The talks were being held informally by MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
Mbeki had just met Ncube and MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai’s special assistant Gandi Mudzingwa said Mugabe had told Mbeki that regardless of the progress of such talks, it was time to wrap them up and to proceed to a formal dialogue between the parties.
Ncube was to meet Chinamasa to work out an agenda and timetable for formal talks.
Viewing cable 03HARARE2443, MBEKI VISIT REKINDLES TALKS ON TALKS
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 002443
AF/S FOR S. DELISI, M. RAYNOR
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, TEITELBAUM
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/19/2013
SUBJECT: MBEKI VISIT REKINDLES TALKS ON TALKS
REF: (A) HARARE 2364 (B) HARARE 2313 (C) HARARE 2259
(D) HARARE 2124
Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5(b)(d)
¶1. (C) MDC Secretary for Presidential Affairs Gandi
Mudzingwa on December 19 briefed poloff on South African
President Mbeki's 20-minute December 18 meeting with MDC
President Morgan Tsvangirai and Secretary General Welshman
Ncube. According to Mudzingwa, Mbeki told the party leaders
at the end of his his visit to Harare that President Mugabe
had surprised him by admitting that he was unaware of details
on how far informal intra-party talks had progressed. Mugabe
added that, regardless of the progress of such talks, it was
time to wrap them up and to proceed to a formal dialogue
between the parties. Gandi reported that Ncube was to meet
at a yet-to-be-determined date with Minister of Legal,
Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Chinamasa to work
out an agenda and timetable for formal talks. Gandi would
not predict when formal talks would start, if ever, noting
that ZANU-PF had raised false expectations on talks before.
Without a date certain or confidence-building measures from
ZANU-PF, the MDC would have to remain skeptical on ruling
party intentions. He credited international and domestic
pressure with Mbeki's visit, which he characterized as
¶2. (C) Government-controlled media, which subordinated
coverage of the Mbeki visit to the Reserve Bank's monetary
policy announcement (septel), highlighted historical ties
between the ANC and ZANU-PF and Mbeki's remarks on the
countries' shared problems. Mugabe publicly stated that
informal inter-party dialogue was ongoing but he could "not
say accurately where we are". He said he awaited reports
from ruling party participants in the talks and that the
parties could move to formal dialogue "at some stage". The
government media noted that Mbeki met briefly with Tsvangirai
and Ncube. MDC Spokesman Paul Themba Nyati publicly stated
that the Mbeki visit yielded no new initiatives.
¶3. (C) COMMENT: If Mbeki's report to the MDC is true,
Mugabe is keeping to historical form: with dwindling options
and his back to the wall, he indicates tentative agreement to
commence to begin to start discussions that theoretically
could lead to real concessions. The setting of an agenda
(notwithstanding numerous prior exchanges on the matter) and
other intervening developments may yet complicate the setting
of a date for formal dialogue. Mugabe's sensitivity to
international pressure in the wake of the beating his ego
suffered in the recent CHOGM debacle could be a further
complicating factor. Hardline opponents of dialogue, who
appeared to have the upper hand at ZANU-PF's recent party
conference (ref A), can be expected to disrupt progress
toward talks through their control of the state media.
Although heated rhetoric and atmospherics at the party
conference appeared to squelch prospects for intra-party
dialogue, some elements of the party are quietly supportive.
In any event, neither supporters nor opponents of dialogue
within the party can be expected to get too far out in front
of their very engaged leader.
¶4. (C) COMMENT (CONT'D): Mbeki's visit and Mugabe's
tentative indication on formal talks may forestall MDC
preparations for mass action early next year (ref B).
Elements of civil society nonetheless may continue to agitate
against the government independent of MDC influence,
potentially upsetting the environment for dialogue. At the
MDC's annual conference December 20-21, the party leadership
likely will face some pressure from a restive rank-and-file
leery of talks, but can be expected to continue its
commitment to pursue intra-party dialogue unconditionally.
¶5. (C) COMMENT (CONT'D): President Mbeki's role and motives
will be closely scrutinized by all in Harare. His
well-publicized statement warning of human rights as a
pretext to effect regime change shocked many in the
opposition and civil society here and was trumpeted to
considerable advantage by the government press. Both parties
are keenly aware of the conflicting demands Zimbabwe imposes
on him in domestic, regional and international political
contexts. For now, maintaining Mbeki's engagement is a sine
qua non to prospects for the long elusive formal intra-party
dialogue; both parties recognize the need to play ball as
long as he does. Indeed, meaningful engagement by ZANU-PF
beyond merely coming to the table likely will require
sustained and perhaps more forceful pressure by Mbeki.