Ambassador says people underrate the power that Grace Mugabe wields

Norwegian ambassador to Zimbabwe Gunnar Foreland told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray on 25 November 2009 that many people did not appreciate the role First Lady Grace Mugabe played in terms of having the President’s ear.

“She acts as a kind of gatekeeper, often controlling who sees him, and what information gets to him. In this, she is assisted by (Gideon) Gono who acts as Mugabe's bag man and who has played a critical role in most of Grace's 'businesses',” Foreland said.

Grace has made more headlines for her shopping than for her political role, but she started coming into the political limelight after the March 2008 elections which President Robert Mugabe lost to Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai, however, did not garner enough votes for an outright win necessitating a run-off from which he pulled out of because of violence.

Foreland said he believed Mugabe was going to move Gono from the central bank into the Office of the President.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09HARARE928, AMBASSADOR'S COURTESY CALL ON NORWEGIAN AMBASSADOR

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09HARARE928

2009-12-02 09:29

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO5104

RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0928/01 3360929

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 020929Z DEC 09 ZDK

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5169

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000928

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR BRIAN WALCH

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR MICHELLE GAVIN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/01/2019

TAGS: PREL PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S COURTESY CALL ON NORWEGIAN AMBASSADOR

TO ZIM

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR CHARLES A. RAY FOR REASONS 1.4 (d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Norwegian ambassador Gunnar Foreland, an

experienced Africa hand, provided Ambassador Ray his insights

on Zimbabwe. Foreland discussed the interplay of Shona and

Western culture and the role ethnicity plays in the

relationship between President Robert Mugabe and President

Jacob Zuma of South Africa, the relationship of Reserve Bank

of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono and Grace Mugabe to

President Robert Mugabe, and the importance of security

sector reform. Finally, Foreland concluded that ZANU-PF has

no clear succession plan as Mugabe continues to play off

factions against each other. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (SBU) On November 25, I had an interesting one-on-one

conversation with Gunnar Foreland, Ambassador of Norway to

Zimbabwe. A long time observer of the Africa scene with vast

experience on the continent, Foreland said we in the West

often fail to appreciate the way the indigenous culture

merges with Western culture to shape the behavior of people

here. He said, for instance, in Zimbabwe, the dominant Shona

culture often exists side by side with Western culture and

locals see no conflict. Many Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ)

agencies and officials switch between the two whenever it is

to their advantage. He thinks that Tsvangirai's deference to

Mugabe, for instance, is rooted in Shona culture: respect for

elders and respect for a fellow Shona. The ethnic factor

also plays a role in the attitude of South African President

Zuma toward Mugabe. In addition to not being a

'revolutionary comrade' as Thabo Mbeki was, Zuma, being Zulu,

does not have the same sense of kinship with Mugabe, a Shona.

|QQl(LeQrKbOxQed to treat Mugabe as a head of

state at the recent SADC conference, dealing with him instead

as just the head of a party. This was so different from the

way Mbeki treated him that Mugabe was reportedly quite shaken

by the experience.

 

3. (C) In terms of who has President Mugabe's ear and who

wields the most influence on him, Foreland said that many

don't appreciate the role played by Grace Mugabe. She acts

as a kind of gatekeeper, often controlling who sees him, and

what information gets to him. In this, she is assisted by

Gono who acts as Mugabe's bag man and who has played a

critical role in most of Grace's 'businesses.' Foreland

believes that eventually Mugabe will move Gono from the RBZ

post, probably to the Office of the President, but this won't

happen until after the ZANU-PF Congress in mid-December

because Mugabe doesn't want to go into the Congress looking

weak or as if he has bowed to external pressure. He added as

a footnote that the rescheduling of the Congress was due, he

believes, primarily to lack of funding. Even though ZANU-PF

puts pressure on local business to provide in-kind support

for their meetings, they were unable to amass enough to hold

it on schedule. There is also the problem, he added, that

internally, ZANU-PF is in a bit of disarray as various

factions jockey for position. In addition to the Mujuru and

Mnangagwa factions, there is what he terms the 'loose'

faction which counts Gono, Minister of Transportation

Nicholas Goche, and others as members. He predicts that this

group will have even greater influence in the future.

Mugabe, in the meantime, continues to skillfully play each

faction against the other, while he waits to see who will

Qfaction against the other, while he waits to see who will

rise to the top.

 

4. (C) Security sector reform is an absolute essential

prerequisite to political reform in Zimbabwe, according to

Foreland. Until the problem of the security chiefs is

solved, there is no way to guarantee democracy in this

country. Foreland noted that a group of locals, including

some white Zimbabweans who fought against the Ian Smith

regime, is working the issue. (NOTE: Some ex-liberation

combatants, both black and white, have formed the Zimbabwe

Peace and Security Programme (www.zpsp.org) to work on

security sector reform with ZANU-PF, MDC, and the military

and police. Initial stages of the project are funded by

Swedepeace. END NOTE.) Foreland said that this initiative

will take some time to work, but he is optimistic about its

eventual success.

 

5. (SBU) COMMENT: Foreland is the first Western ambassador

to whom I have spoken who did not mention sanctions. In a

Fishmonger Heads of Mission's meeting soon after I arrived,

he was the ambassador who publicly accused the EU of being

'soft' on Zimbabwe regarding suspension from the Kimberly

Process, and though he does not make strong public statements

often, supports a continued tough line with ZANU-PF. He is

 

HARARE 00000928 002 OF 002

 

 

not against engaging them, but is not at all convinced that

the top layer of the current leadership is capable of true

reform. END COMMENT.

 

RAY

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