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- Published on Sunday, 03 February 2013 16:06
- Written by Charles Rukuni
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Mugabe was therefore not likely to stand as party president at the congress scheduled for December that year.
Stormark’s comments came soon after a visit to Zimbabwe by Norway’s Minister of Environment and International Development Erik Solheim on 24-25 March 2009.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told the Norwegian delegation that he also thought that Mugabe was looking for a way out.
Stormark said Mugabe showed "incredible vitality given his age," but in his opinion, "the regional pressure is bearing down on him" and "South Africa is at the end of its patience".
Mugabe was torn between re-educated ZANU-PF actors like Nicholas Goche and Patrick Chinamasa, who outwardly stated that the inclusive government was the only way forward, and the hard-line elements--like service chiefs--who sought to undermine the unity government to preserve their power.
Stormark described Mugabe as an "ascetic" who had facilitated the kleptocracy for his party and his family, not for himself.
Viewing cable 09OSLO225, DINNER WITH MUGABE--THE NORWEGIAN REPORT
DE RUEHNY #0225/01 0921337
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021337Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY OSLO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7470
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA PRIORITY 0312
RUEHAN/AMEMBASSY ANTANANARIVO PRIORITY 0006
RUEHSB/AMEMBASSY HARARE PRIORITY 0018
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1544
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA PRIORITY 0244
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 3388
C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 000225
AF/S FOR B. WALCH
DRL FOR N. WILETT
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/02/2019
SUBJECT: DINNER WITH MUGABE--THE NORWEGIAN REPORT
Classified By: Political Counselor Kristen Bauer for reasons 1.4(b) and
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Following Minister Solheim's visit to Harare,
the Norwegians believe that President Mugabe is looking for a
graceful exit, and that ZANU-PF forces are plotting to derail
the unity government. The Norwegians believe, however, that
the March 30 SADC meeting's strong stand on Madagascar may
give hardliners pause. Norway agrees that aid to Zimbabwe
now poses a "dilemma," but wants to implement a "humanitarian
'plus'" aid strategy. The consensus among the Norwegians is
that UNICEF is doing a better and faster job than the WHO in
providing aid, and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, who is
"too close to the government," is a disaster and should be
replaced ASAP. After consulting with Embassy Harare, post
feels that the Norwegians are assessing the situation
realistically and are not substantially deviating from the
international consensus on aid issues. End Summary.
¶2. (C) Poloff requested a readout from Kare Stormark, MFA
Deputy Director General of the Section for Southern and
Western Africa (approximately equivalent to a PDAS), on
Environment and Development Minister Solheim's 24-25 March
trip to Zimbabwe. Stormark has worked with Zimbabwe issues
for 15 years and accompanied the delegation. Information in
this cable was also culled from an internal GON cable that
poloff obtained from another contact, key excerpts of which
follow at the end of this cable.
Positive impressions dominate
¶3. (C) When asked what struck him as significant on the trip,
Stormark had two initial observations. First the
delegation's sense was that the MDC feels "in charge" and "on
the offensive" in the unity cabinet. The MDC saw the recent
budget battle as a major victory, trimming an unrealistic $
1.9 billion budget down to $1 billion. Second, Stormark said
he was struck that two ZANU-PF members of the Joint
Operations Monitoring Implementation Committee (JOMIC),
Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development
Nicholas Goche and Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa, who
Stormark characterized as "confidants" of President Robert
Mugabe and "former hard liners" with "no history of being
conciliatory" made convincing statements at a JOMIC meeting
that indicated they were committed to the success of the
unity government, perhaps to facilitate Mugabe's graceful
exit. Stormark was careful to say that words and reality are
of course different, but the fact that these two could be
conciliatory indicated that the tone in Zimbabwe had
appreciably shifted. (Comment: Prior reporting from Embassy
Harare such as 09 Harare 239 and 09 Harare 257 indicate that
Goche and Chinamasa have not fully stepped back from their
antipathy toward the MDC. End comment.)
What Mugabe is thinking
¶4. (C) It was Stormark's strong impression that Mugabe is
looking for a graceful exit, on his own terms, that preserves
his legacy. Furthermore, he wants to leave Zimbabwe "in the
hands of a functioning unity government." He will do this,
Stormark opined, by not standing as a candidate in the
internal ZANU-PF election in December. Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangarai told the Norwegian delegation that he also thinks
that Mugabe is looking for a way out. Stormark commented on
Mugabe's "incredible vitality given his age," but in his
opinion, "the regional pressure is bearing down on him" and
"South Africa is at the end of its patience." Stormark's
overall assessment, with respect to Mugabe versus the unity
government, is that "Bob is in between" re-educated ZANU-PF
actors like Goche and Chinamasa, who outwardly state that the
GNU is the only way forward, and the hard-line elements--like
service chiefs--who seek to undermine the unity government to
preserve their power. More generally, Stormark commented
that Mugabe is an "ascetic" who has facilitated the
kleptocracy for his party and his family, not for himself.
¶5. (C) Stormark said the entire Norwegian delegation was
struck by the extent to which Mugabe and other ZANU-PF
interlocutors spoke to them exclusively about the past,
whereas the MDC interlocutors spoke exclusively of the
present and future. Mugabe, first and foremost, is concerned
with his "legacy" as an anti-colonialist, as odd as that may
appear to westerners who believe he subsequently destroyed
Dangers to the unity government; SADC sending signals?
¶6. (C) Stormark said that there was "no question" that
elements in the ministry of defense, the army, the police,
the central bank, and the attorney general are "plotting how
to get rid of the unity government." Stormark specifically
mentioned Gideon Gono, the reserve bank president, by name,
speculating, "he is in on whatever is being plotted."
Stormark did not reference any hard information on a specific
plot, but spoke generally. In a follow up phone call,
Stormark called our attention to the outcome of the March 30
SADC meeting, which resulted in strong condemnation of the
recent events in Madagascar. He opined that anyone plotting
an outright coup would be sobered by the SADC's response, as
it might behave more toothily in the context of a radical
change in status-quo in Zimbabwe than it did to Zimbabwe's
slow bleed over the last two years.
A dilemma on aid: Humanitarian, "plus"?
¶7. (C) Although Stormark said that "the UK was not amused" at
the GON delegation's visit, he emphasized that there is
little difference of opinion between Norway and other
potential donors on the issue of aiding Zimbabwe. Norway, he
said, simply wanted to start a dialogue with Mugabe and FM
Mumbengegwi, though he characterized the latter as
"absolutely not a diplomat" and "a hack." (Comment: Norway's
desire to start a dialogue is entirely in keeping with
Norwegian diplomatic character and should not be viewed as
special to Zimbabwe. End comment.) Norway fears, as other
potential donors do, that a way to channel aid outside the
grasp of corrupt ZANU-PF officials is yet to be fully
devised, and the question remains, "how do we re-engage?"
One option the GON is examining is whether, in addition to
ongoing humanitarian aid, salaries for teachers and health
personnel could be directly subsidized. This he called the
"humanitarian, plus" concept. It remains "hard to ensure
that money goes to the right place."
¶8. (C) Despite criticism both within and outside of Norway
for the GON's decision to send a delegation, Stormark said
that "everyone" they met in Zimbabwe was happy that they had
come. It was "encouraging to local aid partners" and, also,
the MDC, who are desperate for budget support. (Comment: The
MDC presumably does not expect such budget support from the
US but might hope for it from the Norwegians. End comment).
¶9. (C) When poloff commented on the difficult position MDC is
in, given that they control the service-providing ministries
most subject to popular anger, Stormark said, "well of
course, that's just the way ZANU-PF wanted it," but the MDC's
recent payment of US$100 to public servants demonstrated that
"there is more money in the treasury than some outsiders
believed." Stormark said that MDC would try to exploit the
fact that they are in control of the ministry of finance, and
"work around Gono," using "project accounts."
¶10. (C) On the humanitarian side, Stormark said that in
discussions with ZANU-PF officials the GON delegation
repeatedly brought up the need to repeal extraordinary
security laws and reestablish full press freedom. They also
raised concerns that NGOs expressed to them about NGO freedom
of movement within the country.
Observations on international organizations
¶11. (C) Stormark said it was crucial that the Bretton Woods
institutions be able to re-engage in Zimbabwe to facilitate
both an assessment for financing and a new flow of aid. On
aid institutions currently operating in Zimbabwe, Stormark
had the following to say: "UNICEF is doing a good job
providing aid, working much faster and better than the WHO."
In contrast, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Zacarias, is
"too close to the government." Stormark said that the UN has
been trying to fill that position with someone else for a
long time, and it is frustrating that he's still there.
¶12. (C) COMMENT: Minister Solheim's visit to Zimbabwe should
be interpreted in the context of the Norwegian preoccupation
with engagement. As the Norwegian readout document excerpted
below indicates, the Norwegians viewed their trip as a
success simply because a dialogue was started. This was
hardly a significant or surprising achievement as Mugabe
would have talked to almost anyone who could confer
legitimacy, but it plays into Norwegian aspirations to make a
difference where more powerful actors (often including the
US) are perceived to have adopted inflexible policies that
have stalemated a situation. Our assessment in this case is
that while the Norwegians are willing to talk to Mugabe, and
might consider some direct injections of cash to politically
sensitive sectors such as public servant wages, both domestic
and international pressure will prevent the government from
straying from the consensus on limits of aid to this regime.
¶13. (U) Embassy Harare cleared on this cable.
An Internal Norwegian Report
¶14. (C) The following is a translated except from the
internal MFA report on the Zimbabwe trip, written by the
Southern Africa Section, to Minister Solheim, copying all
relevant MFA sections. It thus represents the "official"
readout to the GON and should be treated as confidential.
Begin Norwegian Text:
--MDC on the offensive in the new unity government, but
introduction of democratic playing rules still far off.
--President Mugabe expresses support for the unity government
and wishes for dialogue with the international community
--The economic situation is precarious and the unity
government is dependent on international aid for its success.
--Delegation was welcomed by all parties in Zimbabwe.
-Developments inside the new government are moving in the
right direction, though slowly. The MDC believes they are on
the offensive in all government meetings. There was a
significant battle over the recent budget, but president
Mugabe ultimately supported finance minister Biti. MDC
believes that there is a generational difference between the
two parties that is apparent in both engagement and activity
-The important JOMIC conflict resolution body has so far
been in a position to solve those issues which have come
before it. When they are unable to resolve a conflict, the
conflict is supposed to be forwarded to facilitators South
Africa or the SADC, but this has not been necessary so far.
The work of the JOMIC has, however, proceeded extremely
slowly. Norway will support JOMIC along with Sweden and
-In the meetings with the president and foreign minister,
both of ZANU-PF, both emphasized that they wanted the unity
government to succeed. However, there is undoubtedly a
question of how deep the desire for change really is, as they
deny that the country has problems in its democracy. On the
other hand, we should underline that this is the first time
in ten years that leading ZANU-PF politicians have been
willing to go into dialogue with the international community
on difficult issues--that constitutes a new and positive step.
-Although things are on the right track, this is a
process that can easily derail. Strong opposing forces are
in play. Even if the MDC feels itself on the offensive in
the government, parliament and JOMIC, there exists a parallel
power structure which gives cause for concern: the military,
police, and defense minister Mnangangwa. There is reason to
believe that both the attorney general and the central bank
president also belong to this group. There are reports of
extensive meetings among these actors who are probably
planning to sabotage the unity government. This group is
particularly worried about losing control of the economy.
-Issues relating to the naming of a new central bank
president, attorney general, and section heads, currently all
in ZANU-PF control, are not yet resolved. In order for the
finance minister to get control over cash flows, the central
bank president either has to be fired or his powers have to
be reduced. This is a key point for donors.
-There are still political prisoners in the country, and
the laws which limit human rights and press freedom still
stand even if there are hopeful signs. There also continues
to be violence and intimidation, and illegal farm invasions
have not stopped.
-Finance minister Biti underlined that the unity
government is dependent on extensive foreign aid in order to
succeed. At the same time, donors are waiting for signals of
further change as a prerequisite for contemplating aid beyond
that which is strictly humanitarian. It is a "chicken and
egg" situation. It may be necessary to find acceptable
mechanisms for aid that give the MDC within the unity
government the ability to succeed without losing control over
where the money goes. It is particularly important to
provide funds for salaries of teachers and health personnel,
something like what Sweden has decided to do. Questions
about what type of aid can be given are a challenge for all
donors, and will probably be a dominant theme in many
upcoming meetings among key donors and multilateral
institutions. It's important to note that the SADC and AU,
in addition to the MDC, called for donor countries to support
the unity government.
--The Visit's Significance
-Minister Solheim's visit successfully fulfilled its
purpose of starting a dialogue. All parties in Zimbabwe
welcomed the visit as a sign that the international community
wished to engage itself in supporting the risky proposition
that the new unity government represents. No one disputes
that in today's Zimbabwe there is no alternative to the unity
government, except going back to repression and military
-Some donor countries were skeptical about Norway's visit
to the extent that they were afraid that Norway would go it
alone and promise aid before important changes had been
implemented. Our impression is that this skepticism has been
reduced in the course of the last two or three weeks in line
with the progress MDC has made in governing and a clear
communication of the purpose of the visit. There is
relatively little discrepancy among donors about what has to
happen in Zimbabwe before reengagement.
-The Southern Africa section (of the MFA) will now
cooperate with others in the (Harare) embassy to formulate a
short-term response to the immediate financing needs in
Zimbabwe. In addition, we will consider an overall framework
proposal for aid in advance of the planned donor meeting
organized by the ADB at the end of April.
End Norwegian Text.