Mwanawasa accused Mbeki of being insincere about Zimbabwe

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa who was chair of the Southern African Development Community at the time of Zimbabwe’s disputed 2008 elections said the SADC mediator, South African President Thabo Mbeki, was counterproductive and insincere.

Mwanawasa said Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy had been ineffective but Mbeki hit back by accusing Mwanawasa of being manipulated by British diplomats.

The disagreement between the heads of state had resulted in a watered down communiqué on the Zimbabwe crisis with Botswana and Tanzania supporting Mwanawasa while Malawi, Angola, and Democratic Republic of Congo backed Mbeki.

Mwanawasa, however, still hailed the SADC summit saying it was a signal to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe that SADC would not support him unconditionally.


Full cable:


If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID






2008-04-21 12:05

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Lusaka



DE RUEHLS #0448/01 1121205


O 211205Z APR 08




C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 LUSAKA 000448








E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/20/2013








E. 06 LUSAKA 963

F. 06 LUSAKA 945


Classified By: Ambassador Carmen Martinez for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)


1. (C) Your visit to Zambia is well-timed, in the aftermath

of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit

on Zimbabwe. Within the confines of SADC meetings, Mwanawasa

has shown a willingness to address problems in Zimbabwe and

confront Zimbabwe President Mugabe and South African

President Mbeki. Although Mwanawasa will step down from the

SADC Chair later this year, he can continue to play a

constructive role by forming a coalition with other

like-minded SADC Heads of State. There may also be a part

for former President Kenneth Kaunda to play, as a respected

senior statesman and possible envoy to Zimbabwe. During your

meetings, you may also wish to raise the progress of the

African Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA),

Zambia's participation in regional peacekeeping operations,

and anti-corruption issues. Mwanawasa has just returned from

a SADC Summit on poverty in Mauritius, where he met with

Mbeki, the Swazi King, and other SADC leaders.


2. (C) Although President Mwanawasa has shown leadership by

placing Zimbabwe onto the SADC agenda, his public reticence

suggests that he still prefers to do so only privately. It

seems unlikely that, despite his differences with Mugabe, he

will take a stronger stand or openly criticize Mugabe. In

light of his sensitivity to criticism that he has been doing

the bidding of the West, it will be important to carefully

consider how to engage Mwanawasa in such a way that

legimitimizes and supports his leadership. Mwanawasa

reinforced this in a recent discussion with the Ambassador,

during which he thanked the USG for "its discretion." In the

event that SADC leaders appoint former President Kenneth

Kaunda to be a special envoy to Zimbabwe (see para 9), we may

want to direct some of our attention, and much of our

message, to him.






3. (U) Zambia is rich in mineral, agricultural, and water

resources and enjoys a history of peace and stability in a

sub-region marked by conflict and instability. In 2006, the

country conducted its fourth multi-party democratic elections

since 1991. Democratic institutions are still developing,

the Presidency retains a great deal of power, and

administrative corruption continues to be rampant. The

economy has experienced almost a decade of steady growth, but

not enough to generate significant new job opportunities.

About two-thirds of Zambia's 11.9 million people live below

the poverty line, and under-five child survival rates and

maternal mortality rates are among the worst in the world.

The quality of teachers and the availability of teaching

materials are poor. The HIV/AIDS pandemic cuts across all

social and economic sectors. About 17 percent of the adult

population is HIV-positive.



USG Goals in Zambia



4. (SBU) The Mission's strategic focus concentrates on

creating a more positive environment for private sector

expansion through trade and investment, addressing enormous

health and education challenges, and improving HIV/AIDS and

malaria prevention, care, and treatment through the

President's initiatives. In addition, reducing corruption

and improving government accountability and capabilities will

assist in attaining our top strategic objectives.



U.S.-Zambia Relations



5. (C) Although the Government of Zambia often follows the AU

or SADC consensus in UN and other international settings,

occasionally a motivated and courageous GRZ official takes a

stand on issues of interest to the U.S. Government, for

example, to criticize Sudan's human rights record in Darfur.

USG relations with the Government of Zambia are generally

positive and cordial, but GRZ follow-through on joint

activities and projects is often slow, not thorough, and

heavy on formality. GRZ delays or failure to act sometimes

stems from a lack of interest or commitment--Zambians are


LUSAKA 00000448 002 OF 003



courteous and often too polite to say "no" outright--but

other times is due to poor internal coordination and lack of







6. (C) President Mwanawasa was appointed SADC Chair at the

August 2007 SADC Summit, a position that he will hold until

August 2008. During the August 2007 meetings, Mwanawasa

expressed concerns about the speed and effectiveness of Thabo

Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" with Zimbabwe. According to some

reports, Mbeki and/or Mugabe accused Mwanawasa of being

manipulated by UK diplomats. This accusation, and the lack

of support from Mwanawasa's SADC peers, extinguished the

discussion on Zimbabwe. (Refs E, F).


7. (C) During the Extraordinary Heads of State Summit on

April 12, Mwanawasa made a forceful opening statement that

called upon Zimbabwe's leaders to exercise "humility" and

overlook their own personal interests in finding a solution

that reflects the will of the people (Ref C). After an

all-night session, the leaders released a weak communique

that called for the quick release of election results, but

otherwise failed to acknowledge ZANU-PF's violence and

intimidation tactics (Ref B). The Summit pointed to an

emerging divide between SADC Heads of State who are prepared

to address problems in Zimbabwe and others who prefer not to

interfere. Press reports suggest that Botswanan and

Tanzanian leadership supported Mwanwasa, while the Presidents

of Malawi, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo

backed Mbeki's faint engagement. The diluted communique

suggests that Mbeki may have prevailed.


8. (C) Mwanawasa told the Ambassador, however, that the

Summit was a signal to Mugabe that SADC will not support him

unconditionally. He characterized Mbeki as counterproductive

and insincere. He observed that many SADC leaders had

changed their minds about the situation in Zimbabwe after

hearing firsthand from opposition candidates Tsvangirai and

Makoni about the electoral irregularities. MDC Secretary

General Tendai Biti called the Summit "a major improvement"

over Mbeki's attempts at mediation. Biti said that the

communique "exposes the limitations of quiet diplomacy in

comparison to the constructive engagement, which other

countries pursued against the apartheid regime in South




Mwanawasa As "Special Envoy?"



9. (SBU) On April 18, Government newspapers quoted

Information Minister Mulongoti categorically rejecting

opposition candidate Tsvangirai's call for Mwanawasa to take

over Mbeki's mediation efforts. Mulongoti said that

Tsvangirai had discussed this with Mwanawasa during the April



12 summit (and possibly during a reported half-day visit on

April 16--we cannot confirm that this meeting took place),

but Mwanawasa had no intention of taking up this assignment

without a mandate from the SADC leaders. Mulongoti added

that Zambia takes strong exception to Zimbabwe Minister of

Justice Patrick Chinamasa's accusation that Mwanawasa's

actions are part of a "regime change agenda."



Possible Role for Kenneth Kaunda



10. (C) At a Ministerial meeting in August 2008, SADC leaders

discussed the possibility of scaling up South Africa's

engagement by appointing an "eminent official" as a special

envoy to the crisis. Possible candidates included former

Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and former Botswanan

President Ketumile Masire (Ref F). Since August, Mwanawasa

has raised this again, suggesting that Kaunda could be part

of a regional commission of senior envoys. Kaunda may have

credibility with Mugabe that some other SADC Heads of State,

who do not belong to the first generation of African

liberators, do not. Kaunda is also considered an ideal

choice inasmuch as he peacefully stepped down from office

after a twenty-seven year presidency, following strong public

pressure and his unexpected loss in national elections.



ACOTA, Peacekeeping, Anti-corruption



11. (C) Other items that you may wish to discuss with

Mwanawasa or the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense


LUSAKA 00000448 003 OF 003



could include:


--ACOTA training: In 2007, the first group of 560

participants successfully completed ACOTA peacekeeper

training. Despite the positive reception, the Ministry of

Defense has yet to confirm the timing of the next round of

ACOTA training. The Embassy has initiated a formal dialogue

to set a date for training in summer 2008 but has not

received a full commitment from the GRZ.


--Peacekeeping Operations: The Zambia Defense Forces (ZDF)

have been active in peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone

and, currently, Southern Sudan, although they are not

assessed as being particularly effective. The ZDF have not

responded to offers by the DATT and the Ambassador to provide

non-lethal equipment should the forces deploy to Darfur.

Regarding deployment to Somalia, the GRZ advised informally

that this is "off the table." The Chinese are almost

certainly involved with the ZDF in the realm of training and

logistics, although we have no hard data on the extent of

their engagement.


--Anti-Corruption: The President deserves praise for his

focus on combating corruption. High-level cases have

progressed slowly, with three convictions. Post has been

pressing for a more holistic approach to corruption

prevention, that includes legislative and institutional

reforms. Some measures that require little more than

political will, have long been pending Cabinet approval,

including the establishment of an internationally compliant

anti-money laundering regime.



Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Add comment

Security code