South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Jeremiah Ndou told United States ambassador Joseph Sullivan on 27 October 2003 that President Robert Mugabe had told United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan that he was “ready to leave office soon” but backtracked because of internal ZANU-PF differences over his succession.
At the time ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change were negotiating a settlement that could see a transitional government being established before fresh presidential elections.
Ndou said John Nkomo was a positive influence for dialogue but Jonathan Moyo and others were seeking to undermine any agreement reached.
He said that ZANU-PF was so top-driven that no change in party leadership would occur without clear direction from Mugabe.
Viewing cable 03HARARE2141, SOUTH AFRICAN TAKE ON DIALOGUE
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 03 HARARE 002141
STATE FOR AF/FO AND AF/S; NSC FOR AFRICA SR. ADVISER FRAZER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/28/2013
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICAN TAKE ON DIALOGUE
REF: HARARE 2123
Classified By: Joseph G. Sullivan for Reasons 1.5B/D
¶1. (C) Summary: South African High Commissioner Jeremiah Ndou
told the Ambassador Oct 27 that dialogue/negotiations between
ZANU/PF and the MDC had progressed well on both
constitutional as well as transitional arrangements. He said
that there had been some recent backsliding by ZANU-PF,
however, and that President Mbeki would likely call Mugabe to
press for completing the dialogue. Ndou said he expected an
eventual agreement to settle for advancing the presidential
election to 2005, coincident with parliamentary elections;
leaving Mugabe as president with reduced powers; and
installing a transitional authority with MDC presence to
oversee electoral law revisions and other changes. Ndou,
however, acknowledged that the lack of a clear succession
process within ZANU-PF was delaying progress. To Ndou’s
question, the Ambassador said that we were pleased that
President Mbeki had taken responsibility for finding a speedy
resolution to the crisis in Zimbabwe. End Summary
¶2. (SBU) HC Ndou had to change the venue of the meeting
because about four thousand Zimbabwean visa seekers were
constantly present outside the SAG High Commission offices.
He noted the growing impact of Zimbabweans in South
Africa which made resolution of Zimbabwe’s crisis more urgent.
3.(C) Ndou said that Mugabe had recently told UN SYG Annan
that he was ready to leave office soon. Ndou said that
considerable progress had been made in talks between ZANU-PF
and MDC with virtual agreement on a new constitution to be
adopted either by parliamentary vote or a referendum. He also
said, as had the MDC(reftel) that the principal difference
now was over when new presidential elections should be held.
But unlike the MDC, Ndou claimed there was virtual agreement
on the shape of a transitional authority to govern Zimbabwe
until new elections. Ndou said that presidential powers
would be sharply reduced under a new constitution and a
transitional authority would be established, similar to that
which prevailed in South Africa in the period before majority
rule elections. Ndou said that the MDC would have
representation in all important ministries in the period
leading up to new elections. Ndou did not call this a
national unity government, but instead the necessary
opposition presence in a transitional authority to assure
that election rule reform and other changes were carried out
properly. He thought the most likely agreed date for new
presidential elections was 2005, since it would take at least
nine months and maybe more to organize a free election.
¶4. (C) Ndou said that the progress made so far toward
agreement was now threatened by recent signs of Mugabe
backing away from what had been agreed, apparently because of
internal ZANU-PF differences over the succession. Ndou
called Minister John Nkomo a positive influence for dialogue,
but pointed to Jonathan Moyo and others as seeking to
undermine any agreement reached, since they were opponents of
change. Ndou lamented that ZANU-PF was so top-driven that no
change in party leadership would occur without clear
direction from Mugabe. He said that President Mbeki would
likely have to call Mugabe to press the process forward. He
did not think Mbeki would travel to Zimbabwe at this time,
5.(C) Ndou also lamented GOZ actions to close the “Daily
News” and keep it closed, notwithstanding the administrative
court ruling in its favor. Ndou had hoped that the
Government might take advantage of the court ruling to back
away from a confrontation which was costing it
internationally. Ndou said that instead Jonathan Moyo had
been able to enlist the police and the President in his
efforts to keep the “Daily News” shut regardless of court
rulings. We have heard that Mugabe had promised South
African Vice President Zuma to “let the law take its course”
with respect to the “Daily News.” Comment: Apparently, that
promise only applies to cases where the court rules in the
Government’s favor. End Comment.
¶6. (C) Ndou asked the Ambassador about the US position. The
Ambassador said that we were pleased that President Mbeki had
committed to resolving the Zimbabwean crisis on an urgent
basis and hoped that this would happen quickly before more
damage was done to the country and the region. The Ambassador
also said that we would be wary of any arrangement which kept
Mugabe in the presidency and that significant financial
assistance and a new agreement with the IMF and the World
Bank would be unlikely until there was an elected government.
¶7. (C) Comment: We are not sure whether the MDC or South
African version of the extent of agreement between the
parties on transitional arrangements is more correct. Each
has reason to overstate its case. It remains to be seen
whether Mugabe and ZANU-PF have been at all sincere or are
merely playing for time. It is Mbeki who is in the best
position to call their cards.