US ambassador said Makoni was a breath of fresh air

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan said former Finance Minister Simba Makoni was a breath of fresh air. “He never feeds us his party’s tired rhetoric, but freely acknowledges the depth of the crises facing Zimbabwe and has good ideas about how to resolve them.”

The ambassador said his public candour and required solutions had earned him dismissal from the government but he had begun to gain popularity since his departure from government.

Makoni had just briefed the ambassador about succession within the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the government’s new economic measures which he said had been supported by everyone except Jonathan Moyo.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE450, ZIMBABWE: SIMBA MAKONI ON PRESIDENTIAL SUCCESSION

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE450

2003-03-03 14:37

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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 02 HARARE 000450

 

SIPDIS

 

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR CNEARY

NAIROBI FOR TPFLAUMER

BANGKOK FOR WDAYTON

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2013

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ECON ZI ZANU PF

SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE: SIMBA MAKONI ON PRESIDENTIAL SUCCESSION

 

REF: A) HARARE 409 B) HARARE 433 C) HARARE 347

 

Classified By: political section chief Matt Harrington. Reasons: 1.5 (

B) and (D).

 

Summary

--------

 

1. (C) Former Finance Minister Simba Makoni said the

recently-announced modest fuel hike and announcement of an

export support mechanism were supported by every ZANU-PF

politburo member except Information Minister Jonathan Moyo,

but the measures were unlikely to have much of an effect on

Zimbabwe's imploding economy. Makoni acknowledged ongoing

discussions within the ruling party about presidential

succession, but said these were unlikely to lead anywhere

until President Mugabe endorses them. Asked whether it was

possible to forestall financial sanctions with a bilateral

dialogue, the Ambassador emphasized that ZANU-PF would have

to be prepared to address all issues of mutual concern,

including the legitimacy of the current Zimbabwean

government. Since his dismissal as Finance Minister in 2002,

a growing number of ruling party insiders are convinced that

Makoni is the only individual capable of resolving Zimbabwe's

political and economic crises and ensuring ZANU-PF's

continued hold on power. End Summary.

 

Recent economic measures

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

 

2. (C) On February 27, the Ambassador and polchief met with

former Finance Minister -- and serving member of the ZANU-PF

Politburo -- Simba Makoni in the business office he runs with

his wife. Asked about the significance of recent economic

steps announced by the GOZ -- including the modest fuel price

hike and a new export support mechanism -- Makoni said the

increasing desperation of Zimbabwe's economic decline had

finally forced the Government's hand. These steps were long

overdue but nothing new -- he had pressed for them while at

Finance. Interestingly, he said virtually everyone in the

Politburo supported them this time, including previously

vociferous opponents such as Minister for Agriculture Joseph

Made. The lone holdout, according to Makoni, had been chief

ZANU-PF propagandist Jonathan Moyo, but he had been

overruled. Makoni feared that the recent steps were too

little too late and would have little impact on this

country's economic implosion. The doubling of fuel prices,

for instance, would have little effect on fuel availability

-- it would simply reduce the GOZ's subsidy obligation by a

small percentage.

 

Succession

----------

 

3. (C) Makoni acknowledged that there are ongoing discreet

discussions among senior ZANU-PF insiders about presidential

succession, which seem to have more urgency than similar

conversations in the past. This issue, however, remains very

much on the "side table" and those pushing it most actively

do not appear prepared yet to place it on the "main table."

Makoni dismissed recent speculation that some moderate ruling

party figures might form a third political party. Most of

his ruling party colleagues, he claimed, accept the need for

a "broader political consensus." Makoni insisted, however,

that "with all due respect to the courage and conviction of

our MDC counterparts," political change in Zimbabwe would

emerge from within ZANU-PF. That may be the case, the

Ambassador commented, but the longer the country's crises are

allowed to go on, the more likely it will be that Zimbabweans

simply will want ZANU-PF to go. Makoni concurred with that

assessment. The Ambassasor noted the slew of press reports

that two primary factions have formed within ZANU: one led

by Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is clearly

working to position himself as Mugabe's successor, and the

other one comprising those who oppose Mnangagwa but who

appear not to have settled on a single candidate. Makoni

nodded but offered no comment.

 

4. (C) According to Makoni, President Mugabe is ensuring

that, on succession, he can "have his cake and eat it, too."

Although the Zimbabwean president regularly insists that the

party must choose his successor, there is limited precedent

for this in ZANU-PF's history. In the late 70's, when

Ndabaningi Sithole left the presidency of ZANU-PF, a small

group of party insiders met under a tree in Mozambique and

chose Mugabe as the successor, a decision that was

subsequently rubber-stamped by a party congress. The lesson,

Makoni said, is that the party will not make active plans for

succession until Mugabe gives the go-ahead, a step he has not

yet taken. Makoni said the ruling party's old guard actually

comprises a very small group: Mugabe, Vice-Presidents

Muzenda and Msika, party chairman John Nkomo, Minister of

Defense Sydney Sekeramayi, politburo member and former

defense forces chief Solomon Mujuru, and Minister of Rural

Resources Joyce Mujuru. Makoni described the latter four as

open-minded individuals who realize the depth of Zimbabwe's

crises and the need to address them. It is really the first

three, he said -- Mugabe, Muzenda, and Msika -- who form the

"crust keeping the rest of us down and that we need to break

through."

 

U.S.-Zimbabwe relations

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

 

5. (C) Raising recent press reports of looming U.S.

financial sanctions on Zimbabwean leaders, Makoni asked

whether it was possible to forestall such a move by having "a

quiet conversation with us." The Ambassador replied that he

is always willing to talk to anyone but cautioned that, for

any discussions to lead to improved bilateral relations

between the United States and Zimbabwe, there has to be a

willingness within ZANU to address all issues of mutual

concern, including the legitimacy of the Zimbabwean

government. Makoni took the point but cautioned, without

elaboration, that progress was likelier if less contentious

issues were addressed first.

 

Comment

-------

 

6. (C) Among his senior ZANU-PF colleagues, Makoni is a

breath of fresh air. He never feeds us his party's tired

rhetoric, but freely acknowledges the depth of the crises

facing Zimbabwe and has good ideas about how to resolve them.

As Finance Minister, his public candor about Zimbabwe's

challenges and the required solutions earned him a dismissal

from Cabinet and lingering distrust from party hardliners.

Since his departure from Government last fall, however,

Makoni has begun to gain popularity with many ZANU stalwarts

who see him as their only hope of maintaining the ruling

party's hold on power. Even his public comments of last week

published in the independent "Daily News" that ZANU-PF must

talk to the MDC to resolve the country's crisis were

ground-breaking. While acknowledging that succession is the

informal topic du jour among ZANU-PF insiders, Makoni

adroitly avoided addressing his own role in such discussions.

He seemed much more relaxed than the last time we saw him;

life in the private sector, where he and his wife run a

lingerie manufacturing/retail business, clearly agrees with

him.

SULLIVAN

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