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Zvobgo said Mugabe’s departure will trigger uncertainty

Eddison Zvobgo Jnr, one of the political players in Masvingo, said seven years ago that the departure of President Robert Mugabe could spell the end of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front but at the same time it would bring an overwhelming sense of national relief.

Zvobgo said ZANU-PF’s dysfunctional internal environment could lead to a destabilising power struggle but asserted that there might be enough sense of mutual interest for key players to get behind a new leader.

“They’re not stupid,” he said.

He complimented vice President Joice Mujuru, to whom he acknowledged he was aligned, as a “common sense” managerial type who could muster sufficient consensus.

He added, however, that whether she could win over competing aspirants such as Mnangagwa would depend on the correlation of forces at the time and her ability to give competitors sufficient stake in a new power structure.

Zvobgo noted that the overwhelming sense of “national relief” at Mugabe’s passing might also play to Joice Mujuru’s advantage.

He urged the international community to be ready when Mugabe left the scene and not to miss the opportunity to get behind somebody who could get the country on the road to much needed national recovery.

Neither the country nor the international community could “afford to dither when our long national nightmare ends”, he said.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 05HARARE1290, ZVOBGO ON RULING PARTY DYNAMICS

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

05HARARE1290

2005-09-14 16:00

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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 03 HARARE 001290

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. NEULING

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ZI ZANU PF

SUBJECT: ZVOBGO ON RULING PARTY DYNAMICS

 

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) Eddison Zvobgo, Jr., an astute player in the ruling

party’s younger generation and son of Robert Mugabe’s late

principal intra-party rival, on September 12 told the

Ambassador that the ruling party was essentially biding its

time until its octeganarian leader passed from the stage.

Zvobgo, who was recently installed in the party’s Masvingo

provincial hierarchy, asserted that the party remained

relatively unified despite personal rivalries for now and

characterized ethnic tensions as overblown. Personal

rivalries could spell the party’s doom after Mugabe’s

departure but key players could line up behind Joyce Mujuru,

about whom Zvobgo had relatively complimentary words. Zvobgo

urged the USG to continue to engage the ruling party and to

step up its humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe. End summary.

 

————————————-

Party Resigned to Unpopular President

————————————-

 

2. (C) Over lunch at the Residence, Zvobgo told the

Ambassador that ZANU-PF was essentially a conservative,

nationalist party. But for Mugabe, its members were not

ideological but aligned according to perceived competing or

mutual personal interests. Zvobgo claimed that “99.9

percent” of the party recognized the “madness” of GOZ policy,

which had been an unmitigated failure essentially since

independence. Policies that brought the stock market to a

standstill were only the latest example of gross incompetence

stemming from the top. He asserted that only Mugabe carried

the “baggage” of his legacy within the party; those who

assumed charge upon his departure could be expected to

jettison that legacy and quickly re-orient the party more

toward the West.

 

3. (C) Compounding people’s frustrations and low morale was

that nobody had a sense about how policy was even being made,

Zvobgo added. He related that on meeting retired General and

Minister for Indigenization and Empowerment Josiah Tungamirai

shortly before he died last month, Tungamirai had his head in

his hands lamenting the party’s complete lack of

transparency. Tungamirai had said that even though he was

then a senior party figure who sat in the politburo and the

cabinet, he didn’t have a clue about how decisions were being

made. The party’s complete lack of transparency was

“politically traumatic” to the party’s membership, Zvobgo

maintained.

 

4. (C) According to Zvobgo, Mugabe’s advancing age fueled

such a cautious posture among politicians at every level that

meaningful debate was absent. Mugabe remained quite fit but

everybody “could smell succession” and refused to risk their

necks by taking any position that might raise the President’s

ire. Zvobgo laughed at those who ridiculed Finance Minister

Murerwa for not confronting the President on basic economic

mismanagement when nobody confronted the President

meaningfully on any issue. At the same time, players quietly

postured and devoted political energies to undermining each

other while avoiding attention themselves. Emmerson

Mnangagwa’s example underscored to all what happened when one

shows too much ambition too soon.

 

5. (C) With most national policy set from the top,

politicians were left consigned to the role of ward-healer,

trying to deliver local services to their constituencies,

Zvobgo noted. This made them as dependent as ever to GOZ

ministries who commanded what little resources remained, thus

reinforcing the obeisance demanded by patronage.

 

—————————–

Party Unity Despite Rivalries

—————————–

 

6. (C) Zvobgo painted a picture of relative party unity at

the top despite the frustration and clash of personal

interests. He asserted that purported ethnic divisions

within the party were overstated and sometimes magnified by

posturing individuals looking to get purchase in their

attacks on rivals. In fact, aside from Solomon Mujuru, who

lacked ambition to be President, Mugabe had never kept any

individual or group close to him for the whole period since

independence, Zvobgo maintained. Mugabe’s skill in balancing

competing personalities while keeping them off balance

sometimes pushed others to try to exploit ethnic tensions

that weren’t really there.

 

7. (C) Zvobgo noted that long significant factional

rivalries in Masvingo were subsiding. “For whatever

reasons”, the party leadership had installed elder party

maverick Dzikamayi Mavhaire and himself to run the party’s

provincial structures. Zvobgo noted that Tungamirai had been

the party’s de facto senior figure in the province, but his

passing did not leave any official vacancy (other than his

parliamentary seat) and so would not likely trigger factional

infighting. Like most throughout the country, people in

Masvingo were absorbed with basic issues of food and housing

and were uninclined to political action.

 

8. (C) Zvobgo dismissed the “third force” as a mere

expression of frustration with the dysfunctional political

environment. Those behind talk of a third force could stake

out no political territory on a Zimbabwean political map that

lacked an ideological left or right. They might gain

sympathy in the short run but could not gain adherents for

the long haul. Ruling party supporters would not eschew the

perks of the patronage system and opposition supporters would

be too angry to join the likes of Jonathan Moyo, the third

force’s most public advocate to date. In any event, he

maintained, any momentum behind the third force would come

principally at the expense of the MDC, whose existence would

ultimately be threatened should the third force emerge.

 

——————————————— ————-

Mugabe Departure Will Trigger Uncertainty, National Relief

——————————————— ————-

 

9. (C) The ruling party’s dysfunctional internal environment

could lead to a destabilizing power struggle on Mugabe’s

departure, Zvobgo observed. He conceded that this could

spell the end of ZANU-PF but asserted that there may well be

enough sense of mutual interest for key players to get behind

a new leader. “They’re not stupid.” In this regard, Zvobgo

complimented Vice President Joyce Mujuru, to whom he

acknowledged he was aligned, as a “common sense” managerial

type who could muster sufficient consensus. Whether she

could win over competing aspirants, such as Mnangagwa, would

depend on the correlation of forces at the time and her

ability to give competitors sufficient stake in a new power

structure.

 

10. (C) Zvobgo noted that the overwhelming sense of

“national relief” at Mugabe’s passing may also play to Joyce

Mujuru’s advantage. In the same vein, Zvobgo urged the

international community to be ready when Mugabe left the

scene and not to miss the opportunity to get behind somebody

who could get the country on the road to much needed national

recovery. Neither the country nor the international

community could “afford to dither when our long national

nightmare ends.”

 

————————–

Urges Bilateral Engagement

————————–

 

11. (C) Zvobgo said he knew “good people” in most of

ZANU-PF’s provincial structures and urged that we remain

engaged with them. He offered to be helpful in facilitating

meetings and communications. He further appealed to the USG

to continue to respond to Zimbabweans humanitarian needs,

especially food and housing. In this regard, he inquired if

there was any way to make special arrangements to get food to

Masvingo, where hunger was particularly acute.

12. (C) The Ambassador reiterated USG commitment to provide

humanitarian assistance, notably in the areas of food and

HIV-AIDS, without regard to political considerations. The

GOZ’s refusal to request assistance or even acknowledge its

need for food prevented much needed food assistance from

going forward. Without a specific appeal from the GOZ, we

could not target food deliveries to Masvingo or anywhere else

in the country. The Ambassador suggested that Zvobgo

influence the GOZ to adopt a more constructive approach.

 

13. (C) The Ambassador expressed further frustration and

bafflement over the GOZ’s relentless pursuit of ruinous,

self-destructive policies, which was a significant impediment

to rehabilitating relations. Operation Restore Order, for

example, represented a major setback and had to be evaluated

by the international community as a possible crime against

humanity. He cautioned Zimbabwe against viewing the IMF’s

recent six-month reprieve against expulsion as any kind of

victory. Real turn-around at home and in Zimbabwe’s

international image would require major and sustained

economic and political reform.

 

——-

Bio Note

——–

 

14. (C) Zvobgo is a confident, affable and accessible

interlocutor. His exchanges with the Embassy have been

devoid of the sterile political rhetoric that infect

exchanges with most in the ruling party. He offers candid

and insightful reads of the political situation here.

Well-connected inside and outside of his party, he told

emboff at an earlier meeting that he followed the returns of

the 2002 presidential election at the South Africa home of

telecom magnate and GOZ critic Strive Masiyiwa, rooting for

the MDC. He sees effective delivery of services to local

constituencies, particularly in Masvingo, as a key to

political advancement and frequently seeks resources to

advance this objective in meetings.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

15. (C) Tensions between ruling party leaders and factions

are difficult to evaluate but we agree with Zvobgo that

Mugabe can keep the party as cohesive as he needs to for now.

The allegiance of Zvobgo (like Mnangagwa, a Karanga) – and

ex-Finance Minister Simba Makoni (a Manyika) – to the

dominant Mujuru/Zezuru faction suggests the primacy of

personal connections and patronage networks over ideology or

ethnic allegiance in the posture of the country’s next

generation of prospective leaders.

DELL

(20 VIEWS)

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