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Cablegate: Zimbabwe: Quiet Diplomacy Gets (a Little) Louder

VZCZCXRO9265
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #1110/01 0881743
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 291743Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8939
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 0956
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2046
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 1052
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1151
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1043
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 001110

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KPAO ZI SF
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE: QUIET DIPLOMACY GETS (A LITTLE) LOUDER

REF: PRETORIA 1054

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: South Africa's Parliament held an
extraordinary debate on Zimbabwe March 28, with opposition
parties strongly criticizing the Government's Zimbabwe
policy. DepForMin van der Merwe defended the SAG policy, but
stated that the GOZ's recent crackdown was a "major cause for
concern" and urged the GOZ to "ensure that the rule of law
and human rights" are respected. The previous day, DepForMin
Pahad said that the economic situation in Zimbabwe is
"reaching dire proportions." Pahad called the South African
approach "constructive diplomacy," and pointedly complained
about Western governments for criticizing the SAG Zimbabwe
policy without making constructive policy suggestions. Van
der Merwe's comments were the strongest to date by a SAG
official and represent a shift toward a more critical and
honest South African public position on Zimbabwe. END
SUMMARY.

--------------------------------
Parliamentary Debate on Zimbabwe
--------------------------------

2. (SBU) The South African Parliament held a lively debate on
Zimbabwe March 28, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sue van der
Merwe in the difficult position of defending SAG Zimbabwe
policy. Van der Merwe repeated many familiar SAG themes on
Zimbabwe -- "inclusive dialogue" is key, Zimbabweans must
solve their own crisis, sanctions are not helpful -- but also
made the strongest statements to date by a senior SAG
official on the Government of Zimbabwe's recent opposition
crackdown. Van der Merwe said that:

-- the arrests, detention and assaults of senior opposition
leaders are "a major cause of concern;"

-- stressed the SAG's "concern, disappointment and
disapproval of the measures undertaken by the security forces
in dealing with the political protests;"

-- urged the GOZ to "ensure that the rule of law and the
human rights of the Zimbabwean citizens are respected;" and,

-- called on the GOZ to "create a climate conducive for
political dialogue" and the opposition to "participate
unreservedly" in efforts to solve the crisis.

3. (SBU) In a not-so-subtle criticism of the United States,
the United Kingdom, and Australia, van der Merwe said that
South Africa has "avoided the temptation" to compete on "who
will shout loudest or trade the worst insults" against the
GOZ leadership. Sanctions will only deepen the current
crisis, in her view.

4. (U) Opposition parties strongly criticized the SAG
Zimbabwe policy. Inkatha Freedom Party's Albert Mncwango
said that South Africa "must denounce the Zimbabwean regime
immediately, decisively, and irrevocably for what it is: a
hideous and destructive dictatorship which must go."
Democratic Alliance Chief Whip Douglas Gibson urged the
imposition of smart sanctions against Mugabe, his wife, and
cabinet ministers, so that South Africa is "no longer their
place for luxury shopping." Gibson suggested that South
Africa should offer Mugabe "a comfortable retirement and
political asylum" if he would agree to leave power.

--------------------------------------------- ------
Pahad Highlights "Dire" Economic Crisis in Zimbabwe
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. (U) Van der Merwe's parliamentary remarks followed a March
27 press conference by her fellow DepForMin Aziz Pahad.
Calling the South African approach to Zimbabwe "constructive
diplomacy," Pahad said that the "economic situation is
reaching dire proportions." Pahad said that Western
governments -- whose statements on Zimbabwe are merely
"self-gratification" -- should not criticize the SAG without
making constructive policy suggestions. He repeated his
comment from last week that if the international community
had worked together to find a common approach on Zimbabwe "we
would not find ourselves confronted with the crisis we do so
today."


PRETORIA 00001110 002 OF 002


6. (SBU) Responding to questions, Pahad said that Zimbabwe
Vice President Mujuru's trip to South Africa (reftel) was
"very private." SAG Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
met Mujuru at a meeting organized by an unspecified NGO, and
the situation in Zimbabwe was not/not discussed. (NOTE:
Several press reports and Embassy sources have told us that
the situation in Zimbabwe -- specifically how to remove
Mugabe from power -- was very much the topic of discussion.
END NOTE.) He also reported that UK PM Blair has written a
letter to Mbeki on Zimbabwe, although Pahad has not seen the
letter. Pahad mentioned that Zimbabwean Reserve Bank
Governor Gono had "presented a detailed report of the crisis
in the Zimbabwean economy" to the SAG a month ago and seemed
to suggest some sort of initiative on cross-party dialogue to
solve the economic crisis (NFI).

-----------------------------------
Other SAG Officials Add Their Voice
-----------------------------------

7. (SBU) Two other respected SAG officials made encouraging
statements this week. Deputy Chief of the Constitutional
Court Justice Dikgang Moseneke said on March 28 that
Zimbabwean judges could "count on (South Africa's) judiciary
for the kind of solidarity and support that may facilitate
the restoration of a democratic process." Reserve Bank
Governor Tito Mboweni warned on March 27 that Zimbabwe's
economy will continue to decline unless "policy changes" are
made, stating that his colleagues in Zimbabwe were trying to
tame inflation but that "constraints on the production side
of the economy" must be removed.

-------
Comment
-------

8. (SBU) The South African Government's public position is
becoming increasingly critical of the Government of Zimbabwe,
largely because of growing domestic and regional pressure (as
well as Mugabe's impossible-to-defend actions). While not
yet using the words "criticize" or "condemn," van der Merwe's
prepared comments were the strongest to date, and mark a
significant shift from the March 13 DFA written statement,
which merely expressed "concern" about the reports of
"difficulties being experienced by the political leadership"
in Zimbabwe (reftel). The SAG is also being much more
explicit in acknowledging the extent of the economic disaster
in Zimbabwe (using terms like "meltdown" and "dire
situation"), thus raising the stakes for its diplomatic
efforts to end the crisis.
TEITELBAUM

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