President Robert Mugabe did not want to talk to Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai way back in 2003 for three major reasons.
The first was his legitimacy, the second the MDC challenge of the March 2002 presidential elections and the third the MDC’s alleged status as a puppet of the West.
Mugabe told this to three bishops from Manicaland, Trevor Manhanga, Sebastian Bakare and Patrick Mutume, who were trying to broker talks between the two parties.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1532, BISHOPS MEET MUGABE AND TSVANGIRAI SEPARATELY IN
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 001532
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013
SUBJECT: BISHOPS MEET MUGABE AND TSVANGIRAI SEPARATELY IN
BID TO RESTART NEGOTIATIONS
REF: HARARE 801
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) Three prominent Bishops from Manicaland, all
affiliated with the Zimbabwe Council of Chufches (ZCC), met
with President Mugabe and MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai
recently in an attempt to restart failed talks between the
ruling and opposition parties. Mugabe raised a few issues he
said were causing the impasse – mostly dealing with
recognizing his legitimacy. By indirect reply, Tsvangirai
said the MDC would not bring up the issue of legitimacy.
Both sides have reportedly agreed to submit letters to the
Bishops in the coming weeks outlining their positions. While
it is too early to tell whether this mediation effort will
gain traction, early signs, such as the fact that Mugabe
actually agreed to meet with the Bishops, and that he brought
along ZANU-PF moderates rather than hard-liners, are
encouraging. End Summary.
Bishops Meet Separately with Mugabe and Tsvangirai
¶2. (U) On July 25, a group of prominent Zimbabwean Bishops
met with President Mugabe and a few of his key advisors at
State House at the request of the Bishops to discuss
mediation with the MDC and resolving the country’s various
crises. The Bishops included the President of the
Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) Bishop Trevor
Manhanga, the President of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches
(ZCC) Bishop Sebastian Bakare, and the President of the
Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) Bishop Patrick
Mutume. The Secretary General of ZCC also attended as note
taker. The GOZ team consisted of President Mugabe,
Vice-President Joseph Msika, ZANU-PF Spokesperson Nathan
Shamuyarira, Chairman of ZANU-PF John Nkomo, and Cabinet
Secretary Willard Chiwewe. On July 28, the Bishops also met
with MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC Secretary General
Welshman Ncube, MDC Deputy Secretary General Gift Chimanikire
and MDC Chairperson Isaac Matongo.
Manhanga Explains Bishops’ Approach
¶3. (C) On July 28, AIDoff met with Manhanga, who has been
appointed spokesperson for the group. Manhanga said the
Bishops explained to Mugabe they were concerned about
political polarization in the country, noting that since
Zimbabwe successfully championed reconciliation in South
Africa and Namibia, reconciliation could happen at home.
¶4. (C) According to Manhanga, Mugabe said the main issues in
the impasse were a) his presidential legitimacy, b) the MDC’s
court challenge of the March 2002 presidential elections, and
c) the MDC’s alleged status as a puppet of the West. The
Bishops responded that these issues should not stop the
resumption of negotiations. Manhanga said the GOZ officials
were open about the fact that sanctions were hurting them.
The Bishops asked Mugabe for approval of a reinvigorated
reconciliation/negotiation process, to which Mugabe responded
that they (the Bishops) had a right to do this, and did not
need his approval. The Bishops asked for a letter to them
outlining ZANU-PF’s position; Nkomo was appointed to prepare
that when he returns from Tunisia on August 6.
¶5. (C) Manhanga said that the MDC had informed the Bishops
that MDC planned to go ahead with its election challenge,
currently scheduled for November 3. If negotiations made
good progress, however, there might not be a need to proceed
with the challenge. The MDC agreed not raise the issue of
legitimacy and was also agreeable to drafting a letter
outlining their position, which they said would be ready for
the Bishops during the week of August 4.
¶6. (C) Manhanga reported that both sides said they favored a
“homegrown” process, rather than one spearheaded from outside
Zimbabwe. He said when the Bishops have both letters in
hand, they would announce a resumption of formal dialogue.
The Bishops also plan to meet with the South African High
Commissioner Jeremiah Ndou and Director-General in the South
Africa Presidency, Rev. Frank Chikane, during the next two
weeks. The Bishops would like South Africa to issue a public
statement supporting their initiative. Manhanga said the
Bishops view South Africa as a regional policeman, albeit
with a weak interest in Zimbabwe. They believe that U.S.
support would be critical to keep South Africa “honest”.
¶7. (U) In a strongly worded July 23 public statement, the ZCC
asked for forgiveness, saying they have prayed when in fact
action was required to prevent violence, rape, intimidation,
harassment, torture, and starvation of their flock. EFZ and
ZCBC also issued a joint statement during the same week
urging Christians to pray for a resumption of dialogue
between the ruling and opposition parties.
¶8. (C) There have been many false starts to negotiations over
the past four years, and it is too early to predict whether
this initiative will gain traction. On several occasions in
the past Mugabe has agreed to talk, then backed away, walked
out, or failed to follow through with the minimal steps
needed to meet the opposition face to face. That the Bishops
finally met with Mugabe face to face is encouraging. Even
more encouraging is the fact that the other ZANU-PF officials
present are from the more reasonable elements of the party —
hard-liners like Jonathan Moyo, Joseph Made, and Patrick
Chinamasa, who would certainly attempt to sabotage any
dialogue, were left out. For its part, the MDC has
consistently indicated its willingness to negotiate, even
after previous initiatives were scuttled, and again is
willing to engage in this process. The issue now is whether
process will ultimately give way to substance and some
formula to break the current impasse. End Comment.