Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 16:07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 000356
DEPT FOR AF/S
EO 12958 DECL: 01/29/2017
TAGS PREL, ZI, SF
SUBJECT: (C) EXILED ZIMBABWEAN BUSINESSMEN FLOAT ZIMBABWE
Classified By: Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Hinson. Reason s 1.4(b) and (d).
(U) This message has been coordinated with AmEmbassy Harare.
1. (C) SUMMARY: Exiled Zimbabwean businessmanXXXXXXXXXXXX is quietly floating an idea to shift executive power from President Mugabe to a “technocratic” Prime Minister. To get Mugabe to accept the deal, Mugabe would remain President until 2010 with some power over the security apparatus, but the Prime Minister would run the economy and get the country back on its feet. All parties would work together to draft a new constitution. XXXXXXXXXXXX was open to ideas on who best to sell the plan, but suggested new UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, working through an envoy like former Malaysian PM Mahathir, as possible mediators. We cannot comment on the merits of the plan, but find it encouraging that senior Zimbabwean exile businessmen are discussing solutions to their country’s political and economic crisis. Embassy Harare notes that the concept is increasingly in circulation in Harare and may not require outside intervention. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) A group of prominent Zimbabwean businessmen living in South Africa, led by XXXXXXXXXXXX, discussed with visiting NIO for Africa, PolCounselor and PolOff January 27 a possible strategy for transferring executive power from President Robert Mugabe to a “technocratic” prime minister. XXXXXXXXXXXX was joined by XXXXXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXXXXX, and XXXXXXXXXXXX. The four businessmen agreed that there is a “window of opportunity” to bring positive change to Zimbabwe, opened by the deteriorating economic situation and Mugabe’s advancing age and declining health.
3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX’s strategy builds on the assumption that Mugabe will never voluntarily give up power. He fears for his future if he steps down — citing the Charles Taylor example XXXXXXXXXXXX.
4. (C) Under XXXXXXXXXXXX’s (somewhat convoluted) plan:
— Mugabe gets the extension of his presidential term to 2010, but would share power with a “technocratic” Prime Minister during the 2007-10 period.
— The PM would have to be acceptable to 85 percent of the parliament, thus requiring opposition MDC support, and could only be removed by an 85 percent vote in parliament.
— The President would still appoint the key security ministers of Defense, Home Affairs, and National Security. The PM would appoint the other cabinet members, particularly in the economic area. However, deployment of troops would require the approval of both the PM and President.
— The PM would not be eligible to run for President in 2010, thus ensuring his or her political independence.
— Between 2007-10, the Constitution and electoral system would be reviewed, and a new constitution put in place.
— In return for these “reforms,” the international community would agree to the phased lifting of sanctions, the “acceptance” of the extension of Mugabe,s term to 2010, and perhaps most importantly to provide economic assistance to help rehabilitate the Zimbabwean economy.
5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said that a number of Zimbabweans could play the role of technocratic Prime Minister. XXXXXXXXXXXX.
6. (C) On the question of who sells this plan to Mugabe, XXXXXXXXXXXX was open to ideas. He said that Moeletsi Mbeki, a
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South African businessman and (estranged) brother to the President, recommended against South Africa playing the mediation role, arguing that ForMin Dlamini-Zuma is too close to Mugabe. Moeletsi Mbeki recommended involving the new UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, working through an envoy like
SIPDIS former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir.
7. (C) COMMENT: We cannot comment on whether Mugabe might accept a power-sharing plan like XXXXXXXXXXXX proposes or who is best to convince Mugabe, but it is encouraging that four senior Zimbabwean businessmen are actively discussing ideas to resolve their country’s political and economic crisis. For the last seven years, most exiled Zimbabwean businessmen in South Africa have avoided any political involvement in their home country. We are not as quick as Moeletsi Mbeki to dismiss a possible South African role in any proposed transition deal, even if they are not the ones to sell it directly to Mugabe. The South African Government is increasingly frustrated with Mugabe’s intransigence and Zimbabwe’s economic decline, which impedes regional integration and growth; President Thabo Mbeki wants to see Zimbabwe “resolved” before he leaves power in 2009; and the last thing South Africa wants while hosting the 2010 World Cup is a messy and violent election in Zimbabwe. END COMMENT.
8. (C) EMBASSY HARARE COMMENT: The concept described by XXXXXXXXXXXX is increasingly in circulation in Harare. Morgan Tsvangirai told Emboffs on 30 January that this is Mugabe,s
SIPDIS Plan B as he runs into growing resistance to 2010 and that the candidate for PM would be Simba Makoni. Significant outside intervention, therefore, may not be necessary; however, gentle encouragement from Pretoria is unlikely to be amiss. UN SYG Ban may not wish to engage on this issue at the beginning of his tenure, especially in view of the way Mugabe treated former UN SYG Annan. END EMBASSY HARARE COMMENT.