He singled out for criticism "money-lovers" who put self-interest over the needs of the party, "double-dippers" who consorted secretly with the Movement for Democratic Change, and party structures in urban areas that had failed in contests against the MDC.
Viewing cable 03HARARE2364, RULING PARTY CIRCLES WAGONS AT ANNUAL CONFERENCE
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 002364
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/08/2008
SUBJECT: RULING PARTY CIRCLES WAGONS AT ANNUAL CONFERENCE
REF: (A) HARARE 2359 (B) HARARE 2313
Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under section 1.5(b)(d)
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The ZANU-PF annual conference December 5-8
in Masvingo projected a ruling party united under the
unquestioned leadership of Robert Mugabe and ever-resistant
to outside influence. The conference ended suspense over
succession speculation by indicating unambiguously that the
party leadership would brook no further discussion of the
matter. The party postured truculently toward the
Commonwealth and the opposition MDC and reiterated the
centrality of land reform to the party's platform. There was
no apparent discussion of meaningful measures to address the
country's economic implosion. Mugabe attacked those within
the party who put money ahead of party interests and those
who collaborated with the MDC, and took urban party
structures to task for their failures. Perhaps foreshadowing
a turbulent year ahead, the seige mentality deepened by this
conference likely will further stifle debate within the party
and harden the party against engagement with the opposition
and the outside world. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (SBU) Attended by two emboffs and representatives from
more than a dozen diplomatic missions, the party's opening
segment on December 5 revolved around land reform, party
unity, and vilification of the Commonwealth. Disorganization
was fairly evident, as some of the more than two thousand
official delegates had to sleep in cars or on the grass
during the first night. Anti-Commonwealth placards
outnumbered the land reform signs that traditionally have
dominated party gatherings in recent years, and groups
outside the tented venue vented anti-Commonwealth and
¶3. (SBU) Mugabe delivered an energetic address and, flanked
closely by two bodyguards, appeared to be in good health
throughout the first morning's proceedings. Mugabe went
after the Commonwealth, the MDC, and "enemies within the
party" in his speech. Foreshadowing the government's
subsequent withdrawal from the club, Mugabe questioned
Zimbabwe's need for Commonwealth membership to wide applause.
He continued his racially polarizing attacks against the
United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. He sounded an
ominous warning to the opposition party, noting that the
ruling party could "unleash legal force and legal violence"
to counter its violations of law.
¶4. (SBU) Mugabe was pointed in his criticism of those within
the party who strayed from strict party discipline. In
particular, he singled out "money-lovers" who put
self-interest over the needs of the party, "double-dippers"
who consorted secretly with the MDC, and party structures in
urban areas that had failed in contests against the MDC.
Mugabe said nothing about talks with the opposition, other
than to observe that they were not the business of the
Commonwealth or anybody outside Zimbabwe. Singled out for
recognition was the party's information and publicity effort
(headed by party hard-liner Jonathan Moyo).
¶5. (SBU) On land reform, Mugabe acknowledged implementation
problems. He complained that the A-2 program was lagging and
that too much land remained underutilized. Competing claims
continued to hamper administration, in part because former
commercial farmers were paying urban residents to squat on
and compete for recently resettled land. The government
needed to exert more control over agricultural inputs.
Finally, Mugabe cautioned members that not everybody needed
land; there were not enough farms to go around and many would
have to find prosperity down other avenues. Nonetheless, the
redistribution of land to indigenous Zimbabweans represented
a triumph for all. Among other issues addressed were
HIV/AIDS and the deterioration of health services, which
Mugabe emphasized required the party's attention. Embassy
will relay a copy of the speech to AF/S if one is obtained.
(Note: unlike his government addresses, the President's party
addresses often are not circulated publicly. End note.)
¶6. (SBU) Other speakers at the opening session included
Party Chairman John Nkomo, Vice President Joseph Msika, Party
Secretary for Administration (and Speaker of the Parliament)
Emmerson Mnangagwa, Masvingo Governor Josayah Hungwe and new
Masvingo Party Chairman Daniel Shumba. A minister who
offered the session's opening blessing set the tone for the
day, asserting that ZANU-PF was the arm of God driving the
devil from Zimbabwe. Shumba received the most applause,
although he received adverse publicity for presumptuously
declaring he would be the party's next candidate for Masvingo
central district (now occupied by an MDC MP), an apparent
breach of party protocol without appropriate consultations.
Mnangagwa, the relatively unpopular figure still regarded in
succession speculation as having the inside track, got the
most tepid reception. The heaviest applause fell upon a
primary school student who recited a fifteen minute "poem he
had written," complete with anti-neocolonial and anti-MDC
diatribes. No speaker varied at all from the parameters of
the President's address -- all speakers denounced the
Commonwealth and tied future party success to the party's
ability to follow Robert Mugabe. Indeed, Mugabe and the late
Vice-President Simon Muzenda were the only party figures
whose accomplishments were recognized throughout the morning.
¶7. (U) According to reports by the government-controlled
"Herald" on the conference's closed sessions, Mugabe told the
conference that he was not prepared to take a "rest" yet. He
said he would "come back to you honorably and say I need a
rest" when the time came, but until then members should not
discuss succession clandestinely. Vice-President Msika went
further and branded as a sellout anybody who would discuss
succession while Mugabe remained in office.
¶8. (C) Squelching any discussion of succession will douse
the overt aspirations and posturing among pretenders to the
throne, such as Mnangagwa (ref A). The subject of adverse
publicity in connection with a local gold scandal, Mnangagwa
may be the conference's biggest loser, at least at first
blush. The succession issue cannot help but remain a party
concern beneath the surface, however, even as those beneath
Mugabe continue to vie for his favor and economic privilege.
The conference's biggest winners probably were the party's
political hard-line wing, whose influence permeated the
themes of every speaker. Also pleased will be those party
elites who are exploiting the status quo to build economic
empires above the law. Looking ahead, the theme of "enemies
within" will open opportunities for Mugabe to readjust the
party leadership more to his liking and for party members to
go after each other on a host of personally based motives.
The environment may set the stage for considerable
intra-party political and economic blood-letting and possible
¶9. (C) Closure on succession (for now) and the absence of
any outreach to the opposition will further impel the MDC to
plan mass action in the coming months (ref B). Perhaps
foreshadowing and intending to justify such action, a
December 5 missive "to the people of Zimbabwe" from MDC
President Morgan Tsvangirai (e-mailed to AF/S) recounts the
failure of good faith efforts by the MDC, the bishops, and
the Presidents of South Africa and Malawi to engineer any
meaningful dialogue in Zimbabwe.
¶10. (C) The conference also must have proven a
disappointment to South African President Mbeki. Despite
Mbeki's reported lobbying at the Commonwealth for Zimbabwe's
readmission, Mugabe gave him little, if anything, in return.
The consistent line throughout the conference reconfirmed
that there appears little substance to underpin Mbeki's
assertions of progress in political dialogue here.
Furthermore, the conference's outcome underscores the ruling
party's imperviousness to international pressure and the
primacy of short-term domestic politicking over long-term
national interest in the party's thinking.
¶11. (C) The conference reflected and will magnify one of the
party's most significant flaws: its inability to encourage or
even to tolerate debate within its ranks. A disaffected
party member once close to Mugabe observed recently to the
Ambassador that Mugabe was a changed man -- he used to
welcome intellectual discussion and debate but had now cut
himself off from all save those who agreed with him.
Accordingly, we do not expect the party's approach (or lack
thereof) to the country's political stalemate or ongoing
economic collapse to change in the foreseeable future.