Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front loyalist Eddison Zvobgo said President Robert Mugabe was not likely to step down after being re-elected as had earlier been speculated because he was worried about his personal safety if he left office.
He would be reluctant to choose either Joyce Mujuru or Emmerson Mnangagwa as successors because he feared that they would renege on any promises to protect him.
Zvobgo said If Mugabe did select a successor, it would most likely be Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono.
Without a powerbase of his own, Gono would be dependent on Mugabe for his own survival and could be expected to protect him.
But despite his misgivings with the party, Zvobgo said it would be disastrous for ZANU-PF if the opposition gained power.
He and his fellow reformers therefore agreed with ZANU hardliners that elections must be won at all costs.
Viewing cable 07HARARE448, CAMPAIGN 2008: A ROAD TO DISASTER?
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/17/2017
SUBJECT: CAMPAIGN 2008: A ROAD TO DISASTER?
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C) The ruling ZANU-PF party remains beset with
infighting over Robert Mugabe’s efforts to hang on to power.
Mugabe is likely to secure the ruling party’s endorsement as
its candidate for next year’s presidential lection at an
Extraordinary Congress to be held later this year, according
to ruling party insiders and observers. However, opposition
to his reelection bid, chiefly by Solomon Mujuru, continues,
albeit below the surface. Down but far from out, Mujuru is
trying to build opposition to Mugabe within some of the
party’s provincial executive structures, possibly as a
bargaining chip at the Congress to influence discussions on
succession. End Summary.
Unprecedented Opposition Prompts Extraordinary Congress
¶2. (SBU) The ZANU-PF mouthpiece, The Voice, announced plans
earlier this month to hold an Extraordinary Congress later
this year. The article quoted ruling party commissar Elliott
Manyika as stating that, although not required under ZANU-PF
rules, it was customary for a Congress to be held to
officially nominate the party’s candidate for the presidency.
(Note. ZANU-PF’s constitution stipulates that the party’s
first secretary and president (positions now held by Mugabe),
is automatically the party’s national presidential candidate.
¶3. (C) ZANU-PF insider Eddie Zvogbo Jr. told the Ambassador
on May 15 that an Extraordinary Congress would indeed be held
in December at Mugabe’s behest. Zvogbo said that Mugabe
wanted the Congress’s formal backing to unify the party
behind his reelection bid. Separately, University of
Zimbabwe Political Studies Department Chairman Eldred
Masunungure echoed these statements to polchief, adding that
Mugabe wanted to erase any doubt, created by the railroading
of his candidature through the Politburo and Central
Committee in March, about his support.
An Inevitable Train Wreck?
¶4. (C) Zvogbo, who is the namesake and son of erstwhile
Mugabe opponent and Masvingo strongman Eddison Zvogbo, told
the Ambassador that he and other like-minded reformers
believed the ZANU-PF-directed violence and economic
mismanagement would be disastrous for the country and would
likely shorten ZANU-PF’s hold on power. Yet Zvogbo thought
it would be futile for ZANU-PF reformers to oppose Mugabe in
an effort to right the party ship. Zvogbo, a party loyalist
despite his misgivings about the party,s current course,
also believed that it would be disastrous for ZANU-PF if the
opposition gained power, and he and his fellow reformers thus
agreed with ZANU hardliners that elections must be won at all
costs. All in all, with no change in course, Zvogbo did not
see a good outcome in sight.
Mujuru Changes Tactics
¶5. (C) Masunungure noted that Mugabe had successfully
outmaneuvered chief rival Solomon Mujuru in the party’s
national structures and forced the party’s Politburo and
Central Committee to accept his candidature. He was
attempting to further improve his hand by replacing through
elections the provincial chairpersons loyal to the Mujurus in
Masvingo, Bulawayo, and several other provinces. Ironically,
the current chairpersons had been installed by Mugabe in 2004
to ensure Joyce Mujuru’s then-elevation to the post of vice
president. Masunungure said this ploy had backfired on
Mugabe as ex-military officers allied to Mujuru won key
elections in Masvingo and the race in Bulawayo had been
postponed several times in the face of opposition to Mugabe’s
hand-picked candidates. Zvogbo told the Ambassador that
Mugabe, after Mujuru’s success in Masvingo and the inability
to hold an election in Bulawayo, had shelved his initial plan
to replace other provincial committees.
¶6. (SBU) According to a local independent newspaper, The
Financial Gazette, Mujuru also attempted to sideline ZANU-PF
commissar and Mugabe loyalist Elliot Manyika – ostensibly
because of the latter’s efforts to manipulate the party
elections in Bulawayo. Manyika has also been blamed for the
ruling party’s failure to make electoral headway in the
opposition stronghold. The article added that the Mujuru
faction has targeted Manyika since it was he who had
curtailed debate on the succession at the Central Committee
meeting in March that had backed Mugabe’s candidacy for
¶7. (C) Further indicating that the ruling party remains in
turmoil over succession, Justice Minister Partick Chinamsa on
May 9 announced that the Central Committee had decided to
scuttle an earlier proposal that Senators be elected by
proportional representation based on the outcome of the House
of Assembly races. Instead, Senators would continue to be
elected. (Note. We view this apparent about-face as a
victory for Mugabe. By forcing more ruling party stalwarts
to hit the campaign trail, Mugabe implicitly ties their fates
to his and further augments his own campaign. Secondly, the
move undercuts ruling party MPs ) many of whom support
Mujuru ) who since the recreation of the Senate have been
attempting to exert their authority over their fellow
legislators. End note.)
Possible Outlines of a Deal
¶8. (C) Mugabe’s decision to call an Extraordinary Congress
suggested to Masunungure (and us) that he has already enacted
plans to stage-manage the event and thus is in no danger of
being replaced as the party’s first secretary and
presidential candidate. Masunungure, however, stated that
the Mujuru’s strength in the provincial structures could
force Mugabe to cut a deal in exchange for securing the
party’s full backing for his reelection. Such a deal might
entail Mugabe promising to step down after the 2008 election,
formally backing Joyce Mujuru as his successor, and amending
the constitution to ease her succession. In exchange would
be a promise to grant Mugabe immunity. Masunungure conceded
however that Mugabe had reneged on past promises to retire
and that there was little that Mujuru could do to guarantee
such a deal.
¶9. (C) Zvogbo told the Ambassador that Mugabe, worried about
his personal safety if he left office, would most likely try
to remain in office indefinitely and not step down after
being reelected as has been speculated. He would be
reluctant to choose either Joyce Mujuru or the other leading
contender, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as successors, fearful that
they would renege on any promises to protect him. If Mugabe
did select a successor, it would most likely be Reserve Bank
of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono. Without a powerbase of his
own, Zvobgo noted, Gono would be dependent on Mugabe for his
own survival and could be expected to protect him.
¶10. (C) For the moment Mugabe appears to have largely
sidelined his internal opposition and is on course to run as
ZANU-PF’s candidate in 2008. However, below the surface, the
succession question and the country’s desperate economic
situation continue to roil the ruling party.