He said he would rather vote for ZANU-PF than the MDC so if a "United Front" political force emerged Tsvangirai should support that candidate and "gracefully" step aside.
Ncube said only three candidates could lead the United Front. These were Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, former Finance Minister Simba Makoni, or former Trade Minister Nkosana Moyo.
Gono was too cautious to leave Mugabe, believing he could be Mugabe's hand-picked successor.
Moyo has been out of the country too long while Makoni had serious weaknesses but "beggars can't be choosers".
Viewing cable 08PRETORIA139, EXILED ZIMBABWEANS NCUBE AND MASIYIWA INTRIGUED,
RR RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #0139/01 0221502
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 221502Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3240
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 000139
DEPT FOR AF/S
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/21/2018
SUBJECT: EXILED ZIMBABWEANS NCUBE AND MASIYIWA INTRIGUED,
CAUTIOUS ON THIRD-WAY "UNITED FRONT"
REF: A. HARARE 0016
¶B. 07 PRETORIA 3075
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Don Teitelbaum. Reasons 1.4(b)
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The emergence of a "united front" or "third
way" opposition force led by former ZANU-PF minister Simba
Makoni, if it became reality, would be a positive development
for Zimbabwean politics, according to exiled businessmen
Trevor Ncube and Strive Masiyiwa. Publisher Ncube
enthusiastically embraced the idea of a Makoni challenge to
Mugabe in upcoming elections, suggesting that the "united
front" would only need 30-45 days to win the presidency.
Makoni is the natural choice to lead the movement, although
Ncube questioned whether he had the courage to take on
Mugabe. Citing Makoni's caution, Ncube put the odds of a
"united front" candidate appearing on a ballot at 25 percent.
Masiyiwa, who flatly denied any involvement or funding for
the initiative, said the "united front" remains more talk
than reality. It is being pushed up by Jonathan Moyo and
Ibbo Mandaza, neither of whom Masiyiwa trusts. Makoni is not
perfect, Masiyiwa said, but is the "best ZANU-PF has to
offer." The South African Government respects Makoni and is
likely watching this development with interest, but would
want to avoid splits in ZANU-PF that would lead to
instability. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) PolOff met January 17 in Johannesburg with Trevor
Ncube, publisher of the South African weekly the Mail &
Guardian and the Zimbabwean newspapers The Standard and
Zimbabwean Independent. PolOff separately met Strive
Masiyiwa, CEO of telecommunications company Econet, also on
January 17. Ncube and Masiyiwa are respected and well-known
figures in the Zimbabwean exile business community in South
Africa. A recent African Confidential article suggested that
both were involved in planning around a third way or "united
front" opposition to Mugabe in upcoming Zimbabwean elections.
¶3. (C) Publisher Trevor Ncube said coyly that he was "aware"
of discussions about creating "united front" Zimbabwean
movement to take on Robert Mugabe in upcoming presidential
elections, and expressed strong personal support for the
idea. A long-time advocate of a "third way" political force
(ref B), Ncube said such a movement would include elements of
ZANU-PF, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), civil
society, and the churches. "The ground has never been more
fertile," Ncube claimed, noting that he had recently spent
two weeks in Zimbabwe and could not find a single ZANU-PF
member who supported Mugabe for president. Only three people
could lead such a movement, Ncube suggested: Reserve Bank
Government Gideon Gono, former Finance Minister Simba Makoni,
or former Trade Minister Nkosanza Moyo. Gono is too cautious
to leave Mugabe, believing he could be Mugabe's hand-picked
successor. Moyo has been out of the country too long.
Makoni has serious weaknesses (see para 4), Ncube explained,
but "beggars can't be choosers."
¶4. (C) Commenting on Makoni's attributes, Ncube said that he
is intelligent, experienced, and savvy. He is not as corrupt
as most ZANU-PF politicians and has international
credibility. On the negative side, Ncube claimed that Makoni
is arrogant, thinks he has all the answers, is difficult to
work with, and lacks the common touch; Ncube jokingly
compared Makoni to South African President Thabo Mbeki, who
is accused of many of the same faults. Makoni is an
Qis accused of many of the same faults. Makoni is an
intellectual, not a politician, and would need training on
how to address rallies and to campaign. Makoni is also very
cautious, which led Ncube -- despite all his enthusiasm -- to
conclude that the odds of the "united front" actually putting
forward a presidential candidate were "perhaps 25 percent."
¶5. (C) Asked if enough time remained to build a new political
movement before March elections, Ncube stated optimistically
that "you only need 30 or 45 days to make this happen." A
focused campaign, "properly resourced," would generate lots
of excitement. Mugabe would have less time to "energize" his
security forces, and many of those would support the new
movement, especially if Solomon Mujuru was involved. South
Africa would welcome the creation of a "united front," if it
was a "genuinely Zimbabwean" initiative, and not the creation
of the U.K. or the U.S.
¶6. (C) Ncube has no faith in Morgan Tsvangirai's ability to
PRETORIA 00000139 002 OF 002
lead the country. He harshly criticized the MDC, saying it
was a "tired and contaminated brand." Ncube personally would
vote for ZANU-PF before the MDC, and believes that many
educated Zimbabweans would do the same. If a "united front"
political force emerged, Ncube hopes Tsvangirai would support
that candidate and "gracefully" step aside.
Masiyiwa Guarded, Intrigued
¶7. (C) A reserved Strive Masiyiwa said he was "intrigued" by
the rumors of a "united front" political movement, but was
extremely cautious. Masiyiwa flatly denied that he has
funded or supported the "united front" and said that he
personally called Patrick Smith, editor of Africa
Confidential, to complain about the story linking him to the
¶8. (C) Despite his caution, Masiyiwa noted that if Simba
Makoni could be persuaded to run for president, it would be a
"positive" development. Makoni is sober, intelligent, and is
probably the best ZANU-PF has to offer at this stage.
However, like Ncube, Masiyiwa doubts that Makoni has the
courage to put himself forward against Mugabe. At this
stage, the "united front" is more a "virtual party" than a
real one, with a handful of people trying to create
excitement around the idea, led by Jonathan Moyo and Ibbo
Mandaza. Both Moyo and Mandaza are former Central
Intelligence Organization (CIO) operatives, according to
Masiyiwa, who does not trust either one. Their interests are
not the Zimbabwean people, but rather themselves.
¶9. (C) Should the "united front" emerge, Masiyiwa believes
that the pro-Senate MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara and
Welshman Ncube would quickly join Makoni, but that
Tsvangirai's faction (or most of it) would not. The "united
front" could potentially split the opposition vote and help
Mugabe more than hurt him, although Masiyiwa admitted that it
could also split the ZANU-PF vote.
¶10. (C) We agree with Ncube that the South African Government
may be open to the emergence of a "united front" movement in
Zimbabwe, which would include the more pragmatic elements of
ZANU-PF. Simba Makoni is well-regarded in Pretoria, and is
particularly close to ForMin Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. A
"united front" victory would presumably accomplish Pretoria's
key goals in Zimbabwe: removing the obstinate Mugabe from
power, keeping the government in ZANU-PF hands, and restoring
some coherence to the country's economic management.
However, like Ncube and Masiyiwa, Pretoria will be cautious,
and would want to ensure that the emergence of such a force
will not create political instability or violence,
particularly among the security forces.
¶11. (C) Zimbabwean exiles in South Africa, who uniformly
detest Mugabe, will be watching the "third way" reports with
interest. Many of the educated elite living in South Africa,
epitomized by Ncube, have nothing but disdain for the MDC,
and no respect for Morgan Tsvangirai (although Tsvangirai has
broad support among the unemployed and working class
Zimbabwean diaspora). The elites believe change can only
come through ZANU-PF or a ZANU-PF spin-off like the "united
front." Others, like Masiyiwa, are more balanced,
recognizing Tsvangirai's many weaknesses and lack of
intellectual depth but noting that he is the face of
opposition politics in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai should become
president, they suggest, not because he is the best choice,
Qpresident, they suggest, not because he is the best choice,
but because he represents a step toward long-term democratic