/ 1 December 2010

Zimbabwe parties dismiss WikiLeaks

Zimbabwean political parties in a fragile coalition government on Tuesday dismissed WikiLeaks revelations that a power sharing deal between them is doomed because of acute differences between rival politicians.

Relations between Zimbabwe and the West have been strained over a decade of political and economic turmoil that have fueled political violence and human rights abuse.

So far, only WikiLeaks cables by United States sabassador Chris Dell, who left Harare in 2007, have included derogatory remarks about Zimbabwe’s political leaders on both sides of the coalition.

Dell was “entitled to his opinions,” the former opposition party of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Tuesday. Mugabe’s party said Dell’s views were “not worth commenting on”.

Dell’s 2007 cable said President Robert Mugabe (86) survived in power since independence in 1980 because he was “more clever and more ruthless” than any of his political rivals.

He described Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader in a fragile two-year coalition with Mugabe, as “a flawed figure, not readily open to advice, indecisive and with questionable judgment in selecting those around him”.

The coalition was formed after violence marred elections in 2008 and Tsvangirai boycotted a presidential runoff poll, citing torture, intimidation and illegal arrests of his supporters.

Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party, said on Tuesday that Dell’s statement on Tsvangirai’s alleged failings was not “the collective opinion of the people of Zimbabwe who will determine the future of this country”.

Rugare Gumbo, a spokesperson for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, told reporters the text of Dell’s cable confirmed Washington’s commitment to what he called “a regime change agenda” to oust Mugabe with Tsvangirai as its token figurehead to replace Mugabe, who has ruled since independence in 1980.

In Dell’s words, Zimbabwe’s former opposition was “far from ideal and with different partners we could have achieved more” to help remove Mugabe, the dominant and fiercely pro-Mugabe state media quoted Dell’s cable as saying on Tuesday.

The current US ambassador, Charles A Ray, said in a statement on Tuesday that lives could be endangered in Zimbabwe and other troubled nations if WikiLeaks identifies human rights and other activists who gave their “candid insights” to US diplomats.

Ray said revealing such identities could lead to “imprisonment, torture, even death” in nations with a record of rights abuse such as Zimbabwe.

“The US government is committed to maintaining the security of our diplomatic communications. We will continue to work to strengthen our partnership with the people of Zimbabwe and make progress on the issues that are important for our two countries. We can’t afford anything less,” Ray said. — Sapa-AP