The deputy President of the African National Congress Jacob Zuma, who was preparing to take over the party leadership from South African President Thabo Mbeki, told diplomats that there would be no change of policy towards Zimbabwe under his leadership.
This was despite the fact that he thought that President Robert Mugabe had been in power too long and confused himself with the country.
Zuma, however, said Europe and the United States should tone down their public criticism of Mugabe since there was no chance of settling Zimbabwe until the level of noise was reduced.
He said that the Southern African Development Community should be allowed to resolve the situation.
He also added that he talked to Mugabe who considered any criticism of him to be racist.
Zuma thought that Mugabe felt that he had no choice but to stay in office because he feared being charged with war crimes like former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
The best way to resolve the situation, in Zuma’s opinion, was to give Mugabe a guarantee of safety and dignity.
Viewing cable 07PRETORIA3624, ZUMA REASSURES FOREIGN INVESTORS
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SUBJECT: ZUMA REASSURES FOREIGN INVESTORS
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Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Donald Teitelbaum. Reasons 1.4(b) and
¶1. (C) SUMMARY. ANC Deputy President Jacob Zuma on 26
September met with international investors at Citigroup’s
request, signaling that markets are preparing for the
possibility of a Zuma presidency. Citigroup debriefed the
Mission’s Commercial Attache the following day, saying Zuma
reassured the audience there would be no drastic policy
shifts under his leadership, except a harsher approach
towards crime. Zuma’s comments appear to have been well
received, but he is known for telling people what they want
to hear. END SUMMARY.
INVESTOR INTEREST IN ZUMA
¶2. (C) On 26 September, ANC Deputy President Jacob Zuma met
with 20 international fund managers who represent some USD 6
billion in potential investment into Africa. The meeting was
at the behest of Gus Felix, managing director of Citigroup in
South Africa, indicating that international financial
institutions are taking the possibility of Zuma becoming
President of South Africa seriously. Despite Felix’s request
for an off-the-record meeting, Zuma’s camp took full
advantage of the situation by publicly leaking details,
presumably to suggest that his candidacy was being endorsed
by foreign investors. Felix debriefed Mission Commercial
Attache the following day, telling him that Zuma tried to
paint a picture of stability by saying that South Africa
under his leadership would not be that much different from
now, except he would be harsher on crime (not surprisingly,
one of investors’ biggest concerns). IMF official Robert
Burgess told PolOff on 4 October that Zuma’s comments were
well-received, but added that Zuma is not stupid and that
people often hear what they want to believe.
¶2. (C) According to Felix, Zuma told investors his vision of
future economic growth is to encourage foreign trade and
investment. He also would relax the country’s visa
requirements to encourage skilled immigration into South
Africa. As expected, he told investors he would not raise
taxes (even though he would budget more money for housing).
Perhaps most surprisingly, Zuma was critical in his comments
about the left-leaning tripartite alliance member Congress of
South African Trade Unions (COSATU) — one of his biggest
supporters — saying the umbrella organization represented
only a part of the ANC and a fragment of overall society. In
a likely effort to diffuse investor concerns that Zuma would
be beholden to the far left, he told the audience he owes
nothing to COSATU, or anyone else for that matter.
TOUGHER ON CRIME
¶3. (C) Zuma was tough on law and order issues. He attacked
South Africa’s current criminal justice system, saying it is
not working. He complained that criminals have too many
rights, police (along with teachers and nurses) were the most
ill-paid government officials in the country, and the
“liberal approach” to crime was not working. Zuma argued
that this breakdown in law and order is resulting in
increased vigilantism and decreased confidence in the public
NO CHANGE IN ZIMBABWE POLICY
¶4. (C) Zuma told the group that under him, there would be no
change in South Africa’s current policy toward Zimbabwe.
Zuma thinks Mugabe has been in power too long and confuses
himself with the country. However, Europe and the U.S.
should tone down their public criticism since there is no
chance of settling Zimbabwe until the level of noise is
reduced. Instead, SADC should be allowed to resolve the
situation. He also added that he talks to Mugabe, who
considers any criticism of him to be racist. Zuma thinks
that Mugabe feels he has no choice but to stay in office
PRETORIA 00003624 002.2 OF 002
because he fears being charged with war crimes like former
Liberian President Charles Taylor. The best way to resolve
the situation, in Zuma’s opinion, would be to give Mugabe a
guarantee of safety and dignity.
NEXT PRESIDENT DOESN’T MATTER ANYWAY
¶5. (C) In what has become a common refrain from Zuma, he told
investors that the national president does not make policies,
the ANC does. The president of South Africa then implements
them. He acknowledged that South Africa’s president has a
right to emphasize particular elements of ANC policy, but
seemed to dismiss the importance of the position (thereby
enhancing the ANC presidency in the process) by saying that
the South African president is not the primary decision maker.
¶6. (C) Most South African businessmen are not unduly alarmed
by the prospect of a Zuma presidency because they assume his
policies would fall within the mainstream of the ANC.
However, some foreign investors fear Zuma would reverse
Mbeki’s market-friendly policies based on Zuma’s reputation
as a “populist” and his alliance with the South African
Communist Party and COSATU, which officially backed Zuma for
ANC President during their recent annual conference in
September. Against this backdrop, Zuma’s comments to
investors were clearly intended to assuage their worries.
Whether Zuma actually meant any of it is less clear. Zuma
has been known to say what people want to hear, making it
difficult to get a clear picture of what a Zuma presidency
would actually look like.