wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
01HARARE1751
2001-05-31 14:12:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Harare
Cable title:  

ZIMBABWE COUP PLOT REPORT TOUCHES A RAW NERVE

Tags:   PINS  PGOV  MARR  SOCI  PHUM  PREL  ZI 
pdf how-to read a cable
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



                           CONFIDENTIAL     PTQ8892

PAGE 01        HARARE  01751  01 OF 02  311430Z 
ACTION AF-00    

INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AID-00   ACQ-00   CIAE-00  DODE-00  SRPP-00  
      DS-00    FBIE-00  VC-00    TEDE-00  INR-00   LAB-01   VCE-00   
      NSAE-00  PM-00    IRM-00   SSO-00   SS-00    STR-00   USIE-00  
      PMB-00   DSCC-00  PRM-01   DRL-02   NFAT-00  SAS-00     /004W
                  ------------------F2C320  311430Z /38    
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8999
INFO NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY NAIROBI PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001751 

SIPDIS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER

LONDON FOR CHARLES GURNEY

PARIS FOR BISA WILLIAMS

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

PASS USAID FOR AFR/SA - C. PALMA

PASS AF/PD FOR SANDERS

PASS USTR FOR ROSA WHITAKER
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 02 HARARE 01751 01 OF 02 311430Z

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/31/11
TAGS: PINS PGOV MARR PGOV SOCI PHUM PREL ZI
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE COUP PLOT REPORT TOUCHES A RAW NERVE

CLASSIFIED BY CHARGE D'AFFAIRES EARL M. IRVING FOR
REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D).



1. (C) SUMMARY: THE GOVERNMENT OF ZIMBABWE HAS
VIGOROUSLY DISPUTED A MAY 29 ARTICLE IN THE BRITISH
"GUARDIAN" NEWSPAPER THAT STATES THAT ZIMBABWEAN
MILITARY OFFICERS ARE PLANNING A COUP AGAINST PRESIDENT
MUGABE. WE HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO CORROBORATE THE
SUBSTANCE OF THE REPORT. THE GOZ'S INITIAL DENIALS
RELIED EXCLUSIVELY ON COMMENTS BY SOUTH AFRICAN
OFFICIALS DISTANCING THEMSELVES FROM THE STORY, FOLLOWED
ONLY A SECOND DAY BY THE ZIMBABWEAN DEFENSE FORCE
COMMANDER AWKWARDLY DISMISSING THE REPORT. THE
"GUARDIAN'S" HARARE STRINGER INFORMED US THAT THE OFF-
THE-RECORD SOURCE FOR THE STORY WAS PRESIDENT THABO
MBEKI. THE VEHEMENCE OF THE ZIMBABWEAN GOVERNMENT'S
REACTION REFLECTS THE INCREASING PARANOIA WITHIN THE
RULING PARTY FOLLOWING THE RECENT DEATHS OF TWO
MINISTERS IN CAR ACCIDENTS -- HISTORICALLY A FAVORITE
ZANU-PF METHOD OF ASSASSINATION -- AND GROWING CONCERNS
ABOUT THE LOYALTY OF THE MILITARY RANK-AND-FILE. END
SUMMARY.



2. (U) AN ARTICLE WRITTEN BY HUGO YOUNG IN THE MAY 29
EDITION OF THE "GUARDIAN" NEWSPAPER REPORTING THAT
SENIOR ZIMBABWE MILITARY OFFICERS WILL LAUNCH A COUP
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 03 HARARE 01751 01 OF 02 311430Z
AGAINST PRESIDENT MUGABE HAS STRUCK A RAW NERVE IN
HARARE. THE ARTICLE ALLEGES THAT ZIMBABWEAN MILITARY
COMMANDERS INFORMED THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT THAT
THEY EXPECT A FOOD CRISIS LATER THIS YEAR WILL PROVE A
FLASH POINT THAT COULD RESULT IN FOOD RIOTS. THE ARMY
WOULD BE FORCED TO INTERVENE IN SUPPORT OF THE POLICE,
BUT WOULD NOT USE FORCE AGAINST ORDINARY ZIMBABWEANS,
THE ARTICLE CONTINUES. IF THE MUGABE GOVERNMENT ORDERS
THE MILITARY TO SHOOT, IT WOULD INSTEAD OPT TO TAKE
POWER, THE "GUARDIAN" STORY ALLEGES, AND SOUTH AFRICAN
OFFICIALS BELIEVE THAT SENIOR ZIMBABWEAN MILITARY
OFFICERS ALREADY HAVE MADE PLANS TO DO SO. THE BRITISH
NEWSPAPER CONTINUED THAT, ACCORDING TO SOUTH AFRICAN
INTELLIGENCE, THE COUP LEADER WOULD BE THE COMMANDER OF
THE AIR FORCE, AIR MARSHAL PERENCE SHIRI.



3. (C) HARARE STRINGER FOR THE "GUARDIAN" NEWSPAPER,
ANDREW MELDRUM, TOLD CHARGE ON MAY 30 THAT YOUNG HAD
NONE OTHER THAN THABO MBEKI AS HIS OFF-THE-RECORD
SOURCE. DIANE CORNER, THE BRITISH DEPUTY HIGH
COMMISSIONER IN HARARE, DESCRIBED YOUNG AS A LEADING
POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND, INDEED, ONE OF THE MOST
INFLUENTIAL JOURNALISTS IN BRITAIN. SHE CONTINUED THAT
WHILE FOREIGN AFFAIRS IS NOT YOUNG'S USUAL BEAT, THE
"GUARDIAN" FELT IT HAD TO SEND ONE OF ITS TOP PEOPLE TO
SECURE AN INTERVIEW WITH MBEKI PRIOR TO THE SOUTH
AFRICAN PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO LONDON IN JUNE. WE HAVE
CHECKED OUT THE STORY WITH CONTACTS IN THE ZIMBABWEAN
MILITARY, INTELLIGENCE SERVICES AND IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN

HIGH COMMISSION, BUT HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO CORROBORATE THE
SUBSTANCE OF THE REPORTS. MOREOVER, THE MAY 30 EDITION
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 04 HARARE 01751 01 OF 02 311430Z
OF THE "GUARDIAN" GAVE PROMINENT PLAY TO STRONG DENIALS
FROM SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS THAT THEY HAD
ANY KNOWLEDGE OF A COUP PLOT.



4. (SBU) THE ZIMBABWEAN GOVERNMENT HAS DENIED THIS
SPECULATIVE STORY WITH VIGOR. GOVERNMENT-CONTROLLED
RADIO, TELEVISION AND PRINT MEDIA HAVE DISMISSED THE
ALLEGATIONS WITH CONTEMPT AND QUOTED THE SOUTH AFRICAN
LEADERSHIP AS DISTANCING ITSELF FROM THE STORY. ON MAY
31 THE PRO-GOVERNMENT "HERALD" NEWSPAPER QUOTED THE
INARTICULATE AND NORMALLY RECLUSIVE DEFENSE FORCE
COMMANDER, GENERAL VITALI
S ZVINAVASHE, AS MALADROITLY
DISMISSING THE COUP PLOT REPORTS. "IT IS NOT TRUE," THE
PAPER CITES THE GENERAL AS HAVING SAID, "BECAUSE THAT
TYPE OF THING IS NOT BEING EXPECTED IN THIS COUNTRY. I,
AS THE COMMANDER, WOULD HAVE KNOWN ABOUT THE COUP. IT
IS NOT TRUE." "THE HERALD" ALSO RAN A SCURRILOUS
ARTICLE IN ITS MAY 30 EDITION ALLEGING THAT THE
"GUARDIAN" PIECE WAS ANOTHER STEP IN THE BRITISH PLOT TO
DESTABILIZE AND DISCREDIT PRESIDENT MUGABE'S GOVERNMENT.
WE NOTED WITH SOME SURPRISE THAT THE "HERALD'S" INITIAL

CONFIDENTIAL

CONFIDENTIAL PTQ8893

PAGE 01 HARARE 01751 02 OF 02 311430Z
ACTION AF-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AID-00 ACQ-00 CIAE-00 DODE-00 SRPP-00
DS-00 FBIE-00 VC-00 TEDE-00 INR-00 LAB-01 VCE-00
NSAE-00 PM-00 SSO-00 SS-00 STR-00 USIE-00 PMB-00
DSCC-00 PRM-01 DRL-02 NFAT-00 SAS-00 /004W


--------------------------

F2C324 311430Z /38
O 311412Z MAY 01
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9000
INFO NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY NAIROBI PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 02 OF 02 HARARE 001751

SIPDIS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER

LONDON FOR CHARLES GURNEY

PARIS FOR BISA WILLIAMS

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

PASS USAID FOR AFR/SA - C. PALMA

PASS AF/PD FOR SANDERS

PASS USTR FOR ROSA WHITAKER
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 02 HARARE 01751 02 OF 02 311430Z

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/31/11
TAGS: PINS PGOV MARR PGOV SOCI PHUM PREL ZI
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE COUP PLOT REPORT TOUCHES A RAW NERVE

REACTION TO THE "GUARDIAN" STORY (MAY 30) RELIED SOLELY
UPON SOUTH AFRICAN DENIALS OF THE ALLEGED COUP PLOT.
THE "HERALD" REPORTED NO REACTION FROM THE ZIMBABWEAN
MILITARY UNTIL THE MAY 31 EDITION.



5. (C) COMMENT: THE "GUARDIAN" STORY APPEARED AT A TIME
WHEN SENIOR MEMBERS OF THE ZIMBABWEAN GOVERNMENT ARE
FEELING MORE PARANOID THAN EVER. IN THE SPACE OF ONE
MONTH, TWO CABINET MINISTERS HAVE.PERISHED IN CAR
ACCIDENTS, A POLITICAL ASSASSINATION METHOD THAT HAS
BEEN USED BY ZANU-PF IN THE PAST. MANY ZIMBABWEANS WITH
WHOM WE SPEAK ASSUME THAT THE TWO MINISTERS WERE VICTIMS
OF A HIT. THE MOST COMMON SPECULATION IS THAT 36 YEAR-
OLD YOUTH DEVELOPMENT, GENDER, AND EMPLOYMENT CREATION
MINISTER BORDER GEZI WAS KILLED BY ORDER OF THE RULING
PARTY'S OLD GUARD, WHO BELIEVED HE HAD ACQUIRED TOO MUCH
INFLUENCE TOO QUICKLY. IN RETURN, ACCORDING TO THIS
LINE OF SPECULATION, GEZI'S SUPPORTERS DECIDED TO SEND A
MESSAGE BY PLANNING THE MURDER OF MAHACHI, A LEADING
MEMBER OF THE OLD GUARD. WE HAVE NO EVIDENCE, HOWEVER,
THAT WOULD INDICATE THAT THE DEATHS OF THE TWO MINISTERS
WERE ANYTHING OTHER THAN TRAGIC ROAD ACCIDENTS.



6. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: THE GOVERNMENT'S RABID
RESPONSE TWO DAYS RUNNING TO THE COUP STORY REVEALS ITS
VULNERABILITY AND PERCEPTION THAT IT IS UNDER SIEGE.
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 03 HARARE 01751 02 OF 02 311430Z
THE VEHEMENT DENIALS MIGHT ALSO REFLECT A CONCERN ABOUT
THE LOYALTY OF THE MILITARY'S RANK-AND-FILE. IN
ADDITION, THE MILITARY IS SOMETHING OF AN OFF-LIMITS
TOPIC FOR THE PRESS HERE. IN JANUARY 1999, AFTER THE
INDEPENDENT "THE STANDARD" NEWSPAPER RAN A STORY ABOUT A
COUP PLOT, THE ARMY ABDUCTED THE NEWSPAPER'S EDITOR AND
THE STORY'S WRITER, HOLDING THEM INCOMMUNICADO FOR A
WEEK DURING WHICH TIME SOLDIERS TORTURED THEM. IN MARCH
1999 POLICE ARRESTED THE PUBLISHER AND REPORTER OF "THE
MIRROR," AN OSTENSIBLY INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER, FOR A
STORY IT RAN ON A HEADLESS BODY OF SOLDIER HAVING BEEN
RETURNED FROM THE CONGO. THE BACKLASH FROM THE HARARE
DIPLOMATIC CORPS AND WORLD PRESS FRATERNITY MADE THE
GOVERNMENT HERE LOOK RIDICULOUS AND TAUGHT IT TO TREAD
LIGHTLY WITH THE SCRIBES. RATHER THAN REMAIN IN
SECLUSION AND MOURNING FOR HIS DEAD COMRADE IN ARMS, THE
LATE DEFENSE MINISTER MOVEN MAHACHI, PRESIDENT MUGABE
BARELY BURIED THE MAN BEFORE JETTING OFF TO JAKARTA FOR
THE.G-15 MEETING, AS IF TO SHOW HIS CONTEMPT FOR THE
"GUARDIAN'S" ACCOUNT. WE ALSO TAKE MUGABE'S DEPARTURE
FOR JAKARTA AS A POSITIVE SIGN: THE PRESIDENT'S
CONTINUED ENGAGEMENT WITH THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IS
BETTER NEWS FOR ZIMBABWE THAN HIS WITHDRAWAL INTO A
FRIGHTENED AND PARANOID COCOON HERE IN HARARE. END
COMMENT.

IRVING

CONFIDENTIAL

>