JUST days after the first batch of confidential US embassy cables on Zimbabwe were published by WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website, claiming MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been working in cahoots with the US to remove President Robert Mugabe from office, Zanu PF naturally jumped at the opportunity to confirm its long-standing allegation that the MDC-T is sponsored by the West.
For Zanu PF, it was a case of “We told you so.”
And the leaks were just the stuff Zanu PF had been dying to get its hands on for a decade. At each and every turn, Mugabe has told supporters and all who cared to listen that Zimbabwe was under siege from the MDC-T and its Western allies bent on effecting regime change until it became nauseating rhetoric.
First to come was the leak on Tsvangirai that claimed former US ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell had said his government and MDC-T worked together to effect regime change.
Just after the disclosures through diplomatic cables to Washington, the state media went all out in a bid to justify its conspiracy-theory. The state broadcaster ran adverts claiming that the truth –– the MDC-T is a foreign-controlled party –– had been exposed.
While the Dell leak was a major ammunition boost for Zanu PF ahead of possible elections in 2011, the game changed a little last week with the cables saying ACR boss Andrew Cranswick told the US envoy that central bank boss Gideon Gono and President Mugabe’s wife, Grace, were involved in illegal diamond dealings. This quickly turned the focus on Zanu PF. Grace Mugabe has since denied involvement in diamond deals, while Cranswick claimed he had not given any of the names published and that he “never met” any US officials.
In another cable sent in February this year, a Zanu PF member identified as Mudarikwa told US ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray the party was like a “stick of TNT” (a high explosive), “susceptible to ignition and disintegration”.
“He likened Zanu PF to a troop of baboons incessantly fighting among themselves but coming together to face external threat,” read Ray’s cable.
“New leadership was essential and would emerge as some of the old timers including (President) Robert Mugabe left the scene,” Mudarikwa said.
“Mudarikwa opined that Vice-President Joice Mujuru or SK Moyo (former ambassador to South Africa and now party chair) were possible candidates in the succession stakes, although Mujuru’s fear of Mugabe was affecting her ability to lead,” read the cable.
But Mudarikwa (Zanu PF’s MP for Uzumba/Pfungwe) denied ever meeting Ray.
“I have never met the ambassador,” Mudarikwa said, claiming there were many Mudarikwas in the party holding various positions.
“Actually I do not know him (Ray),” he said when reached for comment last week by the Independent.
Mudarikwa strangely is the only known senior Zanu PF official with that name. Now, as more cables loom, both Zanu PF and MDC-T officials, who had encounters with foreign embassies, are keeping their fingers crossed for very simple reasons; it will cause a lot of discomfort.
For Zanu PF members, interacting with Western ambassadors is tantamount to treason in a political party that declared the West anathema.
Even party chairman Simon Khaya Moyo is having none of it. Moyo was quoted this week saying the party’s politburo is keen on questioning Mudarikwa over the leak.
For the MDC-T and the smaller MDC, the fear of further confirming Zanu PF’s conspiracy theories to a gullible electorate is also one that is daunting.
But as the cables trickle in, more Zanu PF leaks could expose divisions in the party and give the MDCs a game changer in the WikiLeaks battle.
For instance, last week’s cable claimed Mudarikwa took a view contrary to Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere on indigenisation, a policy viewed as Zanu FF’s next campaign gimmick.
But apart from feeding scoops to newshounds, WikiLeaks has caused further antagonism in the fragile unity government.
The South African-based Institute for Security Studies says revelations by WikiLeaks had the potential to destabilise the country and the region ahead of polls planned for next year.
“For Southern Africa, the WikiLeaks Zimbabwe revelations are most significant, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say they could destabilise Zimbabwe,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran of the ISS.
“I am not saying WikiLeaks did not have the right to make the information public. I am merely exploring the possible ramifications now that this information is out there. We are sitting with a very tense situation, very delicate, where we’ve got a dictator now for the last 25 years here in Africa, absolutely insistent that any opposition to him is being instigated by the West. He now has that on paper, and it is very dangerous.”
Already, Zanu PF central committee member and Tsholotsho legislator Jonathan Moyo and former MDC-M national executive member, who has since joined Zanu PF, Gabriel Chaibva have been calling for the resignation of Tsvangirai accusing the premier of treason but MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa dismissed the duo as “certifiable idiots” saying some of the leaked cables lacked “neither basis nor credibility.”
But the leaks have not only caused uneasiness in political corridors alone. Even business executives have been sucked into the Zimbabwean episode.
African Consolidated Resources CEO Andrew Cranswick was named as a source in one of the wires relating to Gono and Mugabe’s diamond deals. But the source of the diamond information, like Mudarikwa, quickly denied naming anyone in the diamond deals.
Unnamed Zimbabwean businesspeople based outside the country have also been pushing to ease Mugabe out of power, the cables alleged.
This week, more WikiLeaks could be coming but Tsvangirai has also begun to understand how the leaks implicating Zanu PF officials in diamond deals and looting could be a game changer in the “wiki war” judging by media reports. He says Zanu PF, currently holding its conference, should not ignore other disclosures implicating its members while they are threatening to act on the MDC-T.