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Mugabe rigid, defiant, isolated

President Robert Mugabe was a lonely leader who was increasingly alienated from a world over which he had dwindling influence and more distorted perceptions.

This was the view of United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell on the eve of Mugabe’s 82nd birthday, after Mugabe castigated the West for Zimbabwe’s problems and “cowardly” Africans who refused to stand up to the West in an interview on state television.

Dell said the interview revealed a lonely leader increasingly alienated from a surrounding world over which he had ever dwindling influence and more distorted perceptions.

He said Mugabe was uneasy about succession and his response that he hoped to be around for another 82 years was a telling indicator of his unwillingness to step down in the foreseeable future.

Mugabe said in the interview that the issue of succession had to be discussed in the open at a party congress and he was confident that his party would rise to the challenge when it was time to discuss the issue.

 

Full came:


Viewing cable 06HARARE200, MUGABE AT 82 – RIGID, DEFIANT, ISOLATED

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

06HARARE200

2006-02-22 12:20

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO5033

PP RUEHMR

DE RUEHSB #0200/01 0531220

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 221220Z FEB 06

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9628

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1104

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 0937

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1110

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0370

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 0731

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1164

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3506

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0936

RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1564

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC//DHO-7//

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1319

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK//DOOC/ECMO/CC/DAO/DOB/DOI//

RUEPGBA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE//ECJ23-CH/ECJ5M//

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 000200

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. NEULING

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE

AFR/SA FOR E. LOKEN

COMMERCE FOR BECKY ERKUL

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2011

TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON PINR KPAO ZI

SUBJECT: MUGABE AT 82 – RIGID, DEFIANT, ISOLATED

 

REF: (A) HARARE 178 (B) 04 HARARE 882

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (SBU) In a taped, edited 90-minute state media interview

televised locally on Febuary 19, Robert Mugabe sounded

familiar anti-western themes and evidenced little inclination

to countenance economic or political reforms on the eve of

his 82nd birthday. He was familiarly cagey about the process

of succession and said nothing about the identity of a likely

successor. He struck out against customary perceived enemies

inside and outside the country – the MDC, the West, the IMF,

“cowardly” Africans who refused to stand up to the West, and

corrupt officialdom. Citing Zimbabwe’s purportedly unique

challenges of putative western sanctions and drought, Mugabe

said the GOZ would continue to print money as necessary

despite hyperinflation and put down cabinet ministers who

advocated “textbook economics.” End summary.

 

——————————

Succession When the Time Comes

——————————

 

2. (SBU) Responding to sometimes probing but presumably

pre-cleared questions from a state media interlocutor, Mugabe

said his party would rise to the challenge of choosing a

successor “when the moment has come”. He stresse that

leadership had to come from open processesin a party

congress (N.B. the next of which is pesently scheduled after

the next presidential elction) – not from “clandestine

meetings”. He aded that protection of his legacy required

the culivation of a “vanguard of cadres willing to defend

the gains of the liberation struggle” but said nthing about

potential successors.

 

———————-

Contempt for Opposition

———————-

 

3. (SBU) Mugabe was typically contmptuous of the opposition

MDC but reiterated hisacceptance of a multi-party system.

He portrayedthe MDC as “erstwhile cronies of the UK”, which

till aspired to govern Zimbabwe “by remote control. The

opposition continued to be aligned with th white community

here in “opposing nationalism i every way possible.” Asked

why he didn’t kick he MDC delegation out of parliament,

Mugabe allowed that some were sufficiently compatible and

could work for the improvement of the country. (Comment:

Some read this as an explicit reference to pro-Senate faction

leader Welshman Ncube, which may come back to haunt Ncube

down the line.) The rest should learn from some in the West

how to be a constructive opposition rather than try to

advance the West’s agenda of regime change.

 

——————

Contempt for West

——————

 

4. (SBU) Portraying Zimbabwe’s adversarial relationship with

the West in familiar terms, Mugabe suggested his willingness

to engage the West but claimed that the UK Prime Minister

Blair, backed by President Bush, remained obsessed with

regime change. He meandered into a lengthy diatribe about

the “nature of westerners,” as manifested by purported

genocide or abuse of native Americans, African slaves,

 

HARARE 00000200 002 OF 004

 

 

Aborigines, Palestinians, etc. He claimed that the West and

the United States had “never supported” Zimbabwe “from the

day or independence” and were now subverting the IMF to

unprecedentedly push a political agenda in Zimbabwe.

Interestingly, when asked about his Look East policy, Mugabe

cryptically responded that looking eastward on a globe

eventually reaches to the West, and in any event did not

elaborate on the promise of relations with China, Iran and

others as has been his custom in recent years.

 

—————–

Contempt for IMF

—————–

 

5. (SBU) Mugabe continued that the IMF similarly had “never

worked in Zimbabwe’s interest”; Zimbabwe had paid off IMF

arrears to “be done with it” and would pay off remaining

arrears “in due course.” He complained that the West’s

turning of Zimbabwe’s “neighbors” against it had prevented

Zimbabwe from borrowing available resources in the region

(N.B. an apparent reference to his failed loan negotiations

with South Africa) to pay the arrears so the country had to

sacrifice scarce domestic resources to pay.

 

——————————-

Contempt for Regional “Cowards”

——————————-

 

6. (SBU) Reacting to the interviewer’s reference to outside

attempts – South African President Mbeki’s, Nigerian

President Obasanjo’s, the AU’s, the Commonwealth Troika’s) –

to facilitate domestic dialogue, Mugabe warned “outsiders” to

“keep away” and insinuated such attempts were secretly

prodded by Tony Blair with malign intent. Mugabe blasted

other African leaders for “cowardly” not standing up for

Zimbabwe against the West. He complained that African

observers of Zimbabwe’s 2005 parliamentary elections, for

example, were uniformly satisfied with the elections’

freeness and fairness but had failed to say “go to Hell!” in

response to the West’s condemnation.

 

——————————–

Contempt for “Bookish” Economics

——————————–

 

7. (SBU) Mugabe offered a surreal defense of his

government’s economic policies. He claimed that laws of

supply and demand were merely “guidelines” that in any event

no longer applied in Zimbabwe’s situation. Uniquely

challenged by sanctions and drought, he continued, Zimbabwe

inevitably suffered from contracting production and declining

revenues. Printing money was the only way to avert

starvation under the circumstances. He complained of a

presence in the private sector of “neutral” elements who

cared more about making money than about the nation and

thwarted economic planning. In any event, his government

would continue “people-oriented” economics over defeatist

“bookish” approaches, and he criticized Finance Minister

Murerwa and Justice Minister Chinamasa for advocating the

latter.

 

————————-

Disappointment in Cabinet

————————-

 

8. (SBU) Mugabe elaborated that he was to a great extent

disappointed in his so-called “development cabinet”. He

claimed that poor planning and “self-seeking” behavior among

many ministers had compromised agricultural productivity,

 

HARARE 00000200 003 OF 004

 

 

even though the government purportedly had sufficient money

and materials for the sector. On the mining sector, citing

figures recently conveyed by RBZ Governor to the Ambassador

(ref A), Mugabe complained about “leakages” in official

production owing to “insufficient supervision.” When “our

enemies” abandoned facilities in the manufacturing sector, he

continued, the government failed to make available adequate

resources to assure their continued productivity. Mugabe

bemoaned corruption and a decay in the nation’s moral fiber

from top levels of government down. Asked why he did not

sack non-performing ministers, Mugabe suggested he might in

the near future.

 

——————

Looking His Age…

——————

 

9. (C) In his first extended public interview since his

disastrous SkyNews interview in May 2004 (ref B), Mugabe

seemed prepared and did not hesitate in responding to any

questions. However, he was often rambling and disjointed, at

least once bordering on incoherent. He slouched

uncomfortably in his chair at times and appeared fatigued,

albeit engaged, thoughout.

 

——————————

State Media Succession Comment

——————————

 

10. (SBU) In reporting Mugabe’s comments on succession, the

GOZ’s Herald newspaper clarified that “clandestine meetings”

referred to the so-called Tsholotsho gathering in which then

Information Minister (now independent MP) Jonathan Moyo

purportedly led a group in attempting to supplant a

Mugabe-sanctioned party leadership for the upcoming party

congress. Interestingly, the newspaper did not mention

former Mugabe heir apparent Emmerson Mnangagwa, head of the

faction generally viewed as behind the Tsholotsho meeting.

(Comment: We took Mugabe’s reference to be a warning against

discussing succession without his knowledge and not

necessarily a rebuke of Mnangagwa.) The newspaper identified

three succession process scenarios it reported Justice

Minister Chinamasa had described: (1) consolidation of

presidential and parliamentary elections in 2008, (2)

parliamentary selection of a President to serve from

2008-2010, presumably with consolidated elections in 2010,

and (3) election of a President to a seven-year term in 2008,

with consolidated elections beginning in 2015.

 

———————

A Nation “Celebrates”

———————

 

11. (SBU) Mugabe’s interview kicked off a week-long

stage-managed national “celebration” of his 82nd birthday on

February 21. State newspapers have been overflowing with

accolades of the President in advertisements from private

firms, parastatals and ministries. His picture is everywhere

and the state airwaves and print media detail every

minister’s glowing comment about the nation’s founding

leader. Each province reportedly will host a party in his

honor, with a national celebration planned for Mutare at a

reported cost of Z$10 billion (about (US$65,000).

——-

Comment

——-

 

12. (C) The interview reveals a lonely leader increasingly

alienated from a surrounding world over which he has ever

 

HARARE 00000200 004 OF 004

 

 

dwindling influence and more distorted perceptions. His

exposition had nearly everybody now in a mistrusted camp

arrayed against him, with South Africa and many in his own

cabinet the latest apparent additions. His continued

evasions about succession suggest his unease about any

successor’s ability to hold the party together and “protect

his legacy.” Responding to the interviewer’s final question

as to what his birthday wish was, Mugabe said he hoped to be

around another 82 years – a perhaps telling indicator of his

unwillingness to depart his stage for the foreseeable future.

 

13. (C) And yet to every Zimbabwean who expects to survive

Mugabe – and who doesn’t – the interview only underscored the

country’s need to get past a man whose gaze is only backward.

Most in the party’s upper echelons know their future with

Mugabe is limited, whether they fall victim to Mugabe’s

expected cabinet dismissals or simply lose their place in a

crumbling patronage system. A growing number see potential

salvation in the West and “bookish” economics; even as they

fawn over the President for his birthday, they are planning

and posturing for a post-Mugabe world they know will be

different. The interview magnified the Mugabe malignancy to

the country but a central dilemma remains for the ruling

party elite and, indeed, for all Zimbabweans: wait him out or

work to hasten his departure? Each path holds peril for

most.

 

DELL

(23 VIEWS)

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