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Zimbabwe in Crisis

Speakers: Walter H. Kansteiner, Resident Senior Fellow, The Forum for International Policy, and Tom McDonald, Equity Partner, Baker Hostetler, LLP; Former Assistant of Secretary for African Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Former U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe
Presider: Reed Kramer, Chief Executive Officer, AllAfrica Global Media
April 17, 2009, Washington D.C.
Council on Foreign Relations

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REED KRAMER:  Good afternoon.  Welcome to this session on Zimbabwe at the Council on Foreign Relations.  My first assignment is to ask you -- beg you, in fact -- to turn off your electronic devises.  I'm told, you can't just put them on vibrate because they'll interfere with the sound system.

Second announcement, this session is on the record, so whatever you say can be used however --  

TOM MCDONALD:  In a court of law.  (Chuckles.)

KRAMER:  I'm going to start with a couple of comments about Zimbabwe then introduce our panelists and jump right in.  I think many of you know that Zimbabwe's independence occurred 29 years ago tomorrow and it offered a significant source of hope throughout the region, throughout the continent, but particularly in Southern Africa where apartheid seemed invincible and South Africa's occupation of Namibia appeared to be a long term situation.

As an eyewitness I experienced the sense of excitement and expectation that day in 1980 as Salisbury became Harare, the Union Jack was lowered and Rhodesia transformed into Zimbabwe.  But the country's recent history has seen a reversal of hopes as the regime headed by the former liberation hero Robert Mugabe has become a symbol of African authoritarianism and despair.

In February, almost a year after disputed elections that most people believe were won by the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change, a unity government was formed with the movement's -- Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister but with Mugabe still holding key power centers, including defense and home affairs ministries.  Today, Zimbabwe has a fragile coalition government, a collapsed economy and a ruined infrastructure and a severe cholera epidemic.

In today's session, we will examine Zimbabwe's prospects, the current political impasse and the role that the international community and the United States in particular can and should play now and in the future.  The two distinguished diplomats beside me need no introduction to those of you who follow Africa.  You have bios for both of them, I'm not going to repeat them.    

Let me just say that Walter Kansteiner beside me held the senior Africa policy post, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2001 to 2004, serving under Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W. Bush.  He's currently a senior fellow at the Forum for International Policy and a founding principal at the Scowcroft Group.

Tom McDonald was U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe from 1997 to 2001 under President Clinton and currently is a partner at Baker Hostetler.  

So I'm going to begin by asking each of you to reflect on the current situation and specifically on Zimbabwe's prospects, short term and over a longer frame.  The country's economy has been in freefall with inflation soaring, productivity plummeting, life expectancy now estimated in the mid 30s maybe the lowest in the world.  But Zimbabwe has experienced neither the severity of devastation that armed warfare has brought to countries like Liberia, nor decades of stagnation that have been experienced in places like Guinea.  So my first question is how rapidly do you think Zimbabwe might be able to recover once stability is established and what do you see as a likelihood of a turnaround in Zimbabwe?  Do you want to start Walter?

WALTER KANSTEINER:  Be happy to.  Thank you Reed and thank you for all the hard work you guys do on Africa on line.  It's a great resource for all of us.

KRAMER:  Thank you.

KANSTEINER:  And I share your feelings about Zimbabwe as one of those places with great hope and inspiration, not only 25, 35 years ago but today too in the sense that it is an incredible country that has human resources, that has natural resources, it just unfortunately has terrible management.  And it is when that management in fact is transformed that that potential will come alive again.

I think your question on how long will it take for that country to come alive again is one that the developmentalists, those that are actually looking at how economic development can occur in Zimbabwe and how quickly it can occur is a question that policymakers are starting to really wrestle with now too.  Michelle Gavin who's now at the National Security Council who wrote an interesting piece for the Council on exactly how can you plan for the revival of Zimbabwe and what should we all be doing.  And I think it's a very good piece to kind of look at and to start with.

No matter what, the economy will take some quarters, if it's five quarters or 10 quarters, it will take a -- you know, it'll take some time to actually become really stabilized.  When you have that hyper inflation for so many years and you have the degradation of the work force and the unemployment rate so high, it's just simply going to take a couple years to get it stable.

Now they've already made some interesting decisions, this coalition government, one being essentially removing the Zimbabwe dollar.  The Zimbabwe dollar does not exist as a currency today.  It is all rand and dollar based economy.  Good start, that's actually -- you know, that's actually going to kind of put a floor to it and begin the building of it.  But the short answer is it's going to take quite a few quarters before we really see any kind of revival in the economy.

MCDONALD:  Well let me pose the issue a little bit different than it's been put forward.  First of all, I think the question -- we're getting the cart before the horse a little bit here, ladies and gentlemen in the sense that until the political realities on the ground change, and until we figure out whether this coalition power sharing is real -- and I'm certainly pleased to see people like Tendai Biti as the finance minister that I'm sure we're all happy about who's one of the real heroes of all this -- but until we see whether that's actually going to work or not, I think we're getting ahead of ourselves as to when we talk about development and how many quarters.    

The other point I would make is that yes, while Zimbabwe did not go through this sort of armed conflict, you know, bearing down on civilization there to its destruction as we saw in Liberia and this isn't Sierra Leone with Foday Sankoh and his thugs cutting off limbs and wrists and hands.  This is a pretty evil regime that still exists.  

And you know, I have often described Mugabe as you know very smart and very evil.  And he has fewer cards to play now but he still has some and he's the consummate survivor.  And we are certainly hopeful that the power sharing will become real power sharing, but the farm invasions continue, those that were started when I was ambassador there and we saw the force marching and the chanting overnight and the rapes and the beatings in the Chinoi Banket (ph) Bindura areas north of Harare that interestingly enough were in the center of the liberation struggle in the '60s and '70s.   

And we had Roy Bennett who's a dear friend of many of us in the room actually had a chance to speak to his wife when I was in Johannesburg about six weeks ago and Roy was still in custody.  He's a former MP from Chimanimani out in the east of Zimbabwe, but has always been a thorn in the government's side.  And he came into Harare with assurances that he would be sworn as a deputy agriculture minister under the new government, and he was promptly arrested and thrown in a vehicle that was owned by one general Chawinga who's still head of the military there and one of the architects of the very violent crackdown between, particularly after the first set of elections last year.    

And Chawinga's thugs took Roy out east and put him in jail in Mutare.  And finally after even they threatened to throw the magistrate who was going to put him out on bail, they finally let him out and so while this isn't like some places in Africa where the devastation's overwhelming, the numbers of dead are extraordinary. Mugabe long ago perfected the method of sort of killings and abuse and what I would call onsies twosies that somehow gets under the radar screen and so.

But having said all of that, I would say on the plus side of things, Zimbabwe has a great cache, it is a wonderful country with people that I came to love and respect.  And the Shona and Tobeli (ph) people will come back with a proper government and I will certainly look to people like Tendai Biti as to whether in fact this transition is working.  I know that they did pay civil servants in February with money from South Africa.  I noted today that Botswanans had promised a $70 million I guess line of credit.

But I think we're going to have to be very careful going forward because ladies and gentlemen if I had 10 dollars every time someone told me the end is in sight for the evil rule of Robert Mugabe, my 201K would still be a 401K.  (Laughter.)  And we would be in a much better place than we are now.  And so let us first figure out is the power sharing working.  When will Mugabe actually exit.  And what are people like, you know David Coulthard, the education minister, I have    a lot of respect for and Tendai Biti the finance minister telling us about, you know, is this working or not and then we can figure out how to get the economy in order and how we move forward.

KANSTEINER:  But to stay on your point a minute, Tom, say a little bit more about the process, what do you think it will take to make this transition work?  What will it take to loosen Mugabe's hold and as you pointed out, it's not just President Mugabe, it's General Chawinga and other cronies that have a vested interest in the --

MCDONALD:  Thugs, right.

KANSTEINER:  -- in the current situation and have a lot to lose potentially --

MCDONALD:  Right.

KANSTEINER:  -- in a change over.  So what's going to shirt the balance there?

MCDONALD:  Sure.  Well I would direct our audience -- you know, you could probably find this on the internet over the weekend -- something that's of a great interest.  There was a resolution that was up before the U.N. last July that unfortunately the Chinese and the Russians vetoed but several African countries including Burkina Faso supported but in any event, there is a resolution annex that has like 13 names and it's a real rouges gallery of characters around him most of whom I had extensively dealings with.  And it's a pretty vile group in terms of where they're coming from.   

And so when you talk about Comrade Mugabe going, you're also talking about, what are these people going to do?  What are the Patrick Chinamasa's, the Emerson Mnangagwa's, the Didymus Mutasa's of the world going to do when they don't have the largess or whatever few crumbs are left there to live off of and corruption that came from that?

But these -- these are bad people.  And so the question becomes -- well, there's really two things going on here contemporaneously. On the one hand, you have I think hand-to-hand -- almost literally hand-to-hand combat, as it's been described to me, within some of these ministries where they have joint control. Or even Mugabe -- the other day he announced my old interlocutor Nicholas Goche, who had been the deputy foreign minister, they put him over the telecom area, which is a huge thing with cell phones.  All of us that go to Africa, there are so few fixed landlines, cell phone control is so important. So he yanked away from the MDC minister, gave it to his crony, Goche, who is a former CIO intelligence office, had been in the foreign ministry, did different things.

So we have to figure out -- so there's this struggle going on within these ministries.  How does that sort itself out?  The South Africans, to their credit, came in with some money to pay civil servants.  Coltart, to his credit, got the teachers back on the job. This was a country with the highest literacy rate in Africa.  When I was there it had a model education system.  So there's that level of struggle within these ministries.   

There then is a second set of issues around, you know, what is going to happen to the Defense Ministry and the other organs -- the other apparati/apparatus of the government that controls the police and the military that is still within Mugabe's power?  And is he going to give that up and is Tsvangirai going to -- who, you know, obviously has his own warts, but has been a hero, has been courageous, in my view, stood up to torture against himself.  But is he going to be able to stop the farm invasions; to enforce the SADC court arbitration that found against them to sort things out?  And the jury is out on that.

KRAMER:  Let's look a minute at the role of the international community, and the question of sanctions which are still in force against Zimbabwe.   

What should be done about sanctions?  What should be done about economic and humanitarian assistance, which is clearly thoroughly    needed?  Can the assistance begin to flow without undermining the process?

Do you want to take that first?

KANSTEINER:  And it goes back to Tom's point about you've got to get a feel for where the politics are before you start seeing serious money flowing out.  Now, humanitarian assistance in particularly food aid and HIV/AIDS and that continues to go. And there is, I think, international consensus that that is -- that's the right thing to do.

On serious ministry and budget support, I believe the point that Tom was making is, you know, you give them significant capital to rebuild.  What are your guarantees that that capital is actually going to what you want it to go to?  What are the guarantees that the teachers are going to get this development assistance, rather than going into Mugabe's security apparatus?

And those are the fine-tuning points that I think this administration and all governments around the world are wrestling with now.  You know, how do you guarantee that the money investment that you're making is actually going to what it should?  And number two, I think there should be an overarching notion that whatever that investment is should be given with an effort to diminish whatever power Mugabe has.

And if you kind of approach it that way -- I'll make this investment as a company or as a country or whatever if it diminishes his overall power and has certain guarantees and milestones to know that it's actually being spent in the proper way.

KRAMER:  Does that mean that the money going in now should only be going in through NGOs and those kind of aid groups and not going to the government?

MCDONALD:  Yes.  I mean, I -- yes.  (Inaudible) -- increasingly boxed in, has fewer cards to play, but still has some cards to play and is a very clever -- (inaudible).  So I think -- although I think -- (inaudible) -- and the international community.   

This is an African issue that ultimately the Africans need to be sort out.  (Inaudible) -- them stepping up with some money and some support.  And SADC -- I mean, I think SADC if you know, behind closed doors would say they're fed up with Mugabe and want him out, but I think that any direct aid to the government -- it's premature to do that.   

And you know, the question of getting teachers back in the classroom and getting civil servants -- and in my experience there in the three years I was there -- there were some really quality people -- getting them on the job in a nonpolitical way.  But I think that we need to review and verify that this is working and that you have -- again, this hand-to-hand combat within ministries.  On the other hand, you have the hardliners that are outlined in this U.N. resolution continuing to undermine the MDC; dissidents are still in jail; MDC people are still in jail. They still haven't' sworn in Roy Bennett as the deputy agriculture minister.  And so it's the typical Mugabe what I would kind of call kind of rope-a-dope of, you know, let's run this play and if that doesn't work, we'll run another play.   

I mean, just as an aside, every year I was there they would have an extraordinary congress of the ZANU-PF party. And every year -- and Earl Irving's in the crowd, who was our DCM out there, just an extraordinary job.  (Inaudible) -- oh, the old man is going to go. (Inaudible) -- every year we'd get them in the room and he knew where the bodies were buried.  And he'd come out all happy and still in power.  And here we are some eight years later and more or less we're in the same kind of spot -- even though his window has narrowed.

We're at the beginning of the end of this.  We're not at the end of it -- not in my view by a long shot.  And if they can undermine the MDC, if they can somehow break apart this so-called power sharing, we just have to see before I could say to my friends in the Congress or to U.S. taxpayers that now's the time to start giving direct budget assistance to Zimbabwe.

KRAMER:  And what would you like to see this administration do?  Are there any changes in U.S. policy towards Zimbabwe that you think are needed at this particular point?

MCDONALD:  Well, you know, President Obama's put an excellent team in place with Secretary Clinton and -- (inaudible) -- U.N. I have much admiration for.   

And I think -- here we have an American president -- and I've said this on several occasions.  An American president, a true son of Africa who is now leader -- you know, even with all our economic problems that we'll hopefully get over one of these days -- we are still the leader of the world.   

And he, I think, you know he's got a lot on his plate, but I think Africa's there. And he, you know, along with Odinga in Kenya -- the prime minister -- has spoken out, the Botswanans.  I mean, a number of them who've spoken out, I think, can join hands and work together.

We want to support the elements of reform within this government to get it to a better day, because for anybody in this room who's been to Zimbabwe, it is just a magical place and you know, wonderful people and just deserves a much better government than it has.

KRAMER:  Do you have --  KANSTEINER:  Well, you know, two underlying goals that I know the administration is trying to figure out exactly how you tactically make these happen, but one is transition is still needed in Zimbabwe. And what is it a transition to?  It's a transition to an election.

I mean, at some point there has to be a free and fair election that is actually counted.  And the sooner that happens, the better off that country's going to be.  So kind of one of those broad, overarching goals is let's use all the influence we can to get them to a place to have a proper election that is properly recognized.  I think that's one of their overarching goals.

The other is how do you mitigate this underlying fear of assisting the government of national unity -- financially, politically, every other way -- to see the rug get pulled out from under you and one day wake up and the announcement is made that Mugabe has fired all of the Cabinet ministers from the MDC and opposition and has replaced them with his own people.  In the meantime, your wire transfer just went three months ago through USAID for, you know, a big slug of something.

So you know, push towards elections; mitigate against seeing U.S. taxpayer money be taken by Mugabe.

MCDONALD:  And I think to the credit of those on the ground now, they are starting the process re -- as we've been reading about. There is a body that's been appointed by the parliament to begin to plan for a new constitution -- to write a new constitution that would be -- this was announced here just in the last week or so in Harare.   

And there's some controversy around and those of us who were there in 2000 when the National Constitutional -- NCA was working on a constitution and Zanu-PF -- again Mugabe trying to ram through his stuff lost his first election in February of 2000, which -- he put up a constitution giving him even more powers than he had.  He lost an election, the first one he'd ever lost.  He came on to Zed-BC ashen faced.  I'd never seen a man so sullen looking and -- but he immediately rallied and that started the farm invasions and the beatings and the killings that went on in -- in the spring and summer of 2000.   

But now they have the beginnings.  They've announced that they're going to write a constitution and -- and I would concur with what Walter has just said that that should get an up or down vote.  There's a controversy about whether that's going to be done by parliament -- or civil society, I think, would like it to be done outside and -- and that that should lead to elections I would think no later than, you know, the -- well, it should -- it should be done sometime before the end of 2010 would be my view.  The -- another set of elections so that we have a real legitimate government because, you know, it was clear that Tsvangirai was elected last year in the elections.

KRAMER:  To take a worst case scenario we're talking about Mugabe firing the cabinet.  But what other possibilities are there? Could someone take over from Mugabe and do a similar kind of thing?

MCDONALD:  Oh, there could be a, you know, coup d'etat of some type.  I mean, we -- we would run scenarios when I was there and -- and encouraged, and I think rightly so, or I should say discouraged Morgan from putting thousands and thousands of demonstrators out into the streets.  I mean, if you recall in 2000 that's when Milosevic went down in Belgrade and the pictures were riveting in Harare -- the scenes of taking over the parliament and people -- you know, it really became the people's government in Serbia and -- and that had an impact in Zimbabwe.   

But we had said to them listen, if you -- if you march on State House and Zimbabwe House in large numbers, his, you know, 2,500 paratroopers that protect him that are kept next door they'll come out and shoot and kill their own people.  And so, you know, would -- would one of this group or -- or several of them -- we all know General Mujuru, you know, Joice's husband, known as Rex Mujuru, and whether he and others like Mnangagwa would lead some kind of group, Chawinga, because they -- they don't want to give up the -- the power and the privileges they have, and any of that's possible.    

I did note The New York Times reported recently that they are asking about amnesty and -- and Mutasa, I was surprised to see him even quoted on that question to a reporter in Zimbabwe and -- but, you know, let us hope for a better day for Zimbabwe.  But -- but Mugabe -- I'd almost think a football analogy.  It's, you know, Bill Belichick on the sidelines and, you know, he's got a play book and he's going to run play number four again because he thinks it works and he'll -- he'll run that until he's about ready to go off the cliff and then he'll steer the car toward the middle again.   

I mean, I saw this over and over again and he -- you know, somehow there needs to be a bridge to somewhere else, and to get him out we get the constitution, we get an election Walter's talking about.  But I -- I certainly wouldn't rule out, you know, a less optimum outcome and I -- and I would put nothing, you know, past those individuals that are -- that are under personal sanctions and their families.  I think they're desperate people, and desperate people do desperate things.

KRAMER:  All right.  We're ready to take questions from all of you out there.  I think you know the rules.  Wait for a microphone to speak.  State your -- stand up, state your name and affiliation if you have one, and keep your questions questions and keep them concise please.  All right.  We'll take one right back here.

QUESTIONER:  Bill Lucy with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.  What -- what -- the elections coming up in South Africa, what potential do they hold for a better transition in Zimbabwe?

KANSTEINER:  I think that's a -- that's a great question and -- and one that our policy makers in Washington are -- are clearly already engaged in.  Is Zuma going to take the same approach to Zimbabwe as Thabo Mbeki and I think the answer is probably no.  You know, how big a difference and how will Zuma approach this is still a little bit murky.  Hasn't been elected yet, and so we've got to give it a little space.   

But -- but I would be surprised if the State Department weren't already in serious engagement with the South African -- potential South African foreign policy type leaders about Zimbabwe, and -- and they should be.  I mean, it's -- it is one of the key issues that we had real problems with Thabo Mbeki on and from a purely bilateral relationship between U.S. and South Africa this is a great opportunity to -- to look at this in a new fresh light.  And from a regional point of view South Africa has to be wanting to get this thing behind them, and I think Zuma will approach it that way.  So I think it's actually promising -- good news.

KRAMER:  And part of the ANC coalition, the trade union -- the part specifically has been very critical of Mbeki's approach.  And Zuma, of course, depends a lot on that support so --  MCDONALD:  Let -- let me just add just a quick -- quick addition here -- that when Zuma -- Jacob Zuma was here in Washington and hosted by the Council, which is such a great forum, and -- and to Kay King and everybody congrats on your -- your new facility here -- but when Zuma was here recently he just as an aside -- a very small point but I thought symbolic perhaps of what he would -- a different tact, as Walter is saying.   

He was very unhappy with Mugabe and his government at the -- that at the time they did not give Tsvangirai his passport so that he could go to a SADC negotiating meeting in -- in Swaziland.  And he got up in his wonderful accent and said, you know, how can this be -- how can you expect negotiations to go on in good faith and the leader of the opposition you don't allow him to travel.  So Zuma is a -- is, I think, will be confident, a different person and to -- and to our questioner the labor movement certainly in -- in -- as you know, Tsvangirai came out of the labor movement and -- and they deserve a lot of credit as to that country's evolution.  So --

KRAMER:  I saw a hand back there.

QUESTIONER:  Princeton Lyman, Council on Foreign Relations.  What would it take for moving those people in your list of rogue's gallery to move out of government?  What -- what has to be offered to them?  What -- what's realistic to -- to get them to say okay, we're going to step aside whether there's an election or -- or other basis?  Because they're not going to just walk away.

MCDONALD:  No.  A very good question -- not an easy question to answer, Ambassador Lyman.  These are very, very tough people who have, you know, kind of milked the thing for, you know, decades now. They -- well, I would defer to the -- to the leadership of the MDC and to the Zimbabwean people to decide their fate.  You know, we know -- we know of their bad acts and I would leave it -- leave it in their hands but I -- but I think the question about some kind of soft landing for these people to leave I think probably needs to be on the table.   

But that -- that has to be -- that has to be part of, I think, the discussions by the -- the MDC by -- by the government there, by the people, and I think they need to decide how -- how these people are going to be dealt with and -- and I'm sure within the MDC there's a split as to whether, you know, certain people are dealt with more harshly than others or whether you -- you get them out of the way and -- and move on.   

But -- but clearly, as -- as I know it and -- and from what I was told after the first round of elections, I mean, Mugabe, I think, may have been, you know, relatively close to throwing in the towel and -- and a number of these individuals that are referred to here were the ones to say, no, no, old man, you can't do that.  We're not going to let you do that.  You know, we -- we're in this too with you.  We're    in effect the co-conspirators and, you know, we're -- we're staying put.  We're not going anywhere.  So they have to be addressed before we get to a better place and probably some incentives would need to be offered.  But I -- I would leave those kinds of tough calls to -- to the Zimbabweans themselves and their -- and their, you know, properly elected leaders.

KRAMER:  Want to add?

KANSTEINER:  The -- a great question though, Princeton.  I mean, it -- it is an issue that -- that the Zimbabweans are going to have to -- to grapple with and -- and probably the regional leaders are going to have to -- to weigh in and make some suggestions too. Historically, you know, when we've seen authoritarians leave, be it Charles Taylor in Liberia or whatever, and every -- every one of these situations is different and has its own unique setting but -- but generally when -- when the guy -- the top man goes it does crumble and it -- it usually crumbles pretty quickly.

MCDONALD:  Right.  Right.  I mean, the -- the last thing I'd say there is I think there -- there was some view that when this cholera outbreak came up here in the last year and over 4,000 have died and we can never forget that -- totally needlessly died -- that -- that I think people who hadn't even really focused on how outrageous this had become said, wait a minute.   

This is just beyond the pale.  And who is responsible for this?  So --

There's a book on these people, and it's a matter of public record.

QUESTIONER:  Ivan Tirikian (ph) from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.   

Do you see a situation or a scenario where this begins to have a really big impact on the regional stability, much more so than being inside the borders of Zimbabwe?

MCDONALD:  And in some respects it already has had an impact on the region.  Can we measure it in GNP/per capita terms for the SADC region?  Kind of hard.   

But clearly the demise of a country that was as wealthy as Zimbabwe, as big a food exporter and manufactured good exporter, too, has had a significant economic impact.   

And that's just purely taking out what Zimbabwe used to put into the region.  You add on to that what it's actually costing the South Africans in terms of immigration and refugees --

And that's really what we're almost talking about here is a refugee situation.  There are almost as many Zimbabweans living outside of Zimbabwe than live in Zimbabwe, between those in Botswana, South Africa, and elsewhere.

It has clearly had an impact on the region and will continue until those people feel, in fact, it is safe and worthwhile to go back home.

QUESTIONER:  Hank Cohen of SAIS faculty.  Good to see you, Walt.    

KANSTEINER:  (Off mike) -- Hank.

QUESTIONER:  I think we've been talking a lot about how we can arrange the demise of the -- Mugabe and his apparatus.  Could we do some brainstorming on how to build up Tsvangirai?   

For example, could the U.S. government -- just throwing out some ideas -- invite him on an official visit, negotiate an aid agreement with him and pass all sorts of humanitarian aid through him and let    him, maybe, and his labor union, be in charge of the distribution? Isn't that something to -- be worthwhile following?

MCDONALD:  Yeah, I'm going to take a shot at that first.   

Yeah, I think, Secretary Cohen, I think those are all very good points.  Those of us in the room -- a number of us have worked and supported Morgan over the years.  

The question of can you separate him out from the bad guys and make sure the money is spent properly -- but I think a -- symbolically having him come here under the right circumstances to see the president sounds like something that certainly ought not to be dismissed out of hand and ought to be given some serious thought.  And I can't believe that President Obama and the secretary of State and so forth are not -- and his advisers -- giving those things some thought.

How you would, as a practical matter, get money in that doesn't somehow get polluted with the others is a taller order.  Bu the symbolism of having  the prime minister of Zimbabwe, who we think is a pretty good guy, come here and be met by the president, and that we make certain assurances and pledges to him to help, I think could be quite profound.   

And I think you'd probably want to couple that with outreach. And I know our dear friend Johnny Carson's been designated to be assistant secretary for African affairs, and he'll do a terrific job -- my predecessor in Harare.

But there'd have to be, I think, contemporaneous, on-the-ground consultations so that African leaders, particularly in (Ansatte ?), were really amplifying what Obama and his people were doing.   

But, Mr. Cohen, those are very good points.

KRAMER:  (Agreed. ?)  (Inaudible.)  Take one right here.

QUESTIONER:  My name is -- (off mike) -- and I'm from Zimbabwe.

KRAMER:  Hold the mike up a little closer, please.

QUESTIONER:  My name is -- (inaudible) -- and I'm from Zimbabwe.   

My question is what are you doing as Americans to give pressure to the SADC people, to isolate Mugabe so that he feels he has nobody to lean to, like the way he's doing now?  Because nobody is really speaking with one voice to isolate him.  And that's what I would love to see.

MCDONALD:  Yeah.  We've been talking about SADC, but we haven't talked in detail what role should -- what greater role should SADC play -- and what role can the United States play in encouraging that.  KANSTEINER:  And I think with -- Tom, I think you referred to it a little bit.  Behind closed doors, I think the SADC leaders get together and --

KRAMER:  We should say SADC is the Southern African countries --

MCDONALD:  Development community, right.

KANSTEINER:  My guess is, behind closed doors they all get together, those heads of state and heads of government and look at each other and say, can you believe this guy's still there?  And yet in public, they are -- they're very diplomatic, for a whole host of protocol reasons, historical reasons and others.

I think that the outside world looks to SADC and South Africa in particular to be the lead on fixing this problem.  Mbeki used to often say, African solutions for African problems.  And we, the Western world, kind of said, yeah, that's probably right.   

But to your point, maybe there should be some more direct levers used saying, well, we think that's right.  Now, can you get on with it, kind of thing.

But it's an interesting dynamic that goes on in the region.

MCDONALD:  I agree with all that.  The one thing I would add is that I've noticed in places like Zambia, civil society has come out and spoken out very strongly that Mugabe's got to go.  And particularly this cholera outbreak and all the deaths and -- 80 (thousand) or 90,000 may be ill from it -- really hit a nerve.

And so average Africans are standing up and saying to their leaders, enough is enough.  And in the South Africa context, you recall there was that famous ship floating around the Durbin Harbor -- that the unions, COSATU, the labor movement in South Africa, would not offload -- with arms going to Zimbabwe.

And it quickly turned around and the Chinese I think, to their credit, recognized the embarrassment and that ship was recalled and went -- refueled and went back home.  And the last thing they needed were more AK-47s, RPGs, and enough ammunition to kill half the people in the country or something.  So --

KRAMER:  Now back here.

QUESTIONER:  My name is Yuri Sigov of Business People Magazine.

I want to ask you about the countries that support Mugabe.  There are so many international sanctions imposed by the West, by European Union, by United States, but still there are many countries that support Mugabe and support him militarily and economically.  What kind of countries are these?  And especially I want to ask you about the role of China, because China becomes the major economic supporter and military supporter.

MR. MCDONALD (?):   Do you want to take it?

KANSTEINER:  And I know nothing more about it than what I read in the papers, with everybody else.  But it does seem that China is interested in Zimbabwe for a host of reasons, not the least being their natural resources.

And I don't know any specifics, but my guess is that they are looking very carefully at all sorts of Zimbabwe commodity and commodity-based assets.  It wouldn't surprise me at all.

MCDONALD:  The thing I would add to that is -- you make a good point, although in -- I guess I would echo Walter's comment.  I have no particular inside information here.

But my sense is the Chinese are very astute, and I think they know a loser when they see one, finally.  And I think they are -- there was this whole fanfare in Zimbabwe about looking east, and they had the few Zim Air planes that could actually get off the ground going to Beijing.  Harare to Beijing, via Dubai, and about five passengers.   

And that didn't last very long; nobody seemed to want to buy Mugabe's tickets.

But so I think the Chinese, who are very involved in Africa, I think are trying to distance themselves from Mugabe.  And I think that they feel that this is just a lose-lose.  And so I --  

Now, there was this resolution, so we -- that was vetoed -- so we need to keep all this in perspective.  But I -- well, there are fireside sales going on there now in the minerals area, and I'm sure Chinese interests are involved, as they would be involved in other places commercially.   

But I think, at a political level, I don't think you're going to see too many more state visits for Comrade Mugabe in Beijing.

QUESTIONER:  (Off mike.)

KRAMER:  Wait for the mike.

QUESTIONER:  Tammy Holtman, from AllAfrica.com.  Where do either of you, or both of you, see a new generation of leadership developing?  Is it inside the country, inside the embassy, outside in the diaspora, among NGOs?  Where are the people who are going to be the future leaders of Zimbabwe?  And how much have their prospects been curbed by what they've been going through?

MCDONALD:  Great question.

KANSTEINER:  And I think all of the above that you named.

MCDONALD:  Yeah.

KANSTEINER:  I think it is going to be -- it's going to be people from within ZANU PF that will rise to the occasion and -- and will be embarrassed by what has happened, and will want to serve their country and come round and make it right.  I mean, you know, the Simba Makoni's, and all sorts of different people within the society that are either there, or have fled, too -- a tremendous amount of buyer power, brain power, in Zimbabwe, and it's now living in South Africa.

I mean, you look at key financial institutions in South Africa, in Johannesburg today and, you know, there's always at the very top some very, very smart, hard-working Zimbabweans.  So, would they return to their country?  Absolutely.  I think may of them would.

So I think it's going to come from civil society.  It's going to come from those that stayed.  It's going to come from those that left. And it'll be -- it'll be a great homecoming when it happens.

MCDONALD:  Yeah, no, I'd agree with that fully.  There's a very talented diaspora.  A number of them had been run out of there, starting during the time I was there, because they were a threat and they were concerned about, you know, being potentially prosecuted, you know, trumped-up charges.  There was -- you know, there -- you know, Mugabe and his people are -- the justice ministry are (great ?) for cranking out totally, you know, bogus charges and all sorts of things.  

So people would kind of, you know, run to the airport, get on a plane and then fax their resignation, you know, from a hotel in South Africa saying they were no longer serving in Zimbabwe; they had gone. But they will come back and, you know, these are extremely talented people.

KRAMER:  Over here.  (Inaudible.)

QUESTIONER:  How are you doing?  My name is Travis Atkins (sp).  I'm with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.  Had two quick questions for you guys:  Following on Ambassador Lyman's question, when we speak of men like Mugabe, men like Bashir in a "rogue gallery" kind of way, my question is, what happens in the vacuum after they go?  Because I think that we sometimes don't talk about the fact that the men who are around them or under them are oftentimes much worse than they are.

And the second part of my question is what other interests would the U.S. have in Zimbabwe other than regional stability that may be less obvious for us?

MCDONALD:  Well, you know, that's a very good question.  I think Walter hit on some of it before.  When the thing finally crashes, I think it could crash pretty quickly.  And these people will scurry about, as the, you know, New York Times piece on the front page -- I think it was a week ago today, actually -- spoke about these people wanting amnesty and talking openly about it.  And, you know, they can -- they can see the end coming, perhaps.

And so it may be less of an issue.

And believe me, I'm sure they stash money in various places and are not going to be in -- walking in bread lines anywhere, I wouldn't think.  But they have to be dealt with in some way.   

And I would defer to the people, you know, in -- you know, in Zimbabwe.  And, you know -- but that -- you're absolutely right, you know.  There's the -- there's the bad guy at the helm, Mugabe, but there's certainly this whole cast of characters around him that are -- that, in some regards, are worse.

KANSTEINER:  And just off -- on alternative interests, I -- you know, I think you've really identified it.  It is a -- it's an -- a U.S. foreign policy interest to have a stable Zimbabwe for southern Africa.

QUESTIONER:  (Then mine ?) -- I just have a -- a two-part question.  My name is Lou Evans (sp) with DRS Technologies.  First of all, the question is, it seems to me, if you'll -- if you look at Zimbabwe --

KRAMER:  What kind of technologies?  Excuse me.  I'm sorry.   

QUESTIONER:  It's DRS Technologies.  It's a defense technology company, so.

KRAMER:  Oh, Okay.  Excuse me.  Okay.  Thank you.

QUESTIONER:  The first part of the question is, it seems to me if you look at South -- well, no, excuse me -- if you look at Zimbabwe, at southern Africa, and you look at sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, there's obviously -- I'm stating the obvious when I say there's a history of failed democracy and tyranny, essentially, in quite a lot of these countries.  Not all of them; there's been some success stories, like Botswana and some other ones.  

But it seems to me that part of the problem may be when you look back at the history and the culture of the people, although you have -- although you have a peace-loving people, very often what seems to happen is there isn't the culture of challenging authority, checks and balances.  And it takes time for something like this to develop, obviously.   

What -- first part of the question is, what role do you think -- if you agree with what I'm saying -- what role does the culture of   this part of the world play in a pattern of failed democracies and tyranny?  First part of the question.   

And the second part of the question is, what can the United States do to change this pattern and -- from a strategic level, operational and tactical level?  And then a final part of the question is, how important is our coordination with China in approaching this problem.  And obviously that's quite complex, and what can we do to achieve that success (story ?)?

KRAMER:  You want to take the culture of Africa?

MCDONALD:  Yeah.  Yeah.  The -- I guess I would disagree with the questioner.  

I think the -- I learned a lot about humility, civility, kindness in my tour of duty there; the absolute decency of the people.  And I remember when Simba Makoni came and had breakfast with me one morning. Our cook, Monica, who was a beloved person, passed away.   

I mean just anecdotally, I mean, we had five people working for us in the ambassador's residence.  You know, four of them are now dead because of AIDS and other problems which is, you know, just a symbol of, you know, the deteriorating country.   

But she said to me, that ought to be our president, Mr. Ambassador.  And so I would argue to the contrary of what you're saying.  And in fact, we've had good transitions in Mozambique, several transitions, I think.   

Namibia is a bit of mixed bag.  I have done some things there. And they are probably halfway past the Sam Nujoma period and still have a ways to go.  Botswana is obviously a strong example.  And Zambia, I think, has come along.   

So I think when Mugabe goes, the -- you will see a number of very good options and, in fact, a real liberation of the people.  And so they are sophisticated enough, in my view, to pick better leaders, you know, once this authoritarian tyrant is gone.   

KRAMER:  And Walter, about U.S.-China, you did some work in that area when you were in office.   

KANSTEINER:  And I --

KRAMER:  And do you see this as a place of strategic cooperation?  Part --

KANSTEINER:  You know, I think we should -- I think that it is in our best interests to be talking to and attempting, at least, to figure out what China's motivations are on these issues and then, in fact, attempt to guide and direct and bring them into achieving the foreign policy goals that we want.

I think the China interests in a place like Zimbabwe, as, Tom, you implied, are a moving target.  I think they're kind of realizing this maybe is not going to last very much longer.  And so I think it's a moving target.

On -- just a quick anecdote on the cultural, you know, this notion of Zimbabweans being denied their democratic rights, and yet they -- they want those rights.  I mean, you look at the voter turnout in every election, it's incredible, the lines.  I'll never forget in 2002, when Mugabe stole yet another election, there was -- there was this wonderful photograph of this elderly woman helping her husband, who could not walk, to vote.  And the way they got there was a wheelbarrow.  And she literally was going to take him to exercise his democratic right, even if meant, you know, a wheelbarrow ride for two miles down a bumpy road.  So I think there is a culture very much of we want this; we just need to be -- to have it be just and right.

KRAMER:  It's part of my job to bring this to conclusion at the right time, so -- and also to remind you that this has been on the record.   

We can take one more short question, and a couple of concise answers. I saw a bunch of hands.  All right, we'll go -- second row, there. You've had your hand up a long time.

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  My name is Dennis Schoener, with Catholic Relief Services, one of the operational NGOs that they're a network -- still very active doing food aid and such.

KRAMER:  So you're active in Zimbabwe right now?

QUESTIONER:  Yes.  Assuming the best-case scenario, and the political cloud lifts, what do you see as the set of -- the most effective set of development interventions that could bridge the gap from humanitarian relief towards economic growth and long-term development?

As you probably know, the U.S. actually has quite an active interest and presence in the region, with the MCC being actively engaged in Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho and Zambia -- so curious to see what you would see as the U.S. role.

MCDONALD:  I'd point to microenterprise.  I would say that, besides sort of the big-picture stuff -- you know, there were 60 American companies when I arrived there in '97; there are very few there now.

You know, get them to come back.  Get the Europeans to come back.  But this microenterprise thing particularly for women, I think, could be very powerful.   

KRAMER:  Is there any of that happening now?   

MCDONALD:  Historically there had been.  I mean, the tux shops, the people along the way, you know, loans of as little as $250 U.S. being turned into a business.  I mean, these are remarkable stories.   

KANSTEINER:  When the time is right.   

MCDONALD:  Yeah, when the time is right.   

KANSTEINER:  Agriculture has got to be absolutely at the top. I mean, this is an agriculturally based economy that has gone through all sorts of huge, radical transformations.  And it is a complex political-social-cultural situation.  But at the bottom of it is the economic powerhouse for the country, and that's farming.  And that's got to be wrestled with.   

KRAMER:  How serious is the devastation -- you watched a lot of it take place -- in the farming, in the agricultural sector?   

MCDONALD:  Right.  Well, I mean, it's significant.  It was starting when I was there.  And I mean, I've made some subsequent trips after my tour.  Yeah, I mean, we all wanted land reform.  Some of us, in the room, were involved in it, in '98, and offered money but to do it the right way.   

There was an injustice.  Land had been taken from the black Zimbabweans wrongfully, illegally.  But Mugabe then just gave it to his cronies.  People had no idea how to farm.  And it's been a complete disaster, throwing tens of thousands of people out of work.   

But yes, there are enormous farms that are laying fallow.  But as Walter pointed out, I mean, it's a huge -- I mean, you know, Zimbabwe literally could feed Africa, if the agriculture sector was run properly.   

And you -- you -- you know, you could go to those farms, and the irrigation, the high-tech they were using, and they would -- you know, it would be any -- as good as anything here in the United States, in our heartland.

KRAMER:  Okay.  Well, that's a good note to end on.

Thank you both for your participation.

MCDONALD:  My pleasure.

KRAMER:  Thank you audience.  (Applause.)

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