adding pressure on the SAG to act.

 

—————————————-

Suggestions for U.S. Policy on Mediation

—————————————-

 

14. (C) Post recommends that the Department consider the

following steps related to the South African mediation in

Zimbabwe.

 

— Restrained Public Posture: We suggest that the USG

continue its restrained line on the Mbeki mediation, noting

that we support SADC’s and Mbeki’s call for free and fair

elections in Zimbabwe. Embracing the initiative might

undermine Mbeki by enabling Mugabe to portray Mbeki as a

lackey of the West. Keeping our powder dry also gives us

flexibility as the initiative develops. At the Ambassador’s

April 19 lunch, the High Commissioners from Australia, the

United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada, unanimously agreed

with this approach: giving Mbeki public space to pursue his

mediation, at least for now. All, however, agreed that GOZ

violence against the opposition must be condemned quickly and

forcefully and will not be included as part of a “restrained”

public posture.

 

— Active Private Consultations/Pressure: While Post

suggests maintaining a restrained public posture on the

initiative, we should privately stress to SAG officials the

importance of Zimbabwe holding legitimate elections in 2008.

Mbeki says he supports “free and fair elections in Zimbabwe,”

and we should hold him to his word. We should note our

skepticism about Mugabe’s intentions and ask SAG officials

about “plan B” if the SADC-Mbeki initiative does not succeed.

There may be times when high-level USG engagement with

President Mbeki and his key advisors may be useful, both to

emphasize our concerns and, if the facilitation develops

 

PRETORIA 00001447 006 OF 006

 

 

positively, to offer support.

 

— Engagement with Regional Allies: We believe it may be

useful to encourage SADC and African Union leaders who have

publicly expressed concern about the situation in Zimbabwe,

like Ghanaian President Kufour, Zambian President Mwanawasa

and Botswanan President Masire, to engage Mbeki and the SAG

regularly on the regional initiative. This will help keep

Mbeki “honest,” as well as provide him with support.

 

— Domestic Public Pressure: While the SAG likely wants the

Zimbabwe issue to fade from the headlines to allow its

“quiet” initiative to evolve, we believe that public pressure

in South Africa is critical to keeping the initiative on

track. We will continue to engage South African civil

society organizations, the press, and Zimbabwean exile

groups. We will also work with Embassy Harare on possible

quiet funding for key advocacy initiatives.

 

— Prepare to Respond: If the initiative evolves

successfully, it is likely that the SAG will approach the

USG, the U.K., and other Western nations to request that we

respond positively to concessions by lifting (some) targeted

sanctions and/or expressing public support for certain

actions. The SAG will be particularly interested in what USG

assistance would be available, including specific amounts and

sectors, if Mugabe leaves power and reforms begin. We should

be prepared to respond to these requests.

 

15. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Harare.

BOST

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