When the three key political parties, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change signed a memorandum of understanding to pave the way for negotiations before South African President Thabo Mbeki it appears the United States embassy’s greatest fear was that the MDC might be swallowed by ZANU-PF like it had done to the Zimbabwe African people’s Union, 20 years earlier.
This emerged after a meeting between embassy officials and the secretary general of the smaller faction of the MDC, Welshman Ncube, on 18 July 2008.
Ncube was a bit pessimistic about the pending negotiations and saw three possible outcomes:
- Mugabe leaves government and the MDC leads a transitional government based on the March 27 elections. This is the outcome favoured by the MDC, but Ncube said the ZANU-PF succession plan is not settled and Mugabe will not leave until it is. There is presently insufficient internal opposition in ZANU-PF to force the issue.
- Mugabe stays as a ceremonial president and the MDC assumes executive power. Both of these options are unacceptable to ZANU-PF, according to Ncube, because the military, Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, and others in ZANU-PF are terrified of surrendering power, and will not willingly let go.
- A Kenyan-style model where each party has executive power.
United States embassy officials asked Ncube whether the MDC, in the process of negotiations, could be swallowed by ZANU-PF as was ZAPU in the 1987 Unity Accord.
He argued the situation was not repeatable. In the 1980s, 20 000 to 30 000 people were killed by ZANU-PF and the world turned a blind eye.
Now, said Ncube, the situation was much less catastrophic—only about 115 people had been killed-yet the international community was watching and engaged.
Viewing cable 08HARARE624, AN MOU, BUT LITTLE REASON FOR OPTIMISM
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SUBJECT: AN MOU, BUT LITTLE REASON FOR OPTIMISM
REF: HARARE 621
Classified By: Charge d’affaires Katherine Dhanani for reason 1.4 (d)
¶1. (C) Summary: Significant buzz surrounded the signing of
an MOU today in Harare as a framework for negotiations.
Previewing the actual negotiations, however, MDC Mutambara
(MDC-M) negotiator Welshman Ncube sounded a pessimistic note
in a conversation with pol/econ chief on July 18. Echoing
MDC Tsvangirai (MDC-T) negotiator Tendai Biti (Reftel), Ncube
said the positions of the two parties were extremely
polarized. The only possible negotiating outcome, according
to Ncube, was a Kenyan-style power-sharing arrangement.
While he favored such an outcome, he doubted it would be
acceptable to MDC-T, and he acknowledged it might be too
ZANU-PF-loaded for international reengagement. End summary.
¶2. (U) South African president Thabo Mbeki, Zimbabwean
president Robert Mugabe, and MDC presidents Morgan Tsvangirai
(MDC-T) and Arthur Mutambara (MDC-M) signed an MOU
establishing a framework for negotiations today in Harare at
the Rainbow Towers Hotel. Mugabe and Tsvangirai, who
reportedly had not met since the MDC was formed in 1999,
acknowledged each other and briefly shook hands, at the
instigation of Mbeki, at the end of a press conference
following the signing.
¶3. (C) Ncube previewed possible negotiation outcome
possibilities: 1) Mugabe leaves government and the MDC leads
a transitional government based on the March 27 elections.
This is the outcome favored by the MDC, but Ncube said the
ZANU-PF succession plan is not settled and Mugabe will not
leave until it is. There is presently insufficient internal
opposition in ZANU-PF to force the issue. 2) Mugabe stays as
a ceremonial president and the MDC assumes executive power.
Both of these options are unacceptable to ZANU-PF, according
to Ncube, because the military, Reserve Bank governor Gideon
Gono, and others in ZANU-PF are terrified of surrendering
power, and will not willingly let go. 3) A Kenyan-style
model where each party has executive power.
¶4. (C) Ncube said he favored the Kenyan model because it
provided for a gradual transition to a genuinely democratic
government. He suggested it should provide for a five-year
transition period so the parties could learn to co-exist and
not be preoccupied by preparing for the next election. Ncube
said some in MDC-T might accept such an agreement, but he was
doubtful that MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai would be
amenable. He also opined that it would be anathema to the
international community–at least to the U.S. and UK, both of
which would be indispensable for rebuilding the economy.
¶5. (C) We asked Ncube whether the MDC, in the process of
negotiations, could be swallowed by ZANU-PF as was ZAPU in
the 1987 Unity Accord. He argued the situation was not
repeatable. In the 1980s, 20,000 to 30,000 people were
killed by ZANU-PF and the world turned a blind eye. Now,
said Ncube, the situation was much less catastrophic–only
about 115 people had been killed–yet the international
community was watching and engaged.
¶6. (C) Ncube said that MDC-M would negotiate as an
independent party. Given the entrenched positions of the
parties, he thought the negotiations would ultimately end in
failure. The only recourse for the MDC at that point would
be to support reconsideration of sanctions at the UN. He
feared that Russia and China would say that the negotiations
had failed because the West had imposed an unworkable
HARARE 00000624 002 OF 002
¶7. (C) Tsvangirai had indicated he would not sign the MOU
unless there was AU involvement. In South Africa last
weekend, an agreement was reached for Jean Ping, chair of the
AU commission, Haile Menkarios, UN assistant secretary
general for political affairs, and a SADC representative to
serve as a “reference group.” They will not be co-mediators
with Mbeki. We do not expect this to seriously affect the
negotiations; the core differences that militate against an
acceptable agreement still exist.
¶7. (C) Despite being an MDC member and an ally of Tsvangirai
until the MDC split in 2005, Ncube is viewed with suspicion
by many in Tsvangirai’s faction as being too close to
ZANU-PF. Nevertheless, he knows players across the political
spectrum, and as one of the negotiators he will have a part
in the process.
¶8. (C) We agree with Ncube (whose views track with those of
Tendai Biti as reported in Reftel) that ZANU-PF will not
willingly give up power and accept a transitional government
headed by the MDC. Neither will the MDC accept a government
headed by Mugabe. Mbeki, perhaps supported by Ncube, will
likely try to steer the negotiations toward a Kenya-style
power-sharing agreement. This would be acceptable to ZANU-PF
as long as it maintained control of the security
structures–military, police, CIO–which are largely running
the country at present. In addition to Ncube and others in
his faction, there are some in MDC-T who would accept this as
the price for achieving peace and what they hope would be a
transition to democratic elections in the future. But
Tsvangirai and Biti have both said they will not accept it.
If they stick to their guns we will be back to square one.
If give in, the MDC risks being marginalized by ZANU-PF
which, while it might nominally give up control of 50% of
government posts, will maintain an iron grip on the security
sector and the implementing instruments of civilian