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Trevor Ncube said the MDC was a “tired and contaminated brand”

Trevor Ncube, who was one of the major drivers for a United Front to contest the 2008 elections, said he had no faith in Morgan Tsvangirai’s ability to lead the country and criticised the Movement for Democratic Change as a “tired and contaminated brand”.

He said he would rather vote for ZANU-PF than the MDC so if a “United Front” political force emerged Tsvangirai should support that candidate and “gracefully” step aside.

Ncube said only three candidates could lead the United Front. These were Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, former Finance Minister Simba Makoni, or former Trade Minister Nkosana Moyo.

Gono was too cautious to leave Mugabe, believing he could be Mugabe’s hand-picked successor.

Moyo has been out of the country too long while Makoni had serious weaknesses but “beggars can’t be choosers”.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 08PRETORIA139, EXILED ZIMBABWEANS NCUBE AND MASIYIWA INTRIGUED,

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08PRETORIA139

2008-01-22 15:02

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Pretoria

VZCZCXRO7893

RR RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSA #0139/01 0221502

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 221502Z JAN 08

FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3240

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 000139

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR AF/S

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/21/2018

TAGS: PREL PINR KDEM ZI SF

SUBJECT: EXILED ZIMBABWEANS NCUBE AND MASIYIWA INTRIGUED,

CAUTIOUS ON THIRD-WAY “UNITED FRONT”

 

REF: A. HARARE 0016

 

B. 07 PRETORIA 3075

 

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Don Teitelbaum. Reasons 1.4(b)

and (d).

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The emergence of a “united front” or “third

way” opposition force led by former ZANU-PF minister Simba

Makoni, if it became reality, would be a positive development

for Zimbabwean politics, according to exiled businessmen

Trevor Ncube and Strive Masiyiwa. Publisher Ncube

enthusiastically embraced the idea of a Makoni challenge to

Mugabe in upcoming elections, suggesting that the “united

front” would only need 30-45 days to win the presidency.

Makoni is the natural choice to lead the movement, although

Ncube questioned whether he had the courage to take on

Mugabe. Citing Makoni’s caution, Ncube put the odds of a

“united front” candidate appearing on a ballot at 25 percent.

Masiyiwa, who flatly denied any involvement or funding for

the initiative, said the “united front” remains more talk

than reality. It is being pushed up by Jonathan Moyo and

Ibbo Mandaza, neither of whom Masiyiwa trusts. Makoni is not

perfect, Masiyiwa said, but is the “best ZANU-PF has to

offer.” The South African Government respects Makoni and is

likely watching this development with interest, but would

want to avoid splits in ZANU-PF that would lead to

instability. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) PolOff met January 17 in Johannesburg with Trevor

Ncube, publisher of the South African weekly the Mail &

Guardian and the Zimbabwean newspapers The Standard and

Zimbabwean Independent. PolOff separately met Strive

Masiyiwa, CEO of telecommunications company Econet, also on

January 17. Ncube and Masiyiwa are respected and well-known

figures in the Zimbabwean exile business community in South

Africa. A recent African Confidential article suggested that

both were involved in planning around a third way or “united

front” opposition to Mugabe in upcoming Zimbabwean elections.

 

——————

Ncube Enthusiastic

——————

 

3. (C) Publisher Trevor Ncube said coyly that he was “aware”

of discussions about creating “united front” Zimbabwean

movement to take on Robert Mugabe in upcoming presidential

elections, and expressed strong personal support for the

idea. A long-time advocate of a “third way” political force

(ref B), Ncube said such a movement would include elements of

ZANU-PF, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), civil

society, and the churches. “The ground has never been more

fertile,” Ncube claimed, noting that he had recently spent

two weeks in Zimbabwe and could not find a single ZANU-PF

member who supported Mugabe for president. Only three people

could lead such a movement, Ncube suggested: Reserve Bank

Government Gideon Gono, former Finance Minister Simba Makoni,

or former Trade Minister Nkosanza Moyo. Gono is too cautious

to leave Mugabe, believing he could be Mugabe’s hand-picked

successor. Moyo has been out of the country too long.

Makoni has serious weaknesses (see para 4), Ncube explained,

but “beggars can’t be choosers.”

 

4. (C) Commenting on Makoni’s attributes, Ncube said that he

is intelligent, experienced, and savvy. He is not as corrupt

as most ZANU-PF politicians and has international

credibility. On the negative side, Ncube claimed that Makoni

is arrogant, thinks he has all the answers, is difficult to

work with, and lacks the common touch; Ncube jokingly

compared Makoni to South African President Thabo Mbeki, who

is accused of many of the same faults. Makoni is an

Qis accused of many of the same faults. Makoni is an

intellectual, not a politician, and would need training on

how to address rallies and to campaign. Makoni is also very

cautious, which led Ncube — despite all his enthusiasm — to

conclude that the odds of the “united front” actually putting

forward a presidential candidate were “perhaps 25 percent.”

 

5. (C) Asked if enough time remained to build a new political

movement before March elections, Ncube stated optimistically

that “you only need 30 or 45 days to make this happen.” A

focused campaign, “properly resourced,” would generate lots

of excitement. Mugabe would have less time to “energize” his

security forces, and many of those would support the new

movement, especially if Solomon Mujuru was involved. South

Africa would welcome the creation of a “united front,” if it

was a “genuinely Zimbabwean” initiative, and not the creation

of the U.K. or the U.S.

 

6. (C) Ncube has no faith in Morgan Tsvangirai’s ability to

 

PRETORIA 00000139 002 OF 002

 

 

lead the country. He harshly criticized the MDC, saying it

was a “tired and contaminated brand.” Ncube personally would

vote for ZANU-PF before the MDC, and believes that many

educated Zimbabweans would do the same. If a “united front”

political force emerged, Ncube hopes Tsvangirai would support

that candidate and “gracefully” step aside.

 

—————————

Masiyiwa Guarded, Intrigued

—————————

 

7. (C) A reserved Strive Masiyiwa said he was “intrigued” by

the rumors of a “united front” political movement, but was

extremely cautious. Masiyiwa flatly denied that he has

funded or supported the “united front” and said that he

personally called Patrick Smith, editor of Africa

Confidential, to complain about the story linking him to the

 

SIPDIS

new movement.

 

8. (C) Despite his caution, Masiyiwa noted that if Simba

Makoni could be persuaded to run for president, it would be a

“positive” development. Makoni is sober, intelligent, and is

probably the best ZANU-PF has to offer at this stage.

However, like Ncube, Masiyiwa doubts that Makoni has the

courage to put himself forward against Mugabe. At this

stage, the “united front” is more a “virtual party” than a

real one, with a handful of people trying to create

excitement around the idea, led by Jonathan Moyo and Ibbo

Mandaza. Both Moyo and Mandaza are former Central

Intelligence Organization (CIO) operatives, according to

Masiyiwa, who does not trust either one. Their interests are

not the Zimbabwean people, but rather themselves.

 

9. (C) Should the “united front” emerge, Masiyiwa believes

that the pro-Senate MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara and

Welshman Ncube would quickly join Makoni, but that

Tsvangirai’s faction (or most of it) would not. The “united

 

SIPDIS

front” could potentially split the opposition vote and help

Mugabe more than hurt him, although Masiyiwa admitted that it

could also split the ZANU-PF vote.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

10. (C) We agree with Ncube that the South African Government

may be open to the emergence of a “united front” movement in

Zimbabwe, which would include the more pragmatic elements of

ZANU-PF. Simba Makoni is well-regarded in Pretoria, and is

particularly close to ForMin Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. A

“united front” victory would presumably accomplish Pretoria’s

key goals in Zimbabwe: removing the obstinate Mugabe from

power, keeping the government in ZANU-PF hands, and restoring

some coherence to the country’s economic management.

However, like Ncube and Masiyiwa, Pretoria will be cautious,

and would want to ensure that the emergence of such a force

will not create political instability or violence,

particularly among the security forces.

 

11. (C) Zimbabwean exiles in South Africa, who uniformly

detest Mugabe, will be watching the “third way” reports with

interest. Many of the educated elite living in South Africa,

epitomized by Ncube, have nothing but disdain for the MDC,

and no respect for Morgan Tsvangirai (although Tsvangirai has

broad support among the unemployed and working class

Zimbabwean diaspora). The elites believe change can only

come through ZANU-PF or a ZANU-PF spin-off like the “united

front.” Others, like Masiyiwa, are more balanced,

recognizing Tsvangirai’s many weaknesses and lack of

intellectual depth but noting that he is the face of

opposition politics in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai should become

president, they suggest, not because he is the best choice,

Qpresident, they suggest, not because he is the best choice,

but because he represents a step toward long-term democratic

change.

BOST

(9 VIEWS)

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