Ndlovu was speaking about the succession issue which he said was now openly being talked about within the party.
He said the politburo was full of people aspiring to succeed President Robert Mugabe who he said was ready to step down provided he was offered a safe package that protected him from prosecution and allowed him to live in Zimbabwe.
Ndlovu said the politburo would easily endorse Sydney Sekeramayi as the next president.
Viewing cable 02HARARE1019, POLITBURO MEMBERS QUIETLY CONSIDER POST-MUGABE ERA
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 001019
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER
LONDON FOR GURNEY
PARIS FOR NEARY
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/25/2012
SUBJECT: POLITBURO MEMBERS QUIETLY CONSIDER POST-MUGABE ERA
Classified By: Political Section Chief Matt Harrington. Reasons: 1.5
(B) and (D).
¶1. (C) In an April 24 conversation with political section
chief, ZANU-PF deputy political commissar Sikhanyiso Ndlovu
said Politburo members are, for the first time, quietly
discussing ways to ease President Mugabe out, but few are
willing to confront the Zimbabwean President directly.
According to Ndlovu, any solution must contain a "safe
package" for Mugabe which protects him from prosecution and
allows him to remain in Zimbabwe. ZANU-PF heavyweight
Emmerson Mnangagwa is not well-liked by his senior ruling
party colleagues, but Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi
enjoys broad Politburo support as a potential Mugabe
successor. End Summary.
¶2. (C) Political section chief met on April 24 with ZANU-PF
deputy political commissar and Politburo member Sikhanyiso
Ndlovu, at the latter's request. As in previous
conversations with us, Ndlovu described himself as a voice of
moderation on the Politburo who regularly tries to restrain
the worst excesses of party hardliners. He claimed that, now
that the election is over, he spends much less of his time on
politics, concentrating instead on running his private
educational institutes around the country. He did not
inquire whether he had been placed on the list of those
targetted by U.S. sanctions.
Talk of the post-Mugabe era
¶3. (C) Ndlovu reported that, for the first time since he
joined the Politburo two years ago, members are talking
openly among themselves about what comes after Mugabe, and
how to ease the Zimbabwean president out. The Politburo is
full of &aspiring8 individuals who want their own chance at
the top job, Ndlovu pointed out. Two options have been
discussed informally among like-minded members. The first is
to somehow invoke the section of the draft constitution
rejected in 2000 creating the position of prime minister.
Creation of such a post, giving it executive powers, and
making the presidency a largely ceremonial position would be
one way to preserve Mugabe's ego. Ndlovu stressed several
times it was important to provide Mugabe with a &safe
package8 which protects him from prosecution and allows him
to live out his remaining years in Zimbabwe. The second
possibility under informal consideration is to engineer the
appointment of two young, vigorous vice-presidents, who
gradually are able to become the primary decision-makers.
No Support for Election Re-Run
¶4. (C) Polchief emphasized to Ndlovu that the USG did not
consider Mugabe to have been legitimately elected, and we had
come to the conclusion that the best way to restore
legitimacy is via a transitional mechanism that leads to an
opportunity for Zimbabweans to choose their leader in a
genuinely free and fair process. Not surprisingly, Ndlovu
replied that there is no support whatsoever on the Politburo
for a rerun of the election, and certainly not one which is
internationally supervised. He insisted that Zimbabweans are
sick of the politicking and violence which accompany
elections, and just wanted to move forward.
Hardliners vs. the moderates
¶5. (C) Ndlovu urged the USG not to paint everyone in ZANU-PF
with one brush. The party includes moderates like himself
who are trying to push for positive change from within. The
problem is that the hardliners have the upper hand, and the
moderates are not willing to stick their necks out. The one
prominent exception is retired general Solomon Mujuru, who
recently asked Mugabe during a Politburo meeting when he
planned to step down. Mugabe respects and fears Mujuru,
Ndlovu said, because the former armed forces chief still
retains the loyalty of many senior military commanders.
Mujuru is also now independently wealthy, which gives him a
freedom for maneuver that those whose livelihoods depend on
ruling party beneficence do not have. Even Mujuru, though,
is careful not to push too hard. Asked why Politburo members
who disagreed with ruling party policies did not resign,
Ndlovu seemed surprised by the question, and said one was
appointed to the Politburo. Anyone who tried to resign, he
said, would face very negative &consequences.8
¶6. (C) Ndlovu described Speaker of Parliament -) and
ZANU-PF Secretary for Administration -- Emmerson Mnangagwa as
a ruling party hardliner &through and through8 who has
little Politburo support, due primarily to his ruthlessness.
Asked whether there was anyone the Politburo would endorse
as the next President, Ndlovu named Minister of Defense
¶7. (C) It is noteworthy that Politburo members are beginning
to speak openly about the post-Mugabe era and even discussing
means of nudging out the Zimbabwean president. It is
unclear, however, whether those involved in such discussions
have the capacity or gumption to translate talk into action.
Ndlovu and his like-minded colleagues apparently have focused
exclusively on how to prolong the ruling party's hold on
power, minus Mugabe; forging a genuine reconciliation with
the political opposition has apparently not figured in their
¶8. (C) Ndlovu, an Ndebele and a youthful-looking 65, is a
shameless self-promoter whose soliloquies on his
contributions to Zimbabwe,s nation-building and educational
system are painful to endure. (He previously served as
Deputy Minister of Higher Education and founded a number of
adult education institutes around the country.) It is
unclear how much influence Ndlovu wields among his Politburo
colleagues, but his key position as deputy political
commissar and willingness to reach out to us make him worth
staying in touch with. He is fond of the United States, with
which he has longstanding connections -) he earned his
doctorate in education at Syracuse in the 1970,s, and
several of his children live in the U.S. At least one child
is a U.S. citizen who served in the Marine Corps and who,
Ndlovu likes to recollect, got married in the Pentagon mess.
¶9. (C) Both of Ndlovu's succession scenarios are
problematic. The move to ceremonial president does not
address the issue of whether the autocratic Mugabe would
continue to dictate policy behind the scenes. Nomination of
two young vice presidents can occur only if Mugabe concurs,
and would face strong resistance from Mnangagwa and other
hard-liners unless they were the anointed successors.
Ndlovu's scenarios sound to us more like wishful thinking
than the likely way ahead.