Cablegate: Undaunted Bishops Seek Benchmarks to Stimulate

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: (A) HARARE 1711 (B) HARARE 1599 (C) HARARE 1130

1. (C) SUMMARY: The bishops troika on September 10 updated
Ambassador Sullivan on their efforts to facilitate
inter-party talks. They were encouraged by ZANU-PF Chairman
John Nkomo's invitation to a meeting earlier that day,
although they did not expect ZANU-PF to re-activate the
bishops' initiative formally in the foreseeable future. With
a view to inducing Mugabe to move forward on talks, they
urged the USG and other international players to identify
concrete benchmarks -- tangible international benefits that
would correspond with tangible political progress in
Zimbabwe. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) The Manicaland bishops troika of Anglican Bishop and
President of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) Sebastian
Bakare, President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe
(EFZ) Bishop Trevor Manhanga, and President of the Zimbabwe
Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) Patrick Mutume came to the
Residence on September 10 for an exchange with Ambassador
Sullivan on recent developments. The bishops had just come
from a meeting with Minister for Special Affairs and ZANU-PF
Chairman John Nkomo.

3. (C) The bishops reported that they had been lying low for
some time, not wanting to be seen as exerting influence on
recent local elections. The election results, however,
seemed to give new impetus for attention to resumption of
interparty talks. The results underscored to ZANU-PF leaders
the party's sagging popularity and influence among important
constituencies. Manhanga said ZANU-PF still was not prepared
to come to the table right away but the bishops were
encouraged that Nkomo had invited them to talk. Nkomo had
not disclosed anything new in their meeting, but the bishops
were scheduled to meet MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai later
that day and planned to see Nkomo again on September 15. The
bishops expected to meet Mugabe again at an unspecified time
after that to report on their meetings with party leaders and
representatives of the international community.

4. (C) Speculating on how to motivate the parties to talk,
Mutume emphasized the importance of not making ZANU-PF appear
to lose in agreeing to talk. At this early stage, the key
would be to "bargain" to a position where the ruling party at
least was effectively dislodged from the driver's seat.
Bakare stressed the need to accommodate to some extent
ZANU-PF's warped view of itself. It was a liberation party,
unchallenged in power for 23 years; the increasingly apparent
erosion of its popularity presented a too radically different
situation for many to absorb. One key would be to keep the
reasonable moderates, such as Nkomo and Party Spokesman
Nathan Shamuyarira, engaged and credible.

5. (C) All three underscored the potential value of getting
an indication of benchmarks from international players for
expanded engagement with Zimbabwe. In particular, what
measures (beyond existing programs) would the USG be prepared
to implement to help Zimbabwe and to what specific measures
of political progress would they be tied? The bishops
asserted that having such indications from the USG, the UK
and others would make their upcoming meeting with Mugabe much
more productive. They wanted to tell Mugabe specifically
what the international community expected of Zimbabwe and
what Zimbabwe could expect from the international community.
The bishops recognized that Mugabe should not be rewarded for
nothing, but some hope, short of promise, on these points
could reduce the unhelpful level of distrust and indecision.

6. (C) Bakare expressed optimism about a "new language"
being spoken by the government but cautioned that a new
course had yet to be charted. The bishops were further
encouraged by progress shown in the conduct of recent
elections. The bishops' code of conduct subscribed to by the
three Mutare mayoral candidates (ref A) had been a success
and offered a potential model for future elections.
Following the elections, interested parties, including war
veteran representatives, had met on September 8 in a
constructive atmosphere, and the police had committed to
follow through on the various complaints filed by each side.
Events in Bindura, Marondera, and Rusape nonetheless
reflected the ruling party's dominant nature in that the
opposition was not permitted to present its candidacies or
was subject to heavy intimidation. Manhanga emphasized the
importance of measured, balanced public comments on Zimbabwe,
as the USG's statement on recent elections had been.

7. (C) COMMENT: This is the third time (refs A and B) that
the bishops have pushed us for benchmarks they could share
with Mugabe. While we are skeptical that establishing
concrete benchmarks in advance of tangible political progress
will be decisive in getting Mugabe off the dime on talks,
ZANU-PF insecurities about western intentions remain a
considerable obstacle for those who support talks. In that
vein, we should be mindful of opportunities to offer
balanced, non-provocative statements on Zimbabwean
developments (a la the recent one on elections), recognizing
incremental progress when appropriate while continuing to
hold the GOZ accountable for ongoing abuses. In ref C, we
laid out incremental steps the USG could take as the
political situation here improved. While consideration of
such steps would be premature now, it might serve US
interests to identify to the GOZ discreetly (perhaps via the
bishops) tangible measures of political progress and benefits
potentially available to Zimbabwe down the road. We shall
make more specific recommendations septel.

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