Mnangagwa assumed virtual presidency role in runoff

Emmerson Mnangagwa assumed a virtual presidency role as a member of the Joint Operations Command which was reportedly running the country in the run-up to the presidential elections runoff of 2008, according to a cable released by Wikileaks.

The cable says President Robert Mugabe was ready to concede defeat after the 29 March elections but he was persuaded to stay on by the JOC which then set in motion a violent campaign to get Mugabe re-elected.

The JOC comprised of the heads of the military services, police, and prisons, as well as Emmerson Mnangagwa, and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono.

The dominant players appeared to be defence forces chief Constantine Chiwenga, police commissioner Augustine Chihuri, and Mnangagwa.

Air marshal Perrence Shiri was responsible for military operations and security in the northern part of Zimbabwe.

Army commander Philip Sibanda was in charge of the southern part of the country.

Two committees were formed to steer Zimbabwe toward the election.

The first was a campaign and logistics committee whose members included Patrick Chinamasa (justice minister), Saviour Kasukuwere (deputy youth minister), Nicholas Goche (labour minister), a representative of the Central Intelligence Organization and the military triumvirate of Chiwenga, Sibanda, and Chihuri.

This committee was responsible for voter mobilisation, food distribution, transportation, and fuel supply.

The second committee on information and publicity, chaired by Chinamasa, was responsible for controlling ZANU-PF's message in the state media and assuring that the Movement for Democratic Change did not have the same access to the media that it had before the March 29 elections.

Members in addition to Chinamasa included Webster Shamu (policy implementation minister), Chris Mutsvangwa (former ambassador to China), and Bright Matonga (deputy information minister).

Solomon Mujuru was sitting out ZANU-PF politics for the time being.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 08HARARE453, HARARE STATE OF PLAY--UPDATE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08HARARE453

2008-05-22 11:54

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO0817

OO RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0453/01 1431154

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 221154Z MAY 08

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2922

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1982

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2103

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0652

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1380

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1738

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2159

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4590

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1243

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 HARARE 000453

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN AND L. DOBBINS

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2018

TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM ZI

SUBJECT: HARARE STATE OF PLAY--UPDATE

 

REF: HARARE 367

 

Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (d)

 

-------

SUMMARY

-------

 

1. (C) Stung by its defeat in the March 29 elections and

uncertain about the future, ruling party ZANU-PF has evolved

a strategy which it believes will allow it to maintain power.

The essential elements are a campaign of terror in rural

areas to weaken and intimidate the opposition, targeted

attacks on and arrests of opposition Movement for Democratic

Change (MDC) officials, an information campaign to bolster

ZANU-PF and deny the opposition access to media, restrictions

on international election observers and intimidation of local

observers, and a vote-rigging apparatus that will stand in

stark contrast to the electoral structures of March 29.

ZANU-PF's intent to win at all costs has been abetted by the

weakness of the MDC. MDC president Tsvangirai has been

absent from Zimbabwe since shortly after the March 29

elections and there has been a vacuum of leadership to

challenge ZANU-PF violence and oppression. The MDC, although

under resourced, still believes it can win a victory in June

but it faces an uphill battle. If the MDC somehow manages to

win, ZANU-PF, including the military, will probably try to

cut a deal and allow the MDC to assume the reigns of

government. If Mugabe wins, a succession battle will begin.

Both parties will face pressures from within that will change

their present complexions. END SUMMARY.

 

-----------------------

ZANU-PF DECISION MAKING

-----------------------

 

2. (C) By most accounts, President Robert Mugabe was

prepared to step down after his defeat in the March 29

elections became clear. He was persuaded not to do so by a

number of high-ranking ZANU-PF officials concerned for their

own futures. As reported Reftel, these individuals, in

consultation with Mugabe, considered several options

including a declaration of victory and if necessary a state

of emergency, a negotiation with the MDC, and lastly, a

runoff election. The latter was ultimately adopted, and the

reign of violence began shortly thereafter. ZANU-PF has

adopted a win at all costs strategy.

 

3. (C) We understand that Zimbabwe is being run by the Joint

Operation Command (JOC) comprised of the heads of the

military services, police, and prisons, as well as Emmerson

Mnangagwa, and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono.

Of this group, the dominant players appear to be Defense

Forces Chief Constantine Chiwenga, Police Commissioner

Augustine Chihuri, and Mnangagwa. The JOC made the decision

to hold a runoff election, and set in motion the on-going

violence as retribution for voting against Mugabe and

ZANU-PF, to intimidate ZANU-PF opponents into voting for

ZANU-PF in a runoff election or to not vote, and to disperse

MDC supporters from their voting wards through fear.

 

4. (C) Air Marshal Perence Shiri (in charge of the notorious

North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade which carried out

Gukurahundi in the early 1980s) is responsible for military

operations and security in the northern part of Zimbabwe.

Army Commander Philip Sibanda is in charge of the southern

part of the country. The vast majority of the violence has

occurred in the North. This is because many rural areas in

the North traditionally supportive of ZANU-PF changed their

allegiances in the March 29 elections and it is important for

ZANU-PF that this not recur in the runoff election.

 

 

HARARE 00000453 002 OF 005

 

 

5. (C) Two committees have been formed to steer Zimbabwe

toward the election. The first is a campaign and logistics

committee. Members include Patrick Chinamasa (justice

minister), Saviour Kasukwere (deputy youth minister),

Nicholas Goche (labor minister), a representative of the

Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) and the military

triumvirate of Chiwenga, Sibanda, and Chihuri. This

committee is responsible for voter mobilization, food

distribution, transportation, and fuel supply. The second

committee on information and publicity, chaired by Chinamasa,

is responsible for controlling ZANU-PF's message in the state

media and assuring that the MDC does not have the same access

to the media that it had before the March 29 elections.

Members in addition to Chinamasa include Webster Shamu

(policy implementation minister), Chris Mutsvangwa (former

ambassador to China), and Bright Matonga (deputy information

minister).

 

6. (C) Within the ZANU-PF officials running the country,

there are undoubtedly factions, but they are held together

for now by the common goal of winning the election. Gono,

for example, favored a government of national unity rather

than a runoff election. He is not liked by most other

ZANU-PF officials. Nevertheless, he is indispensable to

keeping the financial ship afloat. The military is not

believed to be close to Mnangagwa, Goche, and Chinamasa, but

for now they are working together, with Mnangagwa assuming a

virtual presidency role as a member of the JOC. Mugabe does

not sit with the JOC but is briefed on a regular basis.

While he is not making day to day decisions, policy decisions

cannot be made without his assent, and we believe he knows

the broad outlines of what is occurring in the country, if

not the details.

 

7. (C) Solomon Mujuru is sitting out ZANU-PF politics for

the time being. He initially made an effort to sideline

Mugabe at the ZANU-PF Congress in December. After failing he

covertly backed Simba Makoni's presidential candidacy and

considered publicly coming out for Makoni. When Makoni

faltered, Mujuru decided to remain behind the scenes.

Paradoxically, Mujuru's star ascended and Mnangagwa was

sidelined after Mnangagwa's failed attempt at the

vice-presidency (and higher) in the 2005 Tsholotsho incident;

Mnangagwa has regained power and it is Mujuru who is biding

his time. One of Zimbabwe's most significant businessmen,

Mujuru has told allies that the economy is dead and that the

country is bereft of political leadership. For the time

being, however, he is unwilling to act despite a substantial

political following in Mashonaland East and continuing

support in the military.

 

-------------------------

ZANU-PF Election Strategy

-------------------------

 

8. (C) ZANU-PF's campaign of violence has mostly taken place

in the traditional party strongholds of Mashonaland,

Manicaland, and Masvingo. The MDC polled strongly in

Manicaland and made strong incursions into Masvingo in the

March 29 elections. ZANU-PF's intent is to punish those who

voted for the MDC, intimidate MDC supporters into either not

voting or voting for ZANU-PF in the runoff election, and to

disperse MDC supporters from their voting areas so that they

are unable to vote. Additionally, and perhaps less noticed

because of the large number of victims, ZANU-PF has targeted

MDC officials who are not well known but who are critical to

organizing and getting out the vote. ZANU-PF has killed

some, beaten others, and arrested still more. On May 20, for

example, authorities arrested Ian Kay, a prominent MDC

organizer who was elected to the House of Assembly on March

29, taking over a seat that had been held by ZANU-PF. On May

21, the body of Tonderai Ndira, an MDC activist and member of

 

HARARE 00000453 003 OF 005

 

 

the Combined Harare Resident Association, was identified in

the Harare morgue. He was abducted on May 14.

 

9. (C) Last Friday at a ZANU-PF Central Committee meeting, a

number of Central Committee members questioned ZANU-PF's poor

showing in the March elections and challenged Mugabe's

intention to hold a runoff. Some suggested a government of

national unity (GNU) would be the best option to bring

stability to the country.   Mugabe insisted that a runoff

would take place. He acknowledged the party's poor showing

in March and publicly criticized ZANU-PF for complacency and

lack of organization in the run-up to the March 29 election.

He made it clear that the party had to do a better job of

organization for the June 27 election. (NOTE: The idea of a

GNU is still being floated, and MDC president Tsvangirai told

the Ambassador during a meeting in South Africa that Mugabe

had sent feelers about Tsvangirai joining a GNU with an

agreement that Tsvangirai would assume the presidency after a

six month transition. Tsvangirai rightly distrusts Mugabe

and has given no indication at this time of a willingness to

negotiate. END NOTE.)   Mugabe plans to kick off the

campaign this weekend with a rally in Harare and with rallies

throughout Zimbabwe. The theme of the campaign will be

ZANU-PF-guaranteed sovereignty and independence versus an

MDC-sponsored return to colonialism if that party should win.

 

10. (C) ZANU-PF is concerned that despite its reign of

violence and its attempt to weaken the MDC, it could still

lose a relatively free and fair election. It will therefore

place its rigging apparatus in full gear. One factor that

contributed to the MDC win in March was impartial polling

station supervisors. Many of these were teachers, and it is

not an accident that teachers have been frequent targets in

the ongoing violence. We can expect the Zimbabwe Electoral

Commission (ZEC) to use different supervisors in this round

to prevent qualified voters from voting, to allow the

introduction of stuffed ballot boxes, and to manipulate the

counting. ZANU-PF will also make it difficult for rural

voters, displaced by violence, to return to their rural homes

to vote. We have also heard that residents of certain areas

are being required to obtain and present passes to travel to

other areas.

 

-----------------------------------

A Weakened MDC, But Still Confident

-----------------------------------

 

11. (C) Tsvangirai failed to mobilize MDC support in the

long interim between the election and the announcement of

results and apathy among regime opponents became noticeable.

Violence and Tsvangirai's long absence from Zimbabwe created

a feeling among many that change was unlikely and that

ZANU-PF would continue to manipulate events. Tsvangirai's

recent history of having failed to respond to Murambatsvina's

mass human dislocations in 2005 and to the government's

brutal crackdown on March 11, 2007, combined with his current

jet setting between African capitals while his supporters are

being killed and beaten has resulted in a crisis of

leadership. Zimbabwean civil society, members of his own

party, and the press have taken him to task privately and

publicly for remaining outside the country. (NOTE:

Tsvangirai, after a number of false starts, insisted to the

Ambassador this week that he will return to Zimbabwe this

weekend. In the past, he has based his failure to return on

alleged threats against his life; he told the Ambassador he

does not believe there are credible threats against his life,

but wanted to ensure his MDC-organized security was ready

before he returned. END NOTE.)

 

12. (C) Tsvangirai can repair the damage, but it is

important he return soon. He has plans to travel by bus

around the country in the weeks before the election. This

 

HARARE 00000453 004 OF 005

 

 

will be important in assuring people he understands what they

have gone through and demonstrating his willingness and

ability to lead. Also, it will be important for the MDC to

establish a united front. Tsvangirai and the Mutambara

faction of the MDC have agreed that the Mutambara faction

will back him in the runoff election, but until now he and

his supporters have been dismissive of Simba Makoni, noting

he only received seven percent of the vote. Yet Makoni's

votes would be important in a runoff election and there would

be significant symbolic effect in having Makoni support

Tsvangirai. We have continued to impress upon Tsvangirai the

importance of a public alliance with Makoni, and Tsvangirai

told the Ambassador he would meet with Makoni upon his return

to Zimbabwe.

 

13. (C) Tsvangirai demonstrated his ability to attract votes

in the last election in traditional ZANU-PF areas. But this

will be a different election. ZANU-PF opened up democratic

space before the March 29 elections and allowed a credible

voting process; it believed it would win and could take

credit for a free and fair election. We expect that the GOZ

will restrict MDC rallies and meetings, and will restrict the

MDC's access to the media. As noted in para. 10, it is

likely the ZEC will employ biased polling station supervisors

and will stuff ballot boxes and attempt to manipulate the

counting process.

 

14. (C) To counter ZANU-PF, the MDC will have to test

authorities by attempting to move around the country and hold

rallies. To the extent the MDC is thwarted, this will be a

visible demonstration to SADC and the international community

of ZANU-PF's tactics. Most importantly, the MDC will need

polling agents at the over 9,000 polling stations throughout

the country. ZANU-PF has attacked the Zimbabwe Electoral

Support Network (ZESN) as a tool of the National Democratic

Institute (NDI), and it is unclear how freely ZESN will be

able to operate. MDC polling agents, therefore, become even

more critical. The MDC failed to field agents at all polling

stations for the March 29 elections; organizational problems

caused by Tsvangirai's absence from Zimbabwe, and ZANU-PF

targeted violence against MDC organizers call into question

the MDC's capacity to man polling stations throughout

Zimbabwe for the run off election.

 

15. (C) MDC finances are important but problematic. During

his sojourn in South Africa, Tsvangirai has used the

resources of Tokyo Sexwale to visit SADC capitals and lobby

on behalf of the MDC. Inside Zimbabwe, the MDC has been cash

strapped. Tsvangirai told the Ambassador Senegal had

provided the MDC with USD 2 million, but the MDC has received

scant support from elsewhere. ZANU-PF is printing and

spending large amounts of money to mobilize voters, to

distribute food, and to otherwise campaign. MDC organizers

are concerned that without funding they will be unable to

counter Mugabe and his party. In particular, they have told

us they lack vehicles and fuel to reach the rural areas, and

funds to hold meetings and rallies in these areas. They also

need funds to send displaced supporters now living in urban

areas to their rural homes to vote.

 

16. (C) Despite the handicaps, MDC officials are optimistic

that there are enough Zimbabweans, fed up with Mugabe's

mishandling of the economy and the violence, who want change.

The MDC's challenge is to convince voters, particularly in

the rural areas, that their votes will count so that they

will be willing to risk possible repercussions, e.g., more

violence.

 

-------------------

A Note on Observers

-------------------

 

 

HARARE 00000453 005 OF 005

 

 

17. (C) Although Tsvangirai insisted publicly on

international observers as a condition of his participation

in the runoff election, the GOZ has indicated it will allow

only those observers who were accredited for the March 29

election. SADC sent an observation mission for the March 29

elections and at its April 13 Extraordinary Summit in Lusaka

urged the GOZ "to ensure that the runoff elections are held

in a secure environment." It offered to send an observer

mission for a runoff election.

 

18. (C) Observers are important in attempting to minimize

rigging and we should support SADC to send as many observers

as possible. We note, however, that in the last election the

120 SADC observers confined themselves mostly to Harare and

other urban areas. They did not reach the remote rural areas

most susceptible to vote-rigging. Observers are important;

reliable MDC polling agents are more important.

 

---------------------------

Looking Beyond the Election

---------------------------

 

19. (C) The MDC surprised many analysts and observers by

winning both the presidential and parliamentary elections in

March. It faces more serious obstacles in this round, and

the odds are against an MDC win. If Tsvangirai wins, meaning

he can demonstrate publicly that he has received more votes

than Mugabe, there is a decent chance ZANU-PF will accept his

victory with senior officials, including Mugabe, trying to

cut deals to protect themselves. The military, cognizant

that SADC would not accept a military coup, would likely

follow suit.

 

20. (C) If, as likely, the ZEC announces Mugabe has won, the

relative cohesion that has characterized both parties in

their electoral quests will likely dissolve. ZANU-PF will

likely try to form a GNU by co-opting MDC parliamentarians

and the MDC will look for new leadership after another

failure by Tsvangirai to win the presidency. Fissures with

ZANU-PF will widen as Mnangagwa, the Mujuru faction, Gono,

and others reopen the succession battle and try to ease

Mugabe from office. While Mugabe's aim may be to turn over

power at the ZANU-PF Congress in December 2009, continued and

growing dissatisfaction with him from within ZANU-PF, much of

it a result of a crashing economy, may well force him out

before then.

 

McGee

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