He said members of the politburo marched lockstep behind President Robert Mugabe when his feelings were known or quarrelled to no resolution whenever the President was silent.
Makoni said Mugabe's proclivity to remain above most frays and to let his subordinates "slug it out" on many issues was central to the party's dysfunctional policy-making atmosphere.
He gave the fracas between party information secretary Nathan Shamuyarira and Jonathan Moyo over the President's Sky News interview as an instance in which Mugabe should have spoken definitively and squelched publicised internecine squabbling.
Makoni said that discussions in the politburo generally were "polite and correct" but occasionally got "brisk." It usually depended on whether the President's feelings on a topic were known.
If they were, there was little meaningful debate; if they weren't, discussion could get more heated. Anybody who could be portrayed as straying at all from generally accepted party principles, though, risked being cast as a "sell-out", which was "very unhealthy" for the party.
Viewing cable 04HARARE1018, POLITBURO MEMBER ON RULING PARTY INTENTIONS,
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 04 HARARE 001018
AF/S FOR LAROIAN, MRAYNOR
NSC FOR AFRICA DIRECTOR D. TEITELBAUM
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/17/2009
SUBJECT: POLITBURO MEMBER ON RULING PARTY INTENTIONS,
REF: (A) HARARE 988 (B) HARARE 959 (C) HARARE 958 (D)
Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: ZANU-PF Central Committee member Simba
Makoni told the Ambassador on June 17 that GOZ efforts to
reach out to the international community, including
international financial institutions, were not a compelling
priority for the ruling party. The party leadership would
not accept any measures that could begin to level the
election playing field meaningfully regardless of
implications for foreign relations. Makoni suggested that
Reserve Bank President Gideon Gono would be unable to go as
far as he wanted with economic reforms before scheduled March
parliamentary elections. He described the politburo as a
dysfunctional policy-making organ in which members marched in
lockstep behind President Mugabe when his feelings were known
or quarreled to no resolution whenever the President was
silent. Makoni also shared observations on the GOZ's posture
on the media and on HIV/AIDS. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) Meeting in Makoni's private business office, the
former finance minister and the Ambassador opened their
discussion with an exchange on foreign broadcasts into
Zimbabwe. Makoni asserted that VOA's Studio 7 was broadly
pro-MDC but generally factual in its reporting.
Acknowledging that he was a regular listener, he said many in
the ruling party were relaxed about free information access
and trusted in people's ability to sift the wheat from the
chaff. Others were not, though, and he confirmed that
Kindness Paradza's interview with Studio 7 was a principal
source of his trouble. (Note: Paradza's Tribune newspaper
was shut down last week and he faces expulsion from the
party; ref A. End note.) He observed that most party
members avoided contact with the international press but that
some, like Party Information Secretary Nathan Shamuyarira and
External Relations Secretary Didymus Mutasa, were unafraid.
Alluding to the disingenuousness of official media channels,
Makoni confided that senior party members often joked
privately about the absurdity of GOZ propaganda, such as
projections of a 2.4 million MT grain harvest this year.
¶3. (C) The Ambassador acknowledged the constructiveness of
President Mugabe's speech opening the National HIV/AIDS
Conference June 16, especially with regard to the importance
of a multi-sectoral approach. He underscored the contrast
between the tone and substance of that address and the
continued combative posture of Information Minister Jonathan
Moyo, who was responsible for terminating USG-funded
HIV/AIDS-related public education initiatives.
¶4. (C) Makoni asserted that effecting a multi-sectoral
approach was "not impossible" but that a "wheel for
mobilization" did not exist in Zimbabwe. Nonetheless, the
National AIDS Council structure was beginning to operate down
to the ward level and home-based initiatives were gaining
momentum. Grass roots criticism that funds were not making
it to the needy were getting aired effectively. (Note: ZBC
has been covering such complaints publicly this week,
implicitly placing blame on NGOs rather than GOZ structures.
End note.) Responsible NGOs were trying to separate
themselves from the bureacuracies implicated in such
inefficiencies and would continue to play a vital role. As
for the Information Minister, Makoni asserted that Moyo was
unaware of such priorities or did not care, and that he and
some others were always prepared to find political messages
where none existed.
Economic Policy to Remain Inadequate
¶5. (C) Turning to economic policy, Makoni said that Reserve
Bank Governor Gideon Gono recognized that steps already taken
were insufficient to induce re-engagement by the
international community, including the international
financial institutions. According to Makoni, monetary policy
was going in the right direction but fiscal policy "was not
there." Pressure would build for even more public largesse
in the run-up to the scheduled March parliamentary election.
Getting the land productive once again was critical, but the
government still lacked a workable plan. What rules and
plans existed were not being followed. Much had to be done
to restore the investor confidence necessary to revive trade
and industry but "nobody has the heart to do it, especially
not before March." He concluded that we would continue to
see "drift, words, but no action" until after elections.
Re-election Trumps Re-engagement as Priority
¶6. (C) Responding to Makoni's reference to possible
re-engagement with the West, the Ambassador emphasized that
the party faced real choices. In order to re-engage
economically, it would have to first show meaningful progress
on the political front. In particular, the election playing
field would have to be leveled now if Zimbabwe were to have
any hope of conducting elections that would be considered
free and fair next year. Without free and fair elections,
re-engagement would be impossible.
¶7. (C) Makoni explained that re-engagement with the West was
a growing interest among some party members but still not a
priority, especially with politicians. The party would
project itself as interested in re-engagement but cast the
West as unwilling to re-engage on terms short of total
ZANU-PF "surrender." Regarding rumored discussions of
electoral reforms (ref C), Makoni explained that a sense of
triumphalism pervading the party in no way dictated a
leveling of the playing field. Quite the contrary, its
confidence stemmed from its successes in the tainted Zengeza
and Lupane by-elections, which established a blueprint for
success (i.e., intimidation, coercion via chiefs and food
benefits, etc.) sure to be followed in the run-up to March.
Indeed, the party leadership recognized that any relenting on
election fairness issues involved unacceptable risks of
losing control. The Ambassador again urged that the party
take seriously efforts to address electoral imbalances,
without which meaningful re-engagement with the USG and
others would not be possible.
¶8. (C) Makoni said that the ruling party's significant lack
of "discipline and self-respect" further complicated efforts
at re-engagement. He cited the flap over land
nationalization (ref B) as evidence that the party was
"seriously disjointed" now. He reported that Moyo had
purposely distorted Minister for Special Affairs (and ZANU-PF
Secretary General) John Nkomo's comments to make him look
bad. He confirmed that Nkomo's interview had characterized
nationalization as pertaining to compulsorily obtained land
only, but that Moyo had purposely overstated his comments,
only to qualify them later in a way that made Nkomo appear to
be flip-flopping. Makoni observed that Nkomo and Moyo were
from the same district of Tsholotsho and that "a rough edge"
had always separated the two, dating back decades.
¶9. (C) President Mugabe's proclivity to remain above most
frays and to let his subordinates "slug it out" on many
issues was central to the party's dysfunctional policy-making
atmosphere. Makoni offered the fracas between Party
Information Secretary Nathan Shamuyarira and Moyo over the
President's Sky News interview (ref D) as an instance in
which Mugabe should have spoken definitively and squelched
publicized internecine squabbling. Commenting on Tribune
reports of strong words being traded in politburo meetings,
Makoni conceded that he was out of the country (at the World
Economic Forum in Maputo) during the reported meeting, but
that discussions in the politburo generally were "polite and
correct" but occasionally got "brisk." It usually depended
on whether the President's feelings on a topic were known.
If they were, there was little meaningful debate; if they
weren't, discussion could get more heated. Anybody who could
be portrayed as straying at all from generally accepted party
principles, though, risked being cast as a "sell-out", which
was "very unhealthy" for the party.
¶10. (C) Makoni identified one notable exception to Mugabe's
general inclination to not tip his hand on any particular
issues. The President had reacted early and definitively
when Jonathan Moyo and others began to cast themselves as
presumptive candidates in the upcoming elections. Mugabe had
emphasized that nobody could short-circuit established
processes and that all candidates would have to be vetted in
accordance with party practices and weather the party's
primary process. Makoni concluded that the radical Moyo-Made
faction was vocal but necessarily dominant in relation to
other party voices as long as Mugabe played his hand close to
¶11. (C) Makoni concluded that ZANU-PF would genuinely do
better in the upcoming election compared to 2000 and 2002.
The party had support and could generate more support,
especially in urban areas. He implied that the party had
mistakenly lost its links with the working class, links that
could be restored. The President in 2002 had said the party
did not need to intimidate because it had a credible
platform, even for workers. Makoni recognized that most
nationalist movements, including Zimbabwe's, were largely
borne on the backs of the labor movement, and recalled that
he had urged the party to focus on labor years ago; many
agreed but inadequate action was taken.
¶12. (C) As to campaigning strategy, Makoni conceded that the
party could not make a credible claim to have made the lives
of most Zimbabweans better. Instead of focusing on economic
statistics, the party would have to emphasize that it had
worked out the vexing land redistribution and had a plan --
a la Gideon Gono -- to rehabilitate the economy and to
re-establish the country's place in the world community.
¶13. (C) Makoni confided that he did not intend to run for a
constituency MP slot in the coming election but would
campaign for any ZANU-PF candidate from his district -- if
the candidate met to his liking.
¶14. Dismissed as Finance Minister and largely ostracized by
the party leadership for his free-market economic
prescriptions years ago, Makoni lately has been enjoying a
resurrection of sorts. Hailing from Manicaland --
historically home to political opposition figures, including
Morgan Tsvangirai and Edgar Tekere, -- Makoni is one of the
ruling party's most competent technocrats, though he
generally is regarded to lack a political base at the grass
roots. His modest rehabilitation can be attributed in part
to his continued loyalty despite ostracization, the party's
desire to project a more refined and competent image to the
outside world, and the passage of time. Perhaps more
significantly, he and Defense Minister Sidney Sekeremayi are
the two most prominent "presidential successor candidates"
reputed to be in the faction of retired general Solomon
Mujuru. A Mass Public Opinion Institute poll among putative
successors to Mugabe last year indicated Makoni was the most
popular ZANU-PF figure nationally and the only one to garner
geographically diverse support.
¶15. Makoni's exposition of ruling party motives and strategy
is consistent with Embassy conclusions that the ruling party
has neither the intention nor the capacity to level the
election playing field or otherwise take measures to
re-engage meaningfully with the USG at this time.