US ambassador said MDC lacked vision

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray says Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change lacks strategic vision because its secretary general Tendai Biti has more than a full-time job as Minister of Finance and has insufficient time to devote to his party job.

In a cable just released by Wikileaks which he dispatched on 17 December 2009 shortly after meeting Biti, Ray said Biti was impressive in his exposition of current political and economic dynamics.

“While Tsvangirai may be the most popular politician in Zimbabwe and the spiritual head of the MDC-T, Biti is head and shoulders above anyone else in the party in his analysis and strategic view,” he said.

“But he has more than a full-time job as Minister of Finance and has insufficient time to devote to his other job as MDC-T Secretary General. In this regard, it continues to be obvious that the MDC lacks strategic vision.

“With “disengagement’ from ZANU-PF in November, MDC-T played its only trump card and it has no Plan B if ZANU-PF refuses to make concessions on the GPA.”

Biti had just trashed the just-ended Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front congress which had seen Mugabe re-elected president with John Nkomo as second vice-president.

Biti described the congress as a "charade of mendacity".

"An 86-year-old man swearing in a 75-year-old man is a disaster," he said.

Biti said Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sidelined by the Congress, had more support within the party than Joice Mujuru. But Mujuru had more support than Mnangagwa nationally, and both were "unelectable" in a national presidential election.

Newly elevated Party Chairman Simon Moyo "couldn't win an election in a bar."

But Biti was not celebrating the disarray in ZANU-PF and said instead: "I think we're in trouble" because while the leadership vacuum persists, it would be even more difficult for Mugabe to abide by the terms of last year's Global Political Agreement.

The political paralysis within ZANU-PF created conditions for "military opportunism", he added.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09HARARE987, BITI ON STATE OF PLAY IN ZIMBABWE

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

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09HARARE987

2009-12-17 15:53

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO9309

RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0987/01 3511553

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 171553Z DEC 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5235

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 3218

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3329

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1753

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2587

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2956

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 0017

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0019

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 000987

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B.WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

NSC FOR M. GAVIN

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/17/2019

TAGS: PREL PGOV EFIN ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: BITI ON STATE OF PLAY IN ZIMBABWE

 

REF: A. HARARE 941

B. HARARE 886

C. HARARE 959

 

Classified By: Ambassador Charles A. Ray for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d).

 

1. (U) This message includes an action request. See para 13.

 

-------

SUMMARY

-------

 

2. (C) ZANU-PF is a party in disarray, according to Minister

of Finance and MDC-T Secretary General Tendai Biti.

As a consequence, Mugabe will find it more difficult to

comply with the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and a window

is opened for the military. The MDC recognizes the

importance of security sector reform but does not yet have a

plan for engaging with the military. GPA negotiations are

deadlocked. The current South African team is a marked

improvement on the former Mbeki team, but is naive and does

not clearly understand ZANU-PF. If the MDC cannot make

progress in resolving GPA issues, it will appeal to SADC to

create a framework for elections.

 

3. (C) The U.S. should adopt a more strategic and flexible

policy toward Zimbabwe. The MDC is making progress and the

U.S. should recognize this. Adjustment of sanctions and

indirect budgetary support are suggested responses.

 

4. (C) Revenues are up and should cover recurrent expenses.

Biti hopes to avoid using special drawing rights for

investment programs, but this would be made easier by donor

commitments to fund infrastructure projects. Reserve Bank

of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono is increasingly unpopular

within ZANU-PF. While his departure may not be imminent, he

is

more likely to go than Attorney General Johannes Tomana. END

SUMMARY.

 

5. (SBU) The Ambassador called on Biti on December 16 at the

Ministry of Finance.

 

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

"I THINK WE'RE IN TROUBLE"

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

 

6. (C) The Ambassador initiated the meeting by asking Biti

generally how he viewed the current situation. Biti

responded by first addressing last week's ZANU-PF Congress,

which he described as a "charade of mendacity." The party

was unable to resolve the internal struggle over succession.

Referring to the selection of John Nkomo as a party

vice-president, Biti said, "An 86-year-old man swearing in a

75-year-old man is a disaster." Since there were no proper

elections to senior party posts, "Lots of people in the

provinces have huge axes to grind." Emmerson Mnangagwa, who

was sidelined by the Congress, had more support within the

party than Joice Mujuru. But Mujuru had more support than

Mnangagwa nationally, and both were "unelectable" in a

national presidential election. Newly elevated Party

Chairman Simon Moyo "couldn't win an election in a bar."

 

7. (C) Far from celebrating the disarray within Mugabe's

party, Biti said, "I think we're in trouble." While the

leadership vacuum persists, it would be even more difficult

for Mugabe to abide by the terms of last year's Global

Political Agreement (GPA). Even worse, the political

paralysis within ZANU-PF created conditions for "military

opportunism." Biti said it was no accident that senior

military figures were visible participants in the party

congress.

 

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

No Plan for Security Sector Reform

QNo Plan for Security Sector Reform

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

 

 

HARARE 00000987 002 OF 004

 

 

8. (C) Biti acknowledged the importance of security sector

reform, particularly a plan to marginalize the securocrats.

It was more important to deal with them, in his opinion, than

with Mugabe. "We are negotiating with the wrong people,"

Biti said. Freedom from prosecution and financial security

were essential if the top-level securocrats were to step

down. He said some efforts had been made by MDC-T to speak

with them, but he admitted MDC-T had no strategic plan for

engagement. We asked whether, in light of the fact that

MDC-T had no liberation war veterans to serve as

interlocutors with the ZANU-PF generals, the South African

negotiators could undertake this task. Biti demurred. The

South Africans did not sufficiently understand the

political-military dynamic in Zimbabwe. MDC-T would have to

find a way of dealing directly with the securocrats.

 

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

DEADLOCK IN GPA TALKS

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

 

9. (C) Biti (one of the MDC-T negotiators) said negotiations

between ZANU-PF and the MDC factions were deadlocked on key

issues. Nearly two weeks after the December 5 deadline set

by leaders of the Southern African Development Community

(SADC), the parties had not found a way forward on Mugabe's

unilateral appointments of the Attorney General and Reserve

Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Mugabe's refusal to make Roy

Bennett a deputy minister, and appointment of MDC candidates

as provincial governors. Each of these issues had been part

of the SADC-brokered settlement that brought the MDC into

Mugabe's government, but "Mugabe doesn't want to implement

the agreement," Biti said. He added, "We need to bring these

negotiations to an end as soon as possible. I'm tired."

 

10. (C) If the parties cannot resolve the deadlock through

the current SADC Troika mediation led by South African

President Jacob Zuma, Biti said the next step should be a

SADC summit that creates a framework for new elections. SADC

would need to make provisions for security and also

explicitly address the prospect of an election leading to a

transfer of power. With or without SADC, Biti added, the way

forward must include "black and white" deadlines on

constitutional reform and preparations for elections. (NOTE:

GPA principals Mugabe, Tsvangirai, and Mutambara are set to

meet on December 21 in Harare to announce progress; Biti

thought the only item resolved by then would be the

membership of commissions. END NOTE.)

 

11. (C) Biti said the team of facilitators Zuma sent to the

negotiations was "a breath of fresh air." The new South

African team was a big improvement over Thabo Mbeki's

representatives, whom Biti described as "conniving little

idiots" who were frequently spotted having private

discussions with ZANU-PF officials and MDC-M negotiator

Welshman Ncube. The new team was "forthright," Biti said,

but "they still have a lot of naivete, especially Lindiwe

Zulu" (Zuma's international relations advisor), and do not

clearly understand ZANU-PF and how to deal with it.

 

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

"WAIT AND SEE" SANCTIONS WON'T WORK

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

 

12. (C) As in previous meetings, Biti said he hoped the USG

Q12. (C) As in previous meetings, Biti said he hoped the USG

could adjust elements of its sanctions regime for Zimbabwe.

Restoration of voting rights at the International Monetary

Fund would be a positive step. Biti also argued that some

state-owned enterprises should no longer be listed as

specially designated nationals (SDNs) prohibited from doing

business with the U.S. Biti specifically mentioned ZB Bank

and Agribank as clear cases for de-listing. Other entities

worthy of consideration were Zisco, Zimre Holdings, Scotfin,

Industrial Development Corporation, and Intermarket Holdings.

Biti said he would supply us with the rationale for

delisting, looking at the control of these entities, who has

beneficial interests, and their impact on the economy. He

would also furnish names of any other entities he thought

 

HARARE 00000987 003 OF 004

 

 

should be delisted.

 

13. (C) ACTION REQUEST: Post recognizes OFAC has classified

information on the entities listed above which cannot be

shared with Biti. Nevertheless, we would appreciate

receiving this information so that we can better understand

the rationale for their listing and we can develop

information that would be useful in deciding whether, at an

appropriate time, they should be considered for delisting.

END ACTION REQUEST.

 

14. (C) Biti said the U.S. should adopt a more strategic and

realistic (read flexible) approach toward Zimbabwe. Views in

Washington were driven by headlines that perpetuated the

image of a vile dictatorship. "We are chipping away at the

dictatorship, but that doesn't get headlines." Despite the

deadlock over outstanding GPA issues, Biti continued, there

had been "sufficient" progress with ZANU-PF to warrant a

response from the USG. Biti said the U.S. should use

sanctions strategically to recognize the progress that had

been made. Additionally, the U.S. should provide indirect

budget support by looking at areas where assistance could be

provided without directing funds through the government.

 

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

REVENUE UP, GONO MIGHT BE OUT

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

 

15. (C) Biti said the latest revenue figures showed receipts

in October had reached US$132 million, well above the

US$90-million plateau for monthly revenue in the middle of

the year. He thought it was likely that by March monthly

receipts would reach US$150 million. While this level of

revenue would take Biti beyond the annual target in his 2010

budget (Ref A), he had already given thought to where there

would be cuts in the event of a shortfall: revenue would

certainly cover recurrent expenditures, including wages, but

some parts of the investment program might have to be

postponed. Biti said that even though his budget speech

identified Zimbabwe's balance of special drawing rights at

the International Monetary Fund as a source of financing, he

still hoped to avoid using it. This would be easier to do,

he added, if donors could make commitments to fund

infrastructure projects.

 

16. (C) Biti sounded pessimistic on prospects for early

passage of a central bank reform law that is now with the

Senate. Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono had "bought most

of the Senate," so further action on the legislation might

take time. But Biti said Gono was increasingly out of favor

with ZANU-PF. His departure from the bank might not be

imminent, but Gono was more likely to go than Attorney

General Johannes Tomana. Biti said he had been disappointed

by the relaxed attitude bankers had taken on Gono's

misappropriation of banks' reserves (Ref B), which he termed

"theft" comparable to a lawyer stealing from a trust fund.

Given what Biti considered egregious conduct, we asked why he

had not made more of it. He replied he had raised it with

the principals but had received no response. He speculated

that Tsvangirai might be disinterested because of his

relationship with Gono -- they are both Karanga from the same

rural area.

 

-------

COMMENT

-------

 

17. (C) As usual, Biti was impressive in his exposition of

Q17. (C) As usual, Biti was impressive in his exposition of

current political and economic dynamics. While Tsvangirai

may be the most popular politician in Zimbabwe and the

spiritual head of the MDC-T, Biti is head and shoulders above

anyone else in the party in his analysis and strategic view.

But he has more than a full-time job as Minister of Finance

and has insufficient time to devote to his other job as MDC-T

Secretary General.

 

18. (C) In this regard, it continues to be obvious that the

 

HARARE 00000987 004 OF 004

 

 

MDC lacks strategic vision. With "disengagement" from

ZANU-PF in November, MDC-T played its only trump card and it

has no Plan B if ZANU-PF refuses to make concessions on the

GPA. Biti suggests a SADC Summit to plan for elections, but

SADC cannot impose elections, and elections will not take

place before 2013 (provided for in the current constitution)

unless Mugabe agrees. END COMMENT.

 

RAY

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