Botswana President Festus Mogae told United States officials that President Robert Mugabe was acting like a wounded buffalo so there was no way Zimbabwe was going to have free and fair elections.
Speaking three months before the 2002 elections, Mogae said it was therefore better to have the elections sooner than later to lessen the harm that was being done.
He said Mugabe was going to stay in power by hook or by crook and the only way to remove him was to attack militarily and remove him forcefully.
The cable said Mogae said this half jokingly.
When told that Mugabe was so unpopular that he would lose the elections despite the violence, Mogae said Mugabe was very smart and was already working to prevent that possibility.
Viewing cable 01GABORONE3732, MOGAE ON MUGABE: HE WILL STAY IN POWER “BY
P 031137Z DEC 01
FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7422
INFO SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L GABORONE 003732
E.O. 12958: DECL: (12/3/2006)
SUBJECT: MOGAE ON MUGABE: HE WILL STAY IN POWER “BY
HOOK OR BY CROOK”
REF: GABORONE 3681
(U) CLASSIFIED BY AMBASSADOR JOHN E. LANGE FOR REASONS
1.5 (B AND D).
¶1. (C) PRESIDENT FESTUS MOGAE (PROTECT) BELIEVES THERE
IS NO CHANCE TO INFLUENCE ZIMBABWEAN PRESIDENT ROBERT
MUGABE TO HOLD FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS BY MARCH. HE
SAID MUGABE IS ACTING LIKE A “WOUNDED BUFFALO” AND IT
WOULD BE BETTER TO HAVE THE ELECTIONS SOONER RATHER THAN
LATER TO LESSEN THE HARM THAT IS BEING DONE.
¶2. (C) THE AMBASSADOR RAISED THE ISSUE OF ZIMBABWE
DURING A 12/1 DINNER AT WHICH MAURICE TEMPELSMAN AND THE
HARVARD AIDS INSTITUTE BESTOWED THEIR 2001 AIDS
LEADERSHIP AWARD ON MOGAE. MOGAE AVERTED THAT MUGABE
DOES NOT CARE WHAT ANY OUTSIDERS THINK AND WILL STAY IN
POWER “BY HOOK OR BY CROOK.” IN RESPONSE TO A QUESTION
AS TO WHETHER THERE WOULD BE FURTHER SADC ENGAGEMENT
WITH MUGABE AND HIS GOVERNMENT PRIOR TO THE MARCH
ELECTIONS, MOGAE SAID THERE PROBABLY WOULD BE MEETINGS
BUT HE SAW NO CHANCE OF SUCCESS. IN PAST SADC
DISCUSSIONS ON ZIMBABWE, HE SAID HE HAD LED THE
DISCUSSION OF ECONOMIC CONCERNS AND WAS THEN FOLLOWED BY
PRESIDENT MBEKI. NOW, HE SAID (ONLY HALF-JOKINGLY) THAT
THE ONLY WAY TO REMOVE MUGABE FROM POWER WOULD BE TO
ATTACK MILITARILY AND REMOVE HIM FORCEFULLY. THE
AMBASSADOR DESCRIBED A SCENARIO IN WHICH MUGABE AND
ZANU-PF WERE SO UNPOPULAR THAT THEY WOULD ACTUALLY LOSE
THE ELECTIONS DESPITE ALL OF THE VIOLENCE AND
INTIMIDATION IN ADVANCE. MOGAE RESPONDED THAT MUGABE IS
VERY SMART AND IS ALREADY WORKING TO PREVENT THAT
POSSIBILITY, INCLUDING THROUGH HIS LATEST EFFORT TO
DISENFRANCHISE THOSE ZIMBABWEANS LIVING ABROAD.
¶3. (C) THE CONVERSATION THEN TURNED TO THE IMPACT ON
SOUTHERN AFRICA AND THE CONTINENT AS A WHOLE. THE
AMBASSADOR NOTED THAT THE CREDIBILITY OF NEPAD, WHICH
EMPHASIZES AFRICA’S RESPONSIBILITY FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE,
COULD BE UNDERCUT IF THE ELECTIONS WERE STOLEN. MOGAE
DISMISSED THE IMPORTANCE OF NEPAD, WHICH HE VIEWS AS
BROAD RHETORIC HAVING LITTLE REAL IMPACT ON THE GROUND.
HE SAID THE COB HAS GONE ALONG WITH THE PROGRAM BECAUSE
IT AGREES WITH THE GOALS BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT HAS LOW
EXPECTATIONS FOR IT.
¶4. (C) THE AMBASSADOR ASKED MOGAE IF HE FORESAW STRONG
MEASURES BY SADC, POSSIBLY EVEN INCLUDING EXPULSION,
SHOULD THE ELECTIONS TURN OUT AS BADLY AS MANY PREDICT.
MOGAE WAS UNCERTAIN ABOUT SADC PROCEDURES IN SUCH A CASE
BUT ADDED THAT ZIMBABWE’S “APOLOGISTS” (UNNAMED) WOULD
ARGUE THAT THE SITUATIONS IN SADC MEMBER STATES ANGOLA
AND THE DRC WERE SUCH THAT ZIMBABWE DID NOT MERIT BEING
SINGLED OUT FOR EXPLUSION FROM THE ORGANIZATION.
¶5. (C) COMMENT. MOGAE’S VIEWS ARE CONSISTENT WITH THE
PESSIMISM EXPRESSED TO US EARLIER BY FOREIGN MINISTER
MERAFHE (REFTEL). MOGAE BRIDLES AT THE MEMORY OF BEING
BERATED BY THE “WAR VETERANS” DURING THE SADC TASK FORCE
VISIT TO ZIMBABWE ON SEPTEMBER 9. DESPITE OUR EFFORTS
TO ENCOURAGE CONTINUED ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT, THE COB NOW
SEEMS TO HAVE GIVEN UP ON THE PROSPECTS OF INFLUENCING