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Mugabe has mastered the art of sleeping with one ear open

President Robert Mugabe has mastered the art of sleeping with one ear open and therefore while appearing to be dozing he is always able to respond at the right moments.

This was said by Botswana President Ian Khama after the Southern African Development Community meeting in Pretoria in January 2009.

Khama, who had a confrontation with Mugabe over whether there were training camps for Movement for Democratic Change cadres in Botswana or not, said during the marathon meeting about the Zimbabwe settlement, President Mugabe started dozing off as the hours passed, head nodding and eyes half closed.

Mugabe was, however, always able to respond at the right moment which the Botswana President characterised as having “mastered the art of sleeping with one ear open”.

The Botswana President said he had challenged Mugabe on the presence of training camps for MDC activists and told the assembled Heads of State that he would step down as President if Zimbabwe’s allegations were found to be true, but asked if Mugabe would also agree to resign if they turned out to be false.

Khama said Mugabe did not respond.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09GABORONE88, BOTSWANA: READ-OUT FROM PRESIDENT KHAMA ON THE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09GABORONE88

2009-01-30 13:15

2011-08-30 01:44

SECRET

Embassy Gaborone

VZCZCXRO9281

OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHOR #0088/01 0301315

ZNY SSSSS ZZH

O 301315Z JAN 09

FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5529

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA PRIORITY 0385

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0214

RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0107

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0197

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0399

RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 GABORONE 000088

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR AF, AF/S, AF/RSA, INR/AA

STATE PLEASE PASS TO USAID

LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/29/2019

TAGS: PREL PHUM KDEM PINR ZI BC

SUBJECT: BOTSWANA: READ-OUT FROM PRESIDENT KHAMA ON THE

SADC SUMMIT

 

REF: A. HARARE 70

B. GABORONE 82

C. GABORONE 70

 

Classified By: Ambassador Stephen J. Nolan for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

1. (S) SUMMARY. During a 90 minute meeting January 29,

President Khama shared his impressions of the January 26-27

SADC summit with a small group of Chiefs of Mission at his

office in Gaborone. Khama described the overall dynamics of

the summit and commented that he and Tanzanian President

Kikwete had been the most active participants and had worked

together to advocate for a fair outcome for the MDC. He

characterized Robert Mugabe as more subdued and conciliatory

than in previous meetings, and assessed that Mugabe may

personally be ready to make a deal. However, Khama also

noted that Mugabe is probably constrained by hard-liners

within his inner circle. Khama also expressed some

frustration with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, particularly

with his initial public reaction to the summit communique and

the MDC’s tendency to reverse itself during negotiations.

Finally, President Khama urged the USG and other friends of

Zimbabwe to carefully craft our public reaction to the unity

government if it comes about. He urged us to quickly engage

at a political level with the new government, increase

humanitarian assistance if possible, and to focus on the

positive in our public statements so as to “offer some light

at the end of the tunnel” both to the new government and the

suffering Zimbabwean people. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) President Khama invited Ambassador Nolan and his

counterparts from the UK, France, Germany, and the European

Union to a meeting at his office January 29 regarding the

January 26-27 SADC Extraordinary Summit. Khama was

accompanied by Minister of Defense (and acting Foreign

Minister) Seretse, MFA Permanent Secretary Samuel Oututle,

MFA Deputy Permanent Secretary Sesara George, and his Chief

of Protocol Daphne Kadiwa. President Khama was relaxed and

forthright during the 90 minute meeting, offering the

assembled diplomats a detailed and colorful exposition of the

summit. Since Khama’s overall account of the proceedings at

the summit tracks closely with the information in reftels A

and B, this cable will focus on adding detail and color

regarding the summit proceedings and participants to give

Washington a fuller picture.

 

Dynamics of the Summit

———————-

3. (S) President Khama told the assembled diplomats that in

December 2008 he phoned South African President Motlanthe to

inform him that Botswana was prepared to withdraw from any

participation in SADC’s mediation efforts, withhold

recognition of Mugabe as the Zimbabwean President, and cease

attending SADC summits unless the Zimbabwean government

provided Morgan Tsvangirai a passport and “Mugabe stopped

playing games.” Khama believes that this threat forced the

GOZ to issue Tsvangirai’s passport in December and broke the

impasse in negotiations. Moving to the summit itself, Khama

said that the meeting began late due to the late arrival of

the Swazi King, and that some of the other participants were

frustrated by both the late start and the length of the

meeting. Lesotho, for example, Khama cited as seeming

frustrated at spending time on yet another Zimbabwe meeting

and would do all it could to move the process along quickly.

Khama explained that the dialogue was almost exclusively

among the heads of state. He said that both he and Tanzanian

President Kikwete were the most active participants, and that

they confronted Mugabe on issues. He seemed disappointed

that the new Zambian President Banda did not contribute.

Khama noted that Banda is “a gentleman, nice and pleasant”

but felt that with the passing of Mwanawasa he had lost an

ally in Zambia within the SADC proceedings. The Chairman

restricted most of the summit to only heads of state or

senior country representatives, which meant that MDC was not

permitted in the room. Khama argued that it made no sense to

try to articulate MDC concerns and positions without Morgan

Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube present, but he was over-ruled

 

GABORONE 00000088 002 OF 004

 

 

as Lesotho, DRC, and others insisted that SADC protocol

permitted only heads of state in such meetings. Tsvangirai

and Ncube were only allowed in the room late in the meeting.

 

4. (C) Regarding distribution of governorships, the summit

agreed that ZANU-PF monopoly on governorships was untenable,

but they could not agree upon a fair distribution of the 10

positions amongst the three parties. It was resolved that

MDC-T, MDC-M, and ZANU-PF negotiators will meet and negotiate

the distribution. MDC-T wants 5 seats for itself, 4 for

ZANU, and one for MDC-M, based on parliamentary seats. ZANU

claims it should be 5-4-1 (ZANU getting 5) based on “popular

vote,” while MDC-M wants a 4-4-2 split based on the

negotiated allocation of cabinet positions. Mugabe conceded

that the governorships could be negotiated immediately,

however, it was not decided when the incumbent governors

would be removed.

 

5. (C) Khama reports that he attempted to re-open discussion

on the allocation of the Home Affairs Ministry. He still

feels that the sharing of the Ministry is unworkable and will

create a mess. Another country suggested that to be fair,

perhaps the Defense portfolio should also be shared between

ZANU-PF and MDC. However, Mugabe strongly objected to this

idea and it was dropped. The Chairman suggested, because of

depth of mistrust and suspicion on both sides, it would be

better for all sides to work together in government in order

to get beyond the acrimony and begin to build some

confidence, and after six months review ministerial

portfolios. President Khama says that he objected, noting

that only Home Affairs was in dispute, and President Kikwete

supported him. Though Khama and Kikwete could not convince

their colleagues that only Home Affairs should be reviewed,

Khama did succeed in getting SADC to remove any mention of

the sharing of Home Affairs from the communique.

 

6. (C) President Khama told the Ambassadors that the issue

of the abducted MDC members and NGO activists was raised

during the summit. Tsvangirai insisted that all the

abductees be released immediately, but Mugabe objected

insisting that they had all broken the law and that is why

they had been “arrested.” Welshman Ncube suggested that

since they had been arraigned in the courts, that this issue

should be put aside for the moment to allow the negotiations

to continue. Khama indicated that the assumption was that

once the unity government was formed, they would be released

quickly.

 

Khama’s Impressions of Mugabe

—————————–

7. (S) Robert Mugabe’s demeanor was calm, pleasant and

collected during the summit, according to Khama. He did not

bang on the table like he had at previous summits. Khama

senses that Mugabe is no longer the “strong-man” of years

past and he believes that Mugabe may personally be ready to

make a deal, but notes that he is now cornered by his own

hard-liners. Khama also believes that Mugabe is feeling the

pressure of Zimbabwe’s deteriorating situation. President

Khama told the Chiefs of Mission that Mugabe started dozing

off as the hours passed, head nodding and eyes half-closed,

but according to Khama, Mugabe was always able to respond at

the right moments, which Khama characterized as having

“mastered the art of sleeping with one ear open.”

 

8. (S) President Khama had a harsh exchange with Mugabe when

the issue of MDC training in Botswana came up in passing.

(Note: When discussing the missing MDC and opposition

activists, Mugabe said they had been arrested due to training

“in another country.” He didn’t mention Botswana

specifically. End Note.) Khama said that he confronted

Mugabe, complaining this was just a typical distraction

tactic on his part. Khama argued out that Mugabe and the GOZ

had never previously raised these training camp allegations,

either in recent bilateral meetings or to former President

Mogae in their periodic meetings, and no Zimbabwean military

officials ever brought this allegation to Khama himself when

he was Commander of the BDF. Khama then told the assembled

 

GABORONE 00000088 003 OF 004

 

 

Heads of State that he would step down as President if

Zimbabwe’s allegations were found to be true, but asked if

Mugabe would also agree to resign if they turned out to be

false. According to Khama, Mugabe did not respond.

 

9. (S) According to Khama, at the end of summit, Mugabe

asked to speak, and he adopted a conciliatory posture. He

thanked all the countries – including Botswana, South Africa,

and Zambia – that had helped Zimbabwe with its cholera

epidemic. Mugabe said that the cholera epidemic had taken

the GOZ by surprise, and that they never expected it to get

to its current levels. Khama opined that Mugabe’s more

conciliatory posture results from the pressure he is under.

Per Khama, Mugabe is aware that his options are dwindling and

he needs to find a way out.

 

Frustration with the MDC

————————

10. (S) At the end of the summit, Khama says that the points

of the communique were all briefed to Tsvangirai and he

agreed to them. Khama was therefore not pleased at

Tsvangirai’s public statements at the end of the summit,

which seemed to be backsliding on his part. According to

President Khama, former President Mbeki made the same

complaint about the MDC. Per Mbeki, the MDC actually first

proposed the idea of sharing the Home Affairs Ministry, then

later they backed away and condemned the idea. According to

Khama, this shifting of positions undermined the MDC in the

eyes of other SADC members.

 

11. (S) President Khama also reported that he met privately

with Morgan Tsvangirai in Gaborone January 28, and he asked

about the perception that MDC had changed its position on the

deal. According to Khama, Tsvangirai somewhat disavowed the

MDC statement issued in response to the communique, calling

it “just a first reaction.” Tsvangirai assured Khama that

most in the MDC would agree to the unity government and the

timeline and it would be approved by the MDC National

Council, though some hard-liners would object. Tsvangirai

wanted to avoid the danger of the MDC being seen as the “bad

guys,” sensing that if they refused the SADC deal, they would

be held responsible for plight of the Zimbabwean people and

prolonging their suffering through intransigence, while

ZANU-PF had publicly accepted the timeline. Khama reported

that he advised Tsvangirai to patch up relations with the

Mutambara faction of the MDC soon in order to strengthen

their position against ZANU-PF. Khama stressed that

Tsvangirai and the MDC can continue to count on his advice

and support, including after they enter government.

 

Vision of the Way Ahead

———————–

12. (C) The bottom line for President Khama was that the

agreement is not ideal and he would have preferred to see

genuine elections in Zimbabwe, but he recognizes that they

will be impossible under current circumstances. He said that

this is a Zimbabwean problem and ultimately only the

Zimbabweans can resolve it. Khama also noted that the MDC

have themselves partly to blame for allowing Mugabe to stay

in power after the June elections. He said he can only be

hopeful the unity government will succeed this time. He also

noted that SADC is “agitated” at having the finger of blame

constantly pointed at them for Zimbabwe’s problems. The

prevailing attitude within SADC, according to President

Khama, is that “it is the Zimbabweans who can’t get their act

together, so blame them, not us.”

 

13. (C) President Khama stressed that the Joint

Implementation and Monitoring Committee (JMIC) must be set up

and functioning immediately for this deal to succeed. He

noted that former President Mbeki will convene the JMIC, and

though Zimbabweans from all three parties will be on the

committee, SADC will still play a role in guaranteeing the

process. Ambassador Nolan asked President Khama whether he

believes that Mugabe is entering this agreement with good

faith. Khama expressed some skepticism about whether the

deal will hold, but noted that he believes “there are no

 

GABORONE 00000088 004 OF 004

 

 

other options at present.” Khama also said that the

timeline’s benchmarks will quickly demonstrate whether or not

Mugabe is serious.

 

Advice for the International Community

————————————–

14. (S) There was some discussion about the many changes the

US, UK and Europe would have to see on the ground before

removing sanctions or changing our overall posture toward

Zimbabwe. President Khama clearly understood this, but he

also counseled that it would be helpful for the United States

and other friends of Zimbabwe to engage at a political level

“sooner rather than later” with the new government.

Increasing humanitarian assistance quickly would also be an

important step, according to Khama, but he said that he knows

there will be reluctance to provide development and

reconstruction assistance absent concrete evidence of change.

He also suggested that it would be helpful for the US, UK,

and Europe to issue positive statements about the new

government, to give people in Zimbabwe confidence that what

they have done has the backing of the international

community, to show that there is a willingness to enter into

dialogue, and that “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

 

15. (S) Khama acknowledged that the sanctions question will

arise. He advised that if the western countries simply say

that sanctions will continue indefinitely, it will throw cold

water on the agreement and will not be well-received in the

SADC region. According to Khama, this sort of statement will

also feed Mugabe’s considerable paranoia about Western

motives. Instead, Khama counseled that western governments

could try to focus on the positive, by mentioning types of

humanitarian assistance that can be provided quickly and

engaging in limited political dialogue, while also leaving

the door open to reviewing sanctions in the near future and

promising to link action on the sanctions to solid evidence

of progress and reform. If the new government does not make

satisfactory progress on key benchmarks, engagement could

then be slowed or halted. President Khama also suggested

that the international community could send a fact-finding

delegation to Zimbabwe in approximately three months to

assess such progress, and then base future US engagement with

the GOZ on their report. Khama mentioned that our feedback

on what is happening inside Zimbabwe and information about

our humanitarian programs would be useful to him, and he

offered to present information about ZANU-PF backsliding or

misconduct to SADC if needed.

 

NOLAN

(43 VIEWS)

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