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Mugabe told Mbeki he was not aware of the status of the intra-party talks

President Robert Mugabe is reported to have told South African President Thabo Mbeki that he was not aware of the details of the informal talks between his Zimbabwe African national Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change.

The talks were being held informally by MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

Mbeki had just met Ncube and MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai’s special assistant Gandi Mudzingwa said Mugabe had told Mbeki that regardless of the progress of such talks, it was time to wrap them up and to proceed to a formal dialogue between the parties.

Ncube was to meet Chinamasa to work out an agenda and timetable for formal talks.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE2443, MBEKI VISIT REKINDLES TALKS ON TALKS

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE2443

2003-12-19 09:12

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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 02 HARARE 002443

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. DELISI, M. RAYNOR

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/19/2013

TAGS: PGOV PREL SA ZI

SUBJECT: MBEKI VISIT REKINDLES TALKS ON TALKS

 

REF: (A) HARARE 2364 (B) HARARE 2313 (C) HARARE 2259

 

(D) HARARE 2124

 

Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5(b)(d)

 

1. (C) MDC Secretary for Presidential Affairs Gandi

Mudzingwa on December 19 briefed poloff on South African

President Mbeki’s 20-minute December 18 meeting with MDC

President Morgan Tsvangirai and Secretary General Welshman

Ncube. According to Mudzingwa, Mbeki told the party leaders

at the end of his his visit to Harare that President Mugabe

had surprised him by admitting that he was unaware of details

on how far informal intra-party talks had progressed. Mugabe

added that, regardless of the progress of such talks, it was

time to wrap them up and to proceed to a formal dialogue

between the parties. Gandi reported that Ncube was to meet

at a yet-to-be-determined date with Minister of Legal,

Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Chinamasa to work

out an agenda and timetable for formal talks. Gandi would

not predict when formal talks would start, if ever, noting

that ZANU-PF had raised false expectations on talks before.

Without a date certain or confidence-building measures from

ZANU-PF, the MDC would have to remain skeptical on ruling

party intentions. He credited international and domestic

pressure with Mbeki’s visit, which he characterized as

potentially constructive.

 

2. (C) Government-controlled media, which subordinated

coverage of the Mbeki visit to the Reserve Bank’s monetary

policy announcement (septel), highlighted historical ties

between the ANC and ZANU-PF and Mbeki’s remarks on the

countries’ shared problems. Mugabe publicly stated that

informal inter-party dialogue was ongoing but he could “not

say accurately where we are”. He said he awaited reports

from ruling party participants in the talks and that the

parties could move to formal dialogue “at some stage”. The

government media noted that Mbeki met briefly with Tsvangirai

and Ncube. MDC Spokesman Paul Themba Nyati publicly stated

that the Mbeki visit yielded no new initiatives.

 

3. (C) COMMENT: If Mbeki’s report to the MDC is true,

Mugabe is keeping to historical form: with dwindling options

and his back to the wall, he indicates tentative agreement to

commence to begin to start discussions that theoretically

could lead to real concessions. The setting of an agenda

(notwithstanding numerous prior exchanges on the matter) and

other intervening developments may yet complicate the setting

of a date for formal dialogue. Mugabe’s sensitivity to

international pressure in the wake of the beating his ego

suffered in the recent CHOGM debacle could be a further

complicating factor. Hardline opponents of dialogue, who

appeared to have the upper hand at ZANU-PF’s recent party

conference (ref A), can be expected to disrupt progress

toward talks through their control of the state media.

Although heated rhetoric and atmospherics at the party

conference appeared to squelch prospects for intra-party

dialogue, some elements of the party are quietly supportive.

In any event, neither supporters nor opponents of dialogue

within the party can be expected to get too far out in front

of their very engaged leader.

 

4. (C) COMMENT (CONT’D): Mbeki’s visit and Mugabe’s

tentative indication on formal talks may forestall MDC

preparations for mass action early next year (ref B).

Elements of civil society nonetheless may continue to agitate

against the government independent of MDC influence,

potentially upsetting the environment for dialogue. At the

MDC’s annual conference December 20-21, the party leadership

likely will face some pressure from a restive rank-and-file

leery of talks, but can be expected to continue its

commitment to pursue intra-party dialogue unconditionally.

 

5. (C) COMMENT (CONT’D): President Mbeki’s role and motives

will be closely scrutinized by all in Harare. His

well-publicized statement warning of human rights as a

pretext to effect regime change shocked many in the

opposition and civil society here and was trumpeted to

considerable advantage by the government press. Both parties

are keenly aware of the conflicting demands Zimbabwe imposes

on him in domestic, regional and international political

contexts. For now, maintaining Mbeki’s engagement is a sine

qua non to prospects for the long elusive formal intra-party

dialogue; both parties recognize the need to play ball as

long as he does. Indeed, meaningful engagement by ZANU-PF

beyond merely coming to the table likely will require

sustained and perhaps more forceful pressure by Mbeki.

SULLIVAN

 

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