Coca-Cola Communications Director Sherree Gladys Shereni told United States embassy officials that no economic or social reforms would take place in Zimbabwe while President Robert Mugabe was still in power.
She said as a proud man who never admitted making mistakes, Mugabe was incapable of seeing the fault in his own policies and had led the country further and further down the wrong path.
He was so insulated from the people that he was unaware of the scale of suffering.
Shereni, who is a Zimbabwean, said the Central Intelligence Organisation had told him that the people were unhappy in the 1990s but he had responded by shouting them down.
The country’s great hope was that dissension within ZANU-PF over succession would open up political space in the country.
She said the party was divided along ethnic and tribal lines with Joyce Mujuru and her husband on one side and Emmerson Mnangagwa on the other.
Shereni said the people would prefer Mujuru to Mnangagwa but the party was now so hated that no ZANU-Pf candidate would win a truly free and fair election.
Viewing cable 05HARARE938, COCA-COLA REPRESENTATIVE OFFERS A CANDID PERSONAL
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 000938
AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
USDOC FOR ROBERT TELCHIN
TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW
PASS USTR FOR FLORIZELLE LISER
STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON
USDOL FOR ROBERT YOUNG
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2009
SUBJECT: COCA-COLA REPRESENTATIVE OFFERS A CANDID PERSONAL
VIEW OF ZIMBABWE,S FUTURE
Classified By: Charge d’affaires Eric T. Schultz a.i. for reason 1.4 d
¶1. (C) Coca-Cola Communications Director Sherree Gladys
Shereni told the CDA on July 7 that Coca-Cola had resolved a
payment dispute with its main Zimbabwe distributor and would
continue providing Coke syrup to the country. Coca-Cola
remained committed to the country long-term but she said she
had advised them that economic conditions were unlikely to
improve any time soon. As a &Zimbabwean8 she confided that
no change would come without President Mugabe,s departure
from power. Zimbabweans, fear of the regime prevented them
from rebelling, therefore the country,s great hope was that
the presidential succession would tear ZANU-PF apart and open
political space in the country. Joyce Mujuru and Emmerson
Mnangagwa were the main contenders but neither could win a
free and fair election given the degree to which the party
was now hated. End Summary.
Coke Sees Long-Term Potential but Short-Term Problems
¶2. (C) Shereni told the CDA that Coca-Cola remained committed
to the Zimbabwean market. The company believed the country
had long-term economic potential and that eventually
conditions would improve. Moreover, the Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe (RBZ) had solved the company,s biggest problem when
it had agreed to provide local bottler Delta Beverages with
$1 million in foreign exchange per month to pay off its debts
for Coca-Cola syrup and to finance additional imports. As a
result the total debt had been reduced from $4 million to a
little over $2 million since April.
¶3. (C) That said, Shereni agreed with the CDA that economic
conditions in Zimbabwe were unlikely to improve in the near
term given current government policies and that the unlikely
prospect that they would change for the better any time soon.
Moreover, she suggested that RBZ Governor Gono had been
given latitude before the elections because ZANU-PF needed
someone to keep the economy going, but with a two-thirds
parliamentary majority, the party no longer needed Gono,s
stewardship and he was n his way out.
Waiting for Mugabe
¶4. (C) In that regard, Shereni offered her opinion “as a
Zimbabwean” (and a highly educated one who started her
professional life in the RBZ in the 1980s) that no economic
or social reforms could take place with Mugabe still in
power. As a proud man who never admitted mistakes, Mugabe
was incapable of seeing the fault in his own policies and had
led the country further and further down the wrong path. She
said the problems had really begun in the 1980s when
corruption first became a factor in the government.
Mugabe,s refusal to embrace fiscal discipline had further
exacerbated the situation, especially the 1997 budget that
had caused the first economic crash. Finally, his disdain
for real democracy, that had ZANU-PF stalwarts calling it in
&intensive care8 as early as 1989, was the final key factor
in the country,s deterioration.
¶5. (C) Shereni said Mugabe was now so insulated from the
people that he was unaware of the scale of suffering. The
CIO had told him the people were unhappy in the late 1990s
and Mugabe had responded by shouting them down. When the
elections of 2000 had proven them right, Mugabe had taken
vengeance on the people who had opposed him. He was deeply
unpopular as was his party even with rural voters who only
voted for him out of fear. They had seen how ZANU-PF had
dealt with &collaborators8 and other opponents during the
liberation struggle with summary executions and would not
stand up to the government. For most Zimbabweans, &peace8
meant avoiding government terror.
¶6. (C) Shereni said how Mugabe stepped down and how much
longer he stayed in power would have a profound effect on the
country,s future. The country,s great hope was that
dissension within ZANU-PF over the succession would open up
political space in the country. The party was deeply divided
along tribal lines, both intra-Shona (Zezerou versus Karanga)
and inter-tribal (Ndebele versus Shona), and the war veterans
were deserting it. The party was also divided between
supporters of the two main candidates to succeed Mugabe:
Joyce Mujuru (with her husband Solomon behind her), a
Zezerou, and Emmerson Mnangagwa, a Karanga. Shereni said the
population would probably prefer Mujuru to Mnangagwa, but
that the party was now so hated that no ZANU-PF candidate
could win a truly free and fair election.
Not Waiting For Africa
¶7. (C) Shereni said African leaders had failed to criticize
Mugabe because of the skeletons in their own closets. They
were afraid that their domestic opponents would use their
criticism of Mugabe against them. In addition, Zimbabwe was
even now relatively better off than most African countries
(though falling fast) and African leaders used this to
rationalize their silence. Shereni also recounted a
conversation she had with former Mozambican President
Chissano on a recent flight from South Africa in which he
vehemently argued against a superpower (i.e. the U.S.)
telling an African leader when it was time to leave.
Chissano had said that Mugabe should be allowed to determine
on his own when he wanted to leave power. However,
independently, Shereni had heard rumors about the UN asking
Chissano to present Mugabe with an exit-package.
¶8. (C) Shereni’s bleak and honest assessment is
representative of Zimbabwe’s educated elite, especially its
enterprising business people. They are keenly aware of
everything that is wrong with the country but are resigned to
the reality that nothing will change as long as Robert Mugabe
is in power. Instead they continue with what has become an
exhausting struggle to keep their businesses alive within the
dysfunctional parameters set by a control-obsessed
government. In a sense their struggle is mirrored in the
daily struggle of poor Zimbabweans to physically survive in
the face of an uncaring and often hostile regime. Shereni,s
account confirms the pervasiveness of intimidation and
despondency throughout Zimbabwean society, from rural
residents to captains of industry. But it also offers a ray
of hope in that it also confirms that all layers of society
are increasingly united against the regime, whose base of
support has narrowed to the military, the police, and the