US embassy cables: EU delegation tell of 'physically fit, mentally sharp' Mugabe
The EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Karel de Gucht, along with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Minister Gunilla Carlsson, traveled to Zimbabwe on 12-13 September
Tuesday, 20 October 2009, 13:34
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TAGS PREL, ETRD, ZU">ZU, EU
SUBJECT: EU COMMISSIONER DE GUCHT’S TRIP TO ZIMBABWE
Classified By: USEU Charge d’Affaires Christopher Murray, for reasons 1 .4(b) and (d)
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Karel de Gucht, along with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Minister Gunilla Carlsson, traveled to Zimbabwe on 12-13 September with an EU delegation including representatives of the Council, Commission, and the current and future Presidencies. While there, they met with President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the Foreign and Justice Ministers, and civil society members.
They then traveled to South Africa where they met with Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara. POLOFF, along with Canadian and Australian counterparts, met with Louis Amorim of the Council Secretariat on September 18, and then with Maud Arnould and John Clancy from Commissioner de Gucht’s Cabinet on October 1 to discuss the visit, the status of the Global Peace Agreement (GPA), the Government of National Unity, sanctions and the way forward. END SUMMARY
2. (SBU) The EU delegation saw the visit as a success because it drew media attention back onto Zimbabwe. This was the first high-level EU visit since 2002, and the GOZ made a real effort. But Mugabe’s anti-Western rhetoric continued in the press, including public statements about "Bloody Whites" coming to interfere with their internal affairs. The Foreign Minister told the delegation not to worry as the remarks were simply playing to the domestic constituency. The meetings were very political and not at all technical. There were huge differences of opinion, but open discussions, even with President Mugabe.
MEETING WITH MUGABE
3. (C) President Robert Mugabe was willing to engage, which the delegation took as a positive, but not willing to give an inch. Mugabe acknowledged the important role the British Labor Party (plus the Swedish, German and Danish) had in helping Zimbabwe achieve independence. He clearly wanted to be conciliatory here, particularly toward the Swedes. Then he returned to the theme of a U.S. and U.K. conspiracy to overthrow him.
4. (C) The delegation expressed concern about slow reforms, the status of the GPA, and continuing political violence. Mugabe resisted it all claiming, for example, that the only violence today consists of small incidents involving youths. The Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC), he added, is also full of violent youths. In response, the Swedish Minister was polite but very straightforward saying, "We don’t share those views, even if it could be a question of perception." When pressed, Mugabe would say, "I will do the right things and I will avoid the wrong things."
5. (C) Throughout, Mugabe was a superb debater, always looking for proof and asking his underlings regarding details. (NOTE: Clancy advised it is better to stay out of the weeds when trying to make points to Mugabe because "he will turn details against you." END NOTE) Mugabe stated the GPA has been completely implemented and the Unity Government was working well, so sanctions should be lifted. He claimed there was an independent judiciary in Zimbabwe, so the fate of imprisoned MDC Minister Roy Bennett was not in his hands.
He claimed no knowledge of other arrested parliamentarians and turned to his Chief of Intelligence for details, who also claimed to know nothing. Ignoring the view of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that certain appointments, such as the Central Bank Governor and Attorney General, must be made by the Unity Government, Mugabe claims those appointments could not be deemed unilateral because he was not required to consult. He admonished the delegation not to let themselves be manipulated by the opposition on these topics.
6. (C) Mugabe stated that land reform was an irreversible decision. He said he was not completely against some kind of land ownership system, and a leasing idea, "does not shock him." He argued that resolving the land issues would require a comprehensive land survey, for which Zimbabwe would need
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financial and human resources. The direct implication was that unless donors provide the resources, the GOZ is not going to do it. (NOTE: In a later meeting, the Foreign and Justice Ministers repeated these points, adding the threatening comment, "This is the one issue about which people take up arms." END NOTE)
IMPRESSIONS OF MUGABE
7. (C) Our EU interlocutors said Mugabe appeared physically fit, mentally sharp, and "charming." When asked if his position had either weakened or been consolidated, Amorim answered that it was very strong. He remains powerful but is clearly surrounded by hardliners who are "dodgy," "cold," and lack Mugabe’s intelligence. (NOTE: Mutambara cautioned the delegation not to be fooled into thinking that Mugabe was being lead by hard-liners, saying, "He is the worst hardliner there is." END NOTE)
8. (C) In both meetings with our EU interlocutors, they told the same illustrative anecdote: during the delegation’s meeting with Mugabe, a strong, young man entered with a bowl and pitcher of water on a silver tray. He knelt in front of Mugabe, who made a show of washing his hands with this subservient man at his feet. The delegation thought Mugabe intended it as a show of his strength and power, but instead, as Clancy put it, "it showed that Mugabe has lost the plot of normal human interaction and the responsibility of leaders toward their people."
MEETING WITH TSVANGIRAI: CHALLENGES AND PRIORITIES
9. (C) The delegation then went to Bulawayo and met with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and separately with Minister of Education David Coltart. Tsvangirai was much more positive in Brussels in June about the GPA than he was in this meeting. He gave a structured, concise description of challenges and priorities. The challenges included the disputed appointments of the Attorney General and Central Bank Governor. He blamed the latter for the complete economic meltdown and said, "We cannot have him there." XXXXXXXXXXXX END NOTE)
10. (C) Tsvangirai discussed political harassment, particularly the serious accusations against Roy Bennett. The fact that he is "white" matters, Tsvangirai said, since ZANU-PF is concerned that Bennett will defend the white farmers. Tsvangirai said the spirit of the Unity Government is threatened by ZANU-PF. He insisted there is no alternative to the Unity Government, but added that he did not know "how much longer we can take this." He is very disappointed that the SADC extraordinary session on Zimbabwe did not happen, and that there has been little progress since June. Minister Carlsson asked if there was a risk of the Unity Government collapsing, and he said "no."
11. (C) As for priorities, he highlighted that the MDC heads all the ministries that promote the population’s well-being, such as education, health, and housing, among others. MDC was originally unhappy with the distribution, especially with ZANU-PF‘s control of all the "hard" sectors, but then saw that the only resources coming from outside supporters were for service provision.
If MDC can make its sectors work (through aid or other means), they can make the Unity Government work, and people will see a difference in their lives. Amorim noted that Tsvangirai’s analysis seems accurate. Everyone he spoke with who was not a government official confirmed that things are better – schools are open and stores have food. Tsvangirai remains concerned about food security, however. He explained the goal of providing one million homes with seeds and fertilizer, saying they had already done half and asked the EU to fund the rest.
MEETING WITH MUTAMBARA
12. (C) Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara impressed Amorim as being "very sharp, young, engaging, and very, very dangerous." Arnould said Mutambara was a "strong personality" who was talking for the camera – he made a long
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speech to the press about the importance of his faction in the government, and the imperative to lift sanctions. Mutambara was livid that the United States met with Mugabe and Tsvangirai but did not meet with him. Amorim summarized Mutambara’s main message to the delegation as, "You have to count me in. If you do not include me, I can wreck this." He claimed he was "the only one who can shut up Mugabe," and that everyone else is afraid of him. When asked if others in the government shared Mutambara’s assessment of his importance, Amorim replied that while Mutambara only has three seats, they tipped the balance and allowed the MDC to claim a majority. Mutambara knows that he could pull out and destroy the whole thing. Mutambara stated that he considers the SADC communique of January to be part of the GPA and implementation will not be complete without it. He sees the GPA as irreversible, "there is no Plan B."
MEETINGS WITH FOREIGN AND JUSTICE MINISTERS, CIVIL SOCIETY
13. (C) Back in Harare on Sunday morning, the delegation also met with Foreign Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa who were described as playing good cop and bad cop, respectively. The Foreign Minister was conciliatory, describing the visit as a crucial step to normalization. The Justice Minister was confrontational, asking, "Who are you to tell us how to run our business?" and saying, "listening to you and listening to Tsvangirai is the same thing." The delegation had the impression it was hard for them not to have all the control and to have Europeans "telling them what to do."
14. (C) In meetings with Civil Society leaders, they talked of continued violence in the rural areas by ZANU-PF, but also by MDC. In urban areas, there have been fragile gains on human rights, including press freedom, but it depends on Ministerial tolerance. It could all vanish tomorrow because the laws remain unchanged. (Note: Tsvangirai and Biti said that they want to see the Property Rights Act, the Freedom of Media Act, and the Public Order Act all passed in the next six months. END NOTE) But on constitutional reform, there is deadlock. The July meeting started ominously, with participants nearly coming to blows, and ZANU-PF members saying they would not participate because MDC members were getting paid and they were not.
15 (C) Sanctions were discussed in all meetings with government officials. Mugabe portrayed the West as unfairly targeting people in the Unity Government for no reason. "What do you expect but hostility when you expel the children of my collaborators from universities in your countries? This hurts us." He uses the sanctions in the media, saying, "You are making the people of Zimbabwe suffer, trying to force regime change from the outside." Clancy noted, "One would think that sanctions would be a gadfly to him – nothing more than annoying. But they bother him enormously because they do not apply to the MDC." The officials with Mugabe stated that the targeted travel measures do not matter, but indicated the measures against parastatals do. Unsurprisingly, Tsvangirai does not want sanctions lifted. He says the process needs to be a two-way street, so there is no reason to lift them when there has been no progress.
16. (C) Out of the three, Mutambara spoke the most about sanctions and claimed they only help Mugabe. Without sanctions, he said, the GPA could move ahead, as Mugabe would have no excuse. (NOTE: Considering that Mugabe claims the GPA is finished, the delegation did not share this assessment. END NOTE) Mutambara asserted that the West must follow the advice of Africa leaders. "If Zuma says so, then you should not bat an eye." He seemed surprised to hear from the delegation that Tsvangirai did not agree. Mutambara said that any progress would require considerable engagement with Zuma. "You must get African leaders to put pressure on Mugabe. He will not listen to you."
17. (C) The Zimbabwean Ministers said the African Union and SADC have asked that the sanctions be lifted, so "why don’t you listen to them?" Minister Carlsson asked how they reconcile asking for respect for SADC’s views on sanctions when the GOZ had pulled out of the SADC Tribunal because of its views (a reference to the case brought by Mike Campbell, a white farmer). Displaying a capacity to "create reality"
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(Amorim’s words), the Ministers gave a very legalistic response ending with, "the Tribunal does not exist."
18. (C) Arnould stated that ZANU-PF is rebuilding and needs money, but time is on their side. (She mentioned ZANU-PF has an arrangement with the Iranians to supply oil.) Asked about the way forward, Amorim said the EU is committed to the plan for the dual roadmaps (in which the GOZ prepares a roadmap for GPA implementation, and EU Heads of Mission prepare one for normalizing relations; then they would link the two). He stressed that the GOZ must accept the need to deal with the Member States’ Heads of Mission in Harare on this, not always with Ministers from capitals.
The delegation’s message was that they support the people of Zimbabwe and will continue to do so, just not necessarily by going through the government. The current visit should not be taken to imply that things are fine now. It’s a long-term process. They sent the very strong message that the reluctance of the GOZ to engage in the roadmap is matched by European reluctance. Nothing has moved in Harare, so the EU sees no reason to move from their current position.
19. (C) In response to Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s 16 October remarks on the lack of political progress in Zimbabwe, Commissioner de Gucht issued a statement outlining again the absolute necessity for all parties to implement the GPA without further delay. De Gucht encouraged key regional bodies, particularly SADC, to do all they can to assist the parties to the GPA to resolve their differences for the benefit of the Zimbabwean people.