President Robert Mugabe — still smarting from revelations that members of his inner cabal clandestinely discussed his ouster from power with United States officials in Harare — yesterday came face-to-face with Charles Ray, Washington’s top envoy in Zimbabwe.
The US ambassador said he found President Mugabe to be alert and mentally engaging throughout the hour-long meeting held at Munhumutapa Building.
But President Mugabe and Ray avoided discussion on disclosures that the President’s senior aides and ministers shared with US diplomats sensitive information regarding the veteran leader’s private life, political strategies and political dynamics in Zanu PF.
The majority of those fingered to have secretly met Ray and other senior US diplomats expressed their desire to see President Mugabe (87) vacate his post and pave the way for a younger leader.
President Mugabe is said to be privately seething with anger after the whistleblower website, WikiLeaks, released thousands of American embassy cables exposing his top officials in both Zanu PF and government allegedly stabbing him in the back.
The matter will be the centre of discussion at today’s Zanu PF politburo meeting amid pointers by Didymus Mutasa, a presidential confidant, that those implicated would be punished.
It was widely expected that President Mugabe would seek clarity from the top US diplomat on the explosive cables which the embassy wired to Washington, but were intercepted and leaked by the controversial WikiLeaks website.
But Ray said they had instead focused their discussions on issues to do with the promotion of development programmes and the strengthening of economic ties between Harare and Washington.
“Nothing on Wikileak(s). I leave it to the people to tell him what you want,” Ray wrote on his Facebook page after meeting President Mugabe. “Like I said, it was a pleasant chat. No WikiLeaks, no rants.
“Just finished a pleasant one-hour chat with President Mugabe (and) wished him a good trip to New York, and briefed him on embassy programmes. He was mentally alert and engaging.”
US embassy officials said the engagement was a follow-up to meetings held between Ray and Zanu PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo and Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi last month.
Sharon Hudson-Dean, the US counsellor for public affairs, said: “Ambassador Charles Ray met with President Robert Mugabe at 2:00pm. today (yesterday).
“During the meeting, Ambassador Ray stressed that the United States would like to move the relationship with Zimbabwe forward in a positive manner and to engage in those areas in which cooperation and partnership will benefit the people of Zimbabwe.”
Hudson-Dean said Ray highlighted US support for agricultural livelihood programmes for rural families.
“He also noted that the United States is focusing renewed attention on tourism and trade, two areas with great potential for growth between the two nations and that will also grow the Zimbabwean economy and generate more jobs,” she said.
“The ambassador informed the President about US embassy support for a delegation of Zimbabwean business leaders to attend the Corporate Council on Africa’s US-Africa Business Summit in Washington, DC.”
She said the summit would include a half-day seminar on October 5 on Doing Business in Zimbabwe to highlight trade and business opportunities.
Impeccable sources told NewsDay the President was so worried about his legacy he recently asked the new British envoy to Zimbabwe Deborah Bronnert about Prime Minister David Cameron’s views on Zimbabwe.