|What Mugabe was thinking|
| [07.01.2012, 08:21pm, Sat. GMT]|
|President Robert Mugabe was looking for a graceful exit, on his own terms, that preserved his legacy, Norway’s deputy director general for Southern and Western Africa in the Foreign Office, Kare Stormark, said just over a month after the formation of the inclusive government. Mugabe was therefore not likely to stand as party president at the congress scheduled for December that year.Stormark’s comments came soon after a visit to Zimbabwe by Norway’s Minister of Environment and International Development Erik Solheim on 24-25 March 2009.|
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told the Norwegian delegation that he also thought that Mugabe was looking for a way out.
Stormark said Mugabe showed "incredible vitality given his age," but in his opinion, "the regional pressure is bearing down on him" and "South Africa is at the end of its patience".
Mugabe was torn between re-educated ZANU-PF actors like Nicholas Goche and Patrick Chinamasa, who outwardly stated that the inclusive government was the only way forward, and the hard-line elements--like service chiefs--who sought to undermine the unity government to preserve their power.
Stormark described Mugabe as an "ascetic" who had facilitated the kleptocracy for his party and his family, not for himself.
Viewing cable 09OSLO225, DINNER WITH MUGABE--THE NORWEGIAN REPORT
Reference ID - 09OSLO225
Created - 2009-04-02 13:37
Released - 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification - CONFIDENTIAL
Origin - Embassy Oslo
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SUBJECT: DINNER WITH MUGABE--THE NORWEGIAN REPORT
Classified By: Political Counselor Kristen Bauer for reasons 1.4(b) and
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Following Minister Solheim's visit to Harare, the Norwegians believe that President Mugabe is looking for a graceful exit, and that ZANU-PF forces are plotting to derail the unity government. The Norwegians believe, however, that the March 30 SADC meeting's strong stand on Madagascar may give hardliners pause. Norway agrees that aid to Zimbabwe now poses a "dilemma," but wants to implement a "humanitarian 'plus'" aid strategy. The consensus among the Norwegians is that UNICEF is doing a better and faster job than the WHO in providing aid, and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, who is "too close to the government," is a disaster and should be replaced ASAP. After consulting with Embassy Harare, post feels that the Norwegians are assessing the situation realistically and are not substantially deviating from the international consensus on aid issues. End Summary.
¶2. (C) Poloff requested a readout from Kare Stormark, MFA Deputy Director General of the Section for Southern and Western Africa (approximately equivalent to a PDAS), on Environment and Development Minister Solheim's 24-25 March trip to Zimbabwe. Stormark has worked with Zimbabwe issues for 15 years and accompanied the delegation. Information in this cable was also culled from an internal GON cable that poloff obtained from another contact, key excerpts of which follow at the end of this cable.
Positive impressions dominate
¶3. (C) When asked what struck him as significant on the trip, Stormark had two initial observations. First the delegation's sense was that the MDC feels "in charge" and "on the offensive" in the unity cabinet. The MDC saw the recent budget battle as a major victory, trimming an unrealistic $ 1.9 billion budget down to $1 billion. Second, Stormark said he was struck that two ZANU-PF members of the Joint Operations Monitoring Implementation Committee (JOMIC), Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Nicholas Goche and Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa, who Stormark characterized as "confidants" of President Robert Mugabe and "former hard liners" with "no history of being conciliatory" made convincing statements at a JOMIC meeting that indicated they were committed to the success of the unity government, perhaps to facilitate Mugabe's graceful exit. Stormark was careful to say that words and reality are of course different, but the fact that these two could be conciliatory indicated that the tone in Zimbabwe had appreciably shifted. (Comment: Prior reporting from Embassy Harare such as 09 Harare 239 and 09 Harare 257 indicate that Goche and Chinamasa have not fully stepped back from their antipathy toward the MDC. End comment.)
What Mugabe is thinking
¶4. (C) It was Stormark's strong impression that Mugabe is looking for a graceful exit, on his own terms, that preserves his legacy. Furthermore, he wants to leave Zimbabwe "in the hands of a functioning unity government." He will do this, Stormark opined, by not standing as a candidate in the internal ZANU-PF election in December. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai told the Norwegian delegation that he also thinks that Mugabe is looking for a way out. Stormark commented on Mugabe's "incredible vitality given his age," but in his opinion, "the regional pressure is bearing down on him" and "South Africa is at the end of its patience." Stormark's overall assessment, with respect to Mugabe versus the unity government, is that "Bob is in between" re-educated ZANU-PF actors like Goche and Chinamasa, who outwardly state that the GNU is the only way forward, and the hard-line elements--like service chiefs--who seek to undermine the unity government to preserve their power. More generally, Stormark commented that Mugabe is an "ascetic" who has facilitated the kleptocracy for his party and his family, not for himself.
¶5. (C) Stormark said the entire Norwegian delegation was struck by the extent to which Mugabe and other ZANU-PF interlocutors spoke to them exclusively about the past, whereas the MDC interlocutors spoke exclusively of the present and future. Mugabe, first and foremost, is concerned with his "legacy" as an anti-colonialist, as odd as that may appear to westerners who believe he subsequently destroyed his country.
Dangers to the unity government; SADC sending signals?
¶6. (C) Stormark said that there was "no question" that elements in the ministry of defense, the army, the police, the central bank, and the attorney general are "plotting how to get rid of the unity government." Stormark specifically mentioned Gideon Gono, the reserve bank president, by name, speculating, "he is in on whatever is being plotted." Stormark did not reference any hard information on a specific plot, but spoke generally. In a follow up phone call, Stormark called our attention to the outcome of the March 30 SADC meeting, which resulted in strong condemnation of the recent events in Madagascar. He opined that anyone plotting an outright coup would be sobered by the SADC's response, as it might behave more toothily in the context of a radical change in status-quo in Zimbabwe than it did to Zimbabwe's slow bleed over the last two years.
A dilemma on aid: Humanitarian, "plus"?
¶7. (C) Although Stormark said that "the UK was not amused" at the GON delegation's visit, he emphasized that there is little difference of opinion between Norway and other potential donors on the issue of aiding Zimbabwe. Norway, he said, simply wanted to start a dialogue with Mugabe and FM Mumbengegwi, though he characterized the latter as "absolutely not a diplomat" and "a hack." (Comment: Norway's desire to start a dialogue is entirely in keeping with Norwegian diplomatic character and should not be viewed as special to Zimbabwe. End comment.) Norway fears, as other potential donors do, that a way to channel aid outside the grasp of corrupt ZANU-PF officials is yet to be fully devised, and the question remains, "how do we re-engage?" One option the GON is examining is whether, in addition to ongoing humanitarian aid, salaries for teachers and health personnel could be directly subsidized. This he called the "humanitarian, plus" concept. It remains "hard to ensure that money goes to the right place."
¶8. (C) Despite criticism both within and outside of Norway for the GON's decision to send a delegation, Stormark said that "everyone" they met in Zimbabwe was happy that they had come. It was "encouraging to local aid partners" and, also, the MDC, who are desperate for budget support. (Comment: The MDC presumably does not expect such budget support from the US but might hope for it from the Norwegians. End comment).
¶9. (C) When poloff commented on the difficult position MDC is in, given that they control the service-providing ministries most subject to popular anger, Stormark said, "well of course, that's just the way ZANU-PF wanted it," but the MDC's recent payment of US$100 to public servants demonstrated that "there is more money in the treasury than some outsiders believed." Stormark said that MDC would try to exploit the fact that they are in control of the ministry of finance, and "work around Gono," using "project accounts."
¶10. (C) On the humanitarian side, Stormark said that in discussions with ZANU-PF officials the GON delegation repeatedly brought up the need to repeal extraordinary security laws and reestablish full press freedom. They also raised concerns that NGOs expressed to them about NGO freedom of movement within the country.
Observations on international organizations
¶11. (C) Stormark said it was crucial that the Bretton Woods institutions be able to re-engage in Zimbabwe to facilitate both an assessment for financing and a new flow of aid. On aid institutions currently operating in Zimbabwe, Stormark had the following to say: "UNICEF is doing a good job providing aid, working much faster and better than the WHO." In contrast, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Zacarias, is "too close to the government." Stormark said that the UN has been trying to fill that position with someone else for a long time, and it is frustrating that he's still there.
¶12. (C) COMMENT: Minister Solheim's visit to Zimbabwe should be interpreted in the context of the Norwegian preoccupation with engagement. As the Norwegian readout document excerpted below indicates, the Norwegians viewed their trip as a success simply because a dialogue was started. This was hardly a significant or surprising achievement as Mugabe would have talked to almost anyone who could confer legitimacy, but it plays into Norwegian aspirations to make a difference where more powerful actors (often including the US) are perceived to have adopted inflexible policies that have stalemated a situation. Our assessment in this case is that while the Norwegians are willing to talk to Mugabe, and might consider some direct injections of cash to politically sensitive sectors such as public servant wages, both domestic and international pressure will prevent the government from straying from the consensus on limits of aid to this regime.
¶13. (U) Embassy Harare cleared on this cable.
An Internal Norwegian Report
¶14. (C) The following is a translated except from the internal MFA report on the Zimbabwe trip, written by the Southern Africa Section, to Minister Solheim, copying all relevant MFA sections. It thus represents the "official" readout to the GON and should be treated as confidential.
Begin Norwegian Text:
--MDC on the offensive in the new unity government, but introduction of democratic playing rules still far off.
--President Mugabe expresses support for the unity government and wishes for dialogue with the international community
--The economic situation is precarious and the unity government is dependent on international aid for its success.
--Delegation was welcomed by all parties in Zimbabwe.
-Developments inside the new government are moving in the right direction, though slowly. The MDC believes they are on the offensive in all government meetings. There was a significant battle over the recent budget, but president Mugabe ultimately supported finance minister Biti. MDC believes that there is a generational difference between the two parties that is apparent in both engagement and activity in governing.
-The important JOMIC conflict resolution body has so far been in a position to solve those issues which have come before it. When they are unable to resolve a conflict, the conflict is supposed to be forwarded to facilitators South Africa or the SADC, but this has not been necessary so far. The work of the JOMIC has, however, proceeded extremely slowly. Norway will support JOMIC along with Sweden and
-In the meetings with the president and foreign minister, both of ZANU-PF, both emphasized that they wanted the unity government to succeed. However, there is undoubtedly a question of how deep the desire for change really is, as they deny that the country has problems in its democracy. On the other hand, we should underline that this is the first time in ten years that leading ZANU-PF politicians have been willing to go into dialogue with the international community on difficult issues--that constitutes a new and positive step.
-Although things are on the right track, this is a process that can easily derail. Strong opposing forces are in play. Even if the MDC feels itself on the offensive in the government, parliament and JOMIC, there exists a parallel power structure which gives cause for concern: the military, police, and defense minister Mnangangwa. There is reason to believe that both the attorney general and the central bank president also belong to this group. There are reports of extensive meetings among these actors who are probably planning to sabotage the unity government. This group is particularly worried about losing control of the economy. -Issues relating to the naming of a new central bank president, attorney general, and section heads, currently all in ZANU-PF control, are not yet resolved. In order for the finance minister to get control over cash flows, the central bank president either has to be fired or his powers have to be reduced. This is a key point for donors.
-There are still political prisoners in the country, and the laws which limit human rights and press freedom still stand even if there are hopeful signs. There also continues to be violence and intimidation, and illegal farm invasions have not stopped.
-Finance minister Biti underlined that the unitygovernment is dependent on extensive foreign aid in order to succeed. At the same time, donors are waiting for signals of further change as a prerequisite for contemplating aid beyond that which is strictly humanitarian. It is a "chicken and egg" situation. It may be necessary to find acceptable mechanisms for aid that give the MDC within the unity government the ability to succeed without losing control over where the money goes. It is particularly important to provide funds for salaries of teachers and health personnel, something like what Sweden has decided to do. Questions about what type of aid can be given are a challenge for all donors, and will probably be a dominant theme in many upcoming meetings among key donors and multilateral institutions. It's important to note that the SADC and AU, in addition to the MDC, called for donor countries to support the unity government.
--The Visit's Significance
-Minister Solheim's visit successfully fulfilled its purpose of starting a dialogue. All parties in Zimbabwe welcomed the visit as a sign that the international community wished to engage itself in supporting the risky proposition that the new unity government represents. No one disputes that in today's Zimbabwe there is no alternative to the unity government, except going back to repression and military dictatorship.
-Some donor countries were skeptical about Norway's visit to the extent that they were afraid that Norway would go it alone and promise aid before important changes had been implemented. Our impression is that this skepticism has been reduced in the course of the last two or three weeks in line with the progress MDC has made in governing and a clear communication of the purpose of the visit. There is relatively little discrepancy among donors about what has to happen in Zimbabwe before reengagement. -The Southern Africa section (of the MFA) will now cooperate with others in the (Harare) embassy to formulate a short-term response to the immediate financing needs in Zimbabwe. In addition, we will consider an overall framework proposal for aid in advance of the planned donor meeting organized by the ADB at the end of April.
End Norwegian Text.