Rowland had become personally engaged in the search for a solution to Mozambique’s war as early as 1984 when he used his Gulfstream jet to transport Maputo officials to ‘indirect’ Renamo-government talks in Pretoria. He became more fully involved in 1988 with the encouragement of both the Italian consul in Malawi and John Tembo, Minister without Portfolio and, at that time, heir-apparent to President Banda of Malawi. Both men were in frequent contact with Renamo inside Mozambique."I had a bag full of cash for eventualities.
Demands came at all hours. We needed to be flexible."
- Italian Diplomat, August 1994
By 1989, the search for a peace settlement would take up increasing amounts of Rowland’s time and Lonrho’s resources. In August of that year, after hearing of Kenya’s involvement in the initial round of talks between Mozambican churchmen and Renamo, Rowland got in direct contact with President Moi. Moi subsequently ordered the permanent secretary of the Kenyan Foreign Ministry, Bethuel Abdu Kiplagat, to discuss with Renamo Rowland’s interest in helping to mediate. Rowland also sent his Maputo representative, Alves Gomes, to Lisbon to lobby there for his involvement in the peace process. On 22 September, Rowland himself travelled to Lisbon and met with Portuguese Prime Minister Cavaco Silva for two hours. This meeting took place on the eve of the Prime Minister’s visit to Maputo and was intended to gain support for Rowland’s mediation attempts.
"Money certainly helped make peace"
- ‘Tiny’ Rowland, September 1997
In October, Kiplagat accompanied Rowland to Pretoria. In a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister ‘Pik’ Botha and another ministry official, Rusty Evans, he suggested that, while Renamo could not achieve a military victory, it should still be treated seriously. In December, Rowland arranged for Botha and Evans to fly secretly to Nairobi to meet President Moi. Neither President Moi nor Rowland informed Kiplagat of this meeting, an indication of his weakening position in the peace process. Around this time, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Herman Cohen, also informed President Moi of his support for Rowland’s initiative, though the Americans also continued to pursue their own initiatives for peace in Mozambique.
The December meeting in Nairobi prepared the way for the June 1990 visit of F.W. de Klerk to Kenya during which the new South African president discussed the Mozambique problem with President Moi. De Klerk also secretly met with Dhlakama on 8 June, urging Renamo to be serious in peace talks with Maputo.
That same month, with President Moi’s support, Rowland tried to bring about direct talks between the Mozambican government and Renamo in Blantyre, Malawi. On 9 June, Kiplagat was told to bring Dhlakama to State House, Nairobi on the following day. Once there, Dhlakama and Kiplagat found Rowland waiting for them, together with President Moi. Rowland told Dhlakama that there were delegates in Blantyre who wanted to discuss peace and offered to fly the rebel leader there to consult with them. Dhlakama refused. As a guarantee of safety, and to show there were no conditions attached, Rowland offered to take both Kiplagat and Raul Domingos, Renamo’s Secretary for Foreign Relations, along with Dhlakama. Dhlakama accepted and, with President Moi supporting the initiative, the four of them flew south also accompanied by Mark Too, Moi’s illegitimate son and Lonrho’s Kenya director at the time.
At Blantyre airport, John Tembo was awaiting their arrival. Dhlakama went through a separate channel at the airport and was driven off by Malawian officials. Rowland, Kiplagat and Too were escorted to a government guest-house where they fruitlessly awaited Dhlakama’s arrival for 11 hours, along with three Mozambican and three Zimbabwean ministers. Dhlakama had changed his mind about meeting the delegations, despite Malawian attempts to convince him otherwise. Rowland blamed Kiplagat for Dhlakama’s failure to appear, claiming he had told Dhlakama that the Zimbabweans were planning to assassinate him. This marked a further decline in relations between Rowland and Kiplagat.
At a meeting with Chissano in December 1991, Rowland took advantage of Zimbabwe’s desire to play a greater role in the peace process and obtained the go-ahead to bring Mugabe and Dhlakama together. In the same month, he also held two series of talks with Dhlakama, met with Mugabe in Harare and with ‘Pik’ Botha in Pretoria. In January 1992, President Chissano formally asked President Mugabe to meet Dhlakama to sound out the Renamo leader’s ideas on a possible summit. A Mugabe-Dhlakama meeting finally took place in Blantyre, Malawi, on 9 and 10 January 1992. Like the June 1990 meeting, this almost failed with Dhlakama pulling out of the talks at the last minute. Rowland was told by Renamo official Vicente Ululu, that ‘they had heard that the Zimbabweans will arrest Dhlakama.’ Rowland quickly contacted John Tembo to locate the rebel leader and then accompanied the two to State House for talks with Malawian and Zimbabwean ministers.
Dhlakama was more relaxed following this meeting. He then attended a second hour- long consultation with Presidents Banda and Mugabe, at the end of which agreement was reached on the aim of ending the war and securing the withdrawal of foreign troops from Mozambique. Rowland’s belief that such an encounter might accelerate the pace of the peace process proved correct. He also noted that not all of the senior Zimbabwean officials supported his mediation efforts. It appears that the warning that Dhlakama might be abducted had actually come from a minister in the Zimbabwean delegation.
On 14 May, Rowland flew Dhlakama, Dhlakama’s wife and Renamo’s soon-to-be Secretary-General Vicente Ululu to Britain using Kenyan passports. This was a renewed attempt to bring Dhlakama together with President Mugabe who was in London on a private visit. Although this meeting did not take place because of pressure from Chissano, who feared Mugabe and Dhlakama were getting too close, the rebel leader met with the British assistant under-secretary for Africa, Anthony Goodenough. Restrictions on Dhlakama and other senior Renamo figures entering Britain had been lifted earlier as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had been planning a secret Renamo-Zimbabwe summit in London. In the event, this meeting was superseded by Lonrho’s successful 10 January summit in Blantyre.
The Zambian connection
In December 1990, Rowland flew Dhlakama to Lusaka to meet Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda at the government guest-house. During their first meeting, Kaunda unsuccessfully urged Dhlakama to end the war and settle with Chissano in a face-to-face meeting. At a second consultation, Dhlakama gave Kaunda a list of his pre-conditions for direct talks to transmit to Chissano. Kaunda then agreed to Dhlakama’s request to stop referring to Renamo as ‘bandits’ in his speeches and to ask the state-controlled media to drop the label as a gesture of reconciliation. He then visited Chissano in early January 1991 to discuss the outcome of his talks with Dhlakama. Chissano told Kaunda that no face-to-face meeting could take place between himself and the rebel leader unless it resulted in a guaranteed ceasefire.
During 1991 Kaunda’s attention became increasingly focused on his own electoral campaign for Zambia’s October general elections. Despite his hope to continue his mediation attempts, he was also finding his efforts undermined by Zimbabwe’s determination to play a greater role. Zimbabwe, anxious to see its interests properly represented in the peace process, was increasingly concerned that Zambia and Kenya were developing too much influence in Mozambique at its expense.