The agreement between the opposition and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Forint was hailed as a major breakthrough by the South African government but political analysts questioned why the MDC signed the agreement without getting anything in return.
Reports said Mbeki met personally with Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara on September 14 and 15 and then with Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube to panel beat them into signing the agreement.
IDASA's Sydney Masamvu, who spoke to Tsvangirai following the talks, told a United States embassy official that Mbeki stressed in the meetings that he wanted an election in Zimbabwe that "would not be disputed".
Viewing cable 07PRETORIA3425, SAG APPLAUDS ZIMBABWE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS;
RR RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #3425/01 2710914
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 280914Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2022
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1302
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1162
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON 0183
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 0490
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 4886
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 9207
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PRETORIA 003425
DEPT FOR AF/S S. HILL
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/26/2017
SUBJECT: SAG APPLAUDS ZIMBABWE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS;
REF: A. HARARE 858
¶B. HARARE 870
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Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Donald Teitelbaum. Reasons 1.4(
b) and (d).
¶1. (C) SUMMARY. The South African Cabinet praised the
ZANU-PF-MDC agreement on Constitutional Amendment 18 (ref A),
calling it a "breakthrough" and "a major step forward."
DepForMin Pahad suggested that the accord paves the way for a
"political solution that all Zimbabweans will hail." The
agreement followed Mbeki's personal intervention with the MDC
leadership September 14 and 15. Most South African-based
think tank analysts are skeptical, calling the reforms
"cosmetic" and questioning why the MDC made concessions
without getting anything in return. For Mbeki, the
ZANU-PF-MDC agreement is a significant achievement; it
demonstrates progress and makes it more difficult for the MDC
to boycott the 2008 elections. Many difficult issues remain
to be negotiated, and we remain skeptical that Mbeki will be
able to achieve his ultimate objective: a stable government
led by a "reformed" ZANU-PF, willing to undertake real
reform. END SUMMARY.
Cabinet Welcomes "Breakthrough"
¶2. (U) In a statement following its 19 September meeting, the
South African Cabinet applauded the "breakthrough" on the
Constitutional Amendment 18 in Zimbabwe (ref A). The Cabinet
called the approval of the amendments a "major step forward"
in addressing the challenges facing that country. The South
African Government (SAG) will continue, the statement said,
to "assist where we can ... to ensure that these processes
result in a lasting settlement."
¶3. (SBU) DepForMin Aziz Pahad similarly commended the
approval of the constitutional amendments in his weekly press
conference September 19. Pahad optimistically claimed that
the development "opens up the possibility" of finding "a
political solution that all Zimbabweans will hail."
Restating the standard SAG mantra on the Zimbabwe talks,
Pahad stressed that the Zimbabweans themselves must solve
their own problems and that South Africans are only there to
assist. An "imposed solution," Pahad argued, "can exacerbate
the deterioration of the situation with all the negative
consequences for the region."
¶4. (U) Pahad separately confirmed that SADC finance ministers
will meet "in a few weeks" to discuss proposals to address
the economic crisis in Zimbabwe. He also restated SAG
opposition to discussing Zimbabwe in the UNSC, arguing that
the situation in Zimbabwe is not "a threat to regional or
international peace or security."
¶5. (C) Despite Pahad's protestations that the SAG will not
impose a solution in Zimbabwe, we understand from several
sources that Mbeki strongly pressured the two MDC delegations
to accept the agreed constitutional amendments during private
meetings September 14 and 15. Mbeki met personally with the
leadership of the two MDC factions, Morgan Tsvangirai and
Arthur Mutambara, at Union Building in Pretoria, as well as
the party Secretaries General Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube,
the first time Mbeki has met directly with Tsvangirai for at
least a year. Mbeki was joined by Legal Advisor Mojanku
Gumbi, Minister of Provincial and Local Government and
Zimbabwe envoy Sydney Mufamadi, and Director General in the
Presidency Frank Chikane.
¶6. (C) IDASA's Sydney Masamvu, who spoke to Tsvangirai
following the talks, told visiting Embassy Harare CDA and
PolOff on September 20 that Mbeki stressed in the meetings
that he wanted an election in Zimbabwe that "would not be
disputed." Masamvu believes that Mbeki wants to finalize the
MDC-ZANU-PF talks by the end of October.
PRETORIA 00003425 002.2 OF 003
South African-Based Analysts Skeptical
¶7. (C) Embassy Harare CDA and PolOff spoke with a range of
analysts September 20-21 regarding the recent developments:
-- Elizabeth Sidiropolous, National Director of the South
African Institute for International Affairs (SAIIA), argued
that the constitutional amendments are largely "cosmetic" and
did not change the "fundamental situation" on the ground.
She fears we are headed toward a repeat of the 2002 and 2005
flawed elections. The only reason the MDC agreed to the
amendments, Sidiropolous speculated, was that they felt they
had to show good faith in Mbeki and his facilitation effort.
The SADC mediation remains the "best option" among a set of
bad choices for them.
-- IDASA's Masamvu also questioned why the MDC agreed to the
constitutional amendments. The opposition party gave ZANU-PF
"everything" it wanted, Masamvu argued, and received
virtually nothing in return. For example, the expanded
parliament will allow Mugabe to gerrymander seats and expand
his patronage network. Mugabe will create new constituencies
in rural areas he controls, effectively undermining the
influence of both the Mujuru faction of ZANU-PF and the MDC
in a new parliament.
-- Sipho Zondi from the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD),
an organization with close links to the SAG, was more
optimistic. He believes the agreement is a positive first
step and builds momentum for the process. Comparing the SAG
mediation efforts in Zimbabwe to the failed effort in Cote
d'Ivoire, Zondi noted that facilitation encompasses all the
key issues (unlike the highly legalistic Cote d'Ivoire
effort), that Mufamadi is a skilled mediator (compared to
DefMin Lekota in Cote d'Ivoire), and that the SAG has
consulted widely with key civil society actors (Comment: many
Zimbabwe civil society organizations would not agree that
they have been truly consulted). Zondi believes ZANU-PF will
take a chance on running a relatively free and fair election
since they are confident they will win, an assessment Zondi
-- In a roundtable discussion with visiting USAID DHCA/AA
Michael Hess, representatives of the National Democratic
Institute (NDI), Freedom House, the Electoral Institute for
Southern Africa (EISA), and IDASA expressed mixed views on
the SADC facilitation effort, with EISA and Freedom House
expressing "guarded optimism," and NDI and IDASA being more
skeptical. The organizations underscored that their
Zimbabwean civil society partners feel excluded from the SADC
process. The two South African "consultations" with
Zimbabwean civil society, held on August 14 and September 18,
have been largely briefings by Minister Mufamadi on the
facilitation effort, with limited input from civil society.
¶8. (C) The MDC-ZANU-PF agreement on Constitutional Amendment
18 is a coup for Mbeki and his SADC facilitation effort. The
inter-party accord demonstrates progress and makes it more
difficult for the MDC to boycott the 2008 elections. Holding
"credible" elections, the SAG believes, will help pave the
way for South Africa's ultimate agenda in Zimbabwe: a
politically-stable regime that will reform the economy and
end Zimbabwe's international isolation. The SAG believes
such leadership can only come from a "reformed" ZANU-PF,
ideally with elements of the MDC joining in a "government of
¶9. (C) Post recommends that the Department continue to
express support for the SADC facilitation effort, but stress
that the agreement on Amendment 18 represents only a first
step, that further legislative and regulatory reforms are
needed, that implementation of agreements is critical, and
that a fundamental change in the environment will be
necessary for free and fair elections to take place. With
respect to the environment, the USG could note with concern
PRETORIA 00003425 003.2 OF 003
that recent events in Zimbabwe, including arrests of trade
union, political party and NGO activists, do not suggest that
the agreement on Amendment 18 heralded in any change in the
climate of violence and repression.
¶9. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Harare.