Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika described President Robert Mugabe as “a true democrat in every sense of the word” because he had unified Zimbabwe’s two liberation forces.
He called Mugabe and African hero and said he believed that Zimbabwe’s economy would soon bounce back because of some of the economic policies that Mugabe had put in place.
Mugabe was on a four-day state visit to Malawi which included officiating at a highway that was named in his honour.
Civil society in Malawi opposed the visit and the naming of the highway after Mugabe because it viewed this as honouring a human rights violator.
Mugabe called those Malawians who opposed his visit “blacks speaking for their white masters”.
Viewing cable 06LILONGWE391, MUTHARIKA HAILS “AFRICAN HERO” MUGABE
RR RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR
DE RUEHLG #0391 1281546
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081546Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY LILONGWE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2715
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0214
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0109
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC 0444
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION WASHDC
UNCLAS LILONGWE 000391
STATE FOR AF/S GABRIELLE MALLORY
STATE FOR INR/AA
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: MUTHARIKA HAILS “AFRICAN HERO” MUGABE
REF: LILONGWE 365
¶1. (SBU) Summary: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe ended
his four day state visit to Malawi on May 6, after opening a
road named in his honor and publicly condemning the West.
Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika played the part of
amiable host, asking donors to resume support to Zimbabwe and
calling Mugabe a “true democrat” and an “African hero.” For
his part, Mugabe called those Malawians who opposed his
visit, “blacks speaking for their white masters.”
Referencing the travel sanctions placed on him, Mugabe stated
at the public opening of the Robert Mugabe Highway that he
is, “not a Briton and does not desire to live in Europe.” End
¶2. (SBU) Mutharika went to great pains to ensure that
Mugabe’s visit went smoothly, despite the objections of some
civil society organizations (reftel). Mutharika had
previously convinced a number of NGOs to go along quietly
with the Mugabe visit by promising them that he would set up
an audience for them with Mugabe, to discuss human rights
violations in Zimbabwe. Despite civil society disappointment
and anger when this meeting, predictably, failed to take
place, there were no large scale protests while Mugabe was in
¶3. (SBU) The GOM made numerous efforts to welcome Mugabe,
prominently placing his picture alongside that of Mutharika
at round-abouts in the capital. Mugabe was feted with a full
honor guard upon arrival and departure, presentation of the
freedom of the city of Lilongwe, a state dinner, and a large
formal ceremony to open the highway, near Blantyre. All the
events received prominent coverage in the state-run media.
There was a heavy and visible police presence in Lilongwe
throughout the visit.
¶4. Mutharika took every available opportunity to publicly
sing Mugabe’s praises. Departing from his prepared remarks
at the state dinner, Mutharika called Mugabe “a true democrat
in every sense of the word” because he had unified Zimbabwe’s
two liberation forces. Mutharika extolled Zimbabwe as a
great investment opportunity, telling Mugabe, “I believe the
economy will soon bounce back because of some of the economic
policies your government has put in place.” Mutharika has a
number of connections to Zimbabwe, including a large farm
there and his Zimbabwean wife, which have led to his close
relationship to Mugabe. Although rumors abounded that
Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was set to
sign an agreement with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF during the visit,
according to government sources nothing came of it.
¶5. (SBU) Comment: From the government’s perspective, Mugabe’s
visit went relatively smoothly, in large part due to
Mutharika’s effectiveness in quieting civil society, who had
loudly questioned the rationale of honoring a human rights
abuser. While Mutharika has clearly shown that he has no
fear of cozying up to an international pariah such as Mugabe,
the visit itself will not likely do lasting damage to
Malawi’s international standing. The real harm to Malawi’s
reputation will come from Mutharika’s own actions. The
arbitrary arrest and detention of a dozen opposition leaders
apparently in connection with this visit, along with a
continuing pattern of intimidation of political opponents by
actual and threatened prosecutions, is of serious concern to
all those who wish for a healthier democracy in Malawi.
Mugabe,s visit provided an opportunity for a great many
Malawians to ponder whether Mutharika is beginning to adopt
Mugabe,s Zimbabwe example on human rights.