War veterans leader Joseph Chinotimba who was the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic front candidate in the Highfield by-election accused United States embassy officials of being terrorists and said they had no right to be at the polling station in his constituency.
There were two by-elections in the capital, one in Highfield and the other in Kuwadzana, and ZANU-PF lost both to the Movement for Democratic Change despite widespread violence that was blamed on ZANU-PF.
United States embassy officials said they observed ZANU-PF youths, possibly National Youth Service members in plain clothes, roving around polling stations in the two constituencies on foot and in large flat bed trucks and small pickups.
The youths threatened voters and embassy officials verbally at the entrances to many polling stations.
Viewing cable 03HARARE648, MDC WINS HIGHFIELD AND KUWADZANA
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000648
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2013
SUBJECT: MDC WINS HIGHFIELD AND KUWADZANA
REF: HARARE 636
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) The opposition MDC won by-elections in the Harare
high-density suburbs of Highfield and Kuwadzana by
significant margins, despite an electoral process tilted
heavily in favor of ZANU-PF. The March 29-30 voting process
itself was peaceful and orderly, if at times slow. The
environment in the vicinity of many polling stations,
however, was very tense as roving bands of ZANU-PF youths and
supporters threatened and harassed voters and diplomatic
observers. We would expect the GOZ to claim victory a
Pyrrhic in that it increased the percentage of its urban
support, and to respond with a violent crackdown on MDC
supporters in the two constituencies. End Summary.
¶2. (C) According to state radio, MDC officials and the
Director of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a
coalition of NGOs interested in maintaining the integrity of
elections, the MDC won Highfield with 8,759 votes, against
only 4,844 for ZANU-PF. In Kuwadzana, the MDC received
12,548 votes to ZANU-PF’s 5,002. These numbers represent a
fifty percent increase in votes cast for ZANU-PF in
Highfield, and a eleven percent increase in votes cast for
ZANU-PF in Kuwadzana since the 2000 parliamentary elections.
In contrast, these numbers represent a forty percent decrease
in votes cast for the MDC in Highfield, and a twenty percent
decrease in votes cast for the MDC in Kuwadzana as compared
to the 2000 parliamentary elections. The MDC’s victories
were announced on government-controlled radio broadcasts late
in the day on March 31.
Diplomatic Access to Polling Stations Problematic
¶3. (C) Six Emboffs along with about twenty diplomats from
other Western and African countries observed voting in
by-elections in the Harare high-density suburbs of Kuwadzana
and Highfield March 29-30. Even though interested foreign
missions in Harare had received and were carrying letters
from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicating that
accreditation for diplomats was not necessary, some polling
station officials denied some diplomats access on March 29.
The government-appointed Electoral Supervisory Commission
issued a letter to polling station presiding officers by
March 30 and diplomats then gained full access. Emboffs
observed that voting proceeded peacefully and in good order,
if at times slowly. Emboffs observed lines of 100-350
prospective voters at most of the nineteen polling stations
on March 29, but, consistent with expectations, lines of only
10-20 voters on March 30. The historical pattern in
Zimbabwean elections is that most people vote on the first
day. By the afternoon of March 30 a few polling stations had
logged about 1600 total votes each. Emboffs observed and
party polling agents confirmed less than ten percent of
prospective voters were turned away.
¶4. (C) There were more incidents of violence than is typical
on the voting days, which historically have been peaceful.
According to a representative of the prominent human rights
organization, the Amani Trust, the Avenues Medical Clinic
treated ten people on March 30 for beating wounds reportedly
inflicted by ruling party supporters in Kuwadzana and
Highfield. In one case, ZANU-PF youths beat an MDC member
assigned to bring food to MDC polling agents, who by law
cannot leave their polling stations. The MDC member suffered
a large head wound and bruises over his entire body when
Poloff saw him at the Avenues Medical Clinic on March 30.
According to another MDC member assigned with the victim to
deliver food, ZANU-PF supporters chased the MDC members,
including a Highfield MDC polling agent. They drove to the
Highfield police station seeking protection but police were
unresponsive. Later, the youths blocked the car in which the
MDC members were traveling. Others escaped on foot, but the
youths beat the victim severely.
¶5. (C) On March 29 in Highfield, Emboff observed ZANU-PF
youths beating one man while other ZANU-PF youths were
handing out bread from the back of a flatbed truck.
¶6. (C) ZESN reported that on March 30 ZANU-PF supporters
abducted two of their independent observers from polling
stations in Kuwadzana and beat them severely. Another was
beaten at a polling station in Highfield.
¶7. (C) Emboffs observed ZANU-PF youths, possibly National
Youth Service members in plain clothes, roving around polling
stations in the two constituencies on foot and in large flat
bed trucks and small pickups. These youths threatened voters
and Emboffs verbally at the entrances to many polling
stations, and Emboffs observed large numbers of voters
leaving voting lines without having voted. Riot police were
heavily deployed in both constituencies in large
military-style vehicles, but they did little to control
illegal campaigning by ZANU-PF youths.
¶8. (C) On March 29, at a supermarket shopping plaza near a
Kuwadzana polling station ZANU-PF supporters were drumming
and chanting “don’t vote, go home or we will attack you”
while, ironically, holding a campaign banner for the ZANU-PF
candidate–in clear violation of Zimbabwe’s electoral laws.
The Deputy South African High Commissioner attempted to
reason with the mob, but they surrounded him and shouted at
him to “go back to South Africa.”
¶9. (C) In an encounter on March 29 in Highfield, the ZANU-PF
candidate, Joseph Chinotimba accused Emboffs of being
terrorists and said they had no right to be at the polling
Irregularities and Electoral Law Violations
¶10. (C) On March 29-30 diplomats saw Elliott Manyika,
ZANU-PF’s National Political Commissar and Cabinet Minister,
visiting polling stations throughout both constituencies. On
March 30 he addressed a ZANU-PF rally near the Kuwadzana
District Office polling station –clearly illegal under
Zimbabwean election law and certainly intimidating to MDC
voters standing in line–encouraging support for the ruling
¶11. (C) On March 29 and 30 diplomats saw a police officer in
one case, and ZANU-PF officials in other cases, checking
names off some sort of registry as people approached and
“checked in” at tables set up near polling stations in
Highfield. The registrants were then ferried to nearby
polling stations in pickup trucks to vote. The diplomats
questioned the officials involved and confirmed that they
were members of ZANU-PF. The officials warned the diplomats
to leave. We presume that the registry was for ruling party
voters who had cast ballots for the ZANU-PF candidate or
intended to do so, and would comprise the beneficiary list
for rewards such as scarce mealie meal.
¶12. (C) At one polling station in Highfield on March 29,
Emboffs observed ZANU-PF youths entering and exiting without
the required official identification badges. The MDC polling
agent there reported that they had harassed him and had
broken his vehicle windshield while the polling agent was
inside the polling station.
¶13. (C) ZANU-PF employed its usual tactics of violence and
intimidation and flaunted electoral and other laws willy
nilly in the process. The significant decrease in the number
of votes cast for the MDC, in the face of widespread popular
dissatisfaction with this regime, is a testament to the
effectiveness of the GOZ intimidation machine. Having been
thrashed at the polls, we still expect the GOZ to claim
victories in having increased its share of the votes cast in
both constituencies. And while 200 people spontaneously
celebrated on the street in front of MDC’s headquarters in
downtown Harare when the results were announced on March 31,
we would expect this jovial mood to give way very shortly to
fear in the face of government retribution against MDC
supporters in these two steadfast opposition constituencies.
¶14. (C) Comment continued. Cheating in an urban environment
is more difficult, but how ZANU-PF let these elections slip
away remains unanswered. It is possible / probable that some
phantom ballots were cast for ZANU-PF, but clearly not
enough. Prior to the elections, the MDC claimed voter roll
rigging of 11,000 in Highfield and 8,000 in Kuwadzana, nearly
equal to the total votes the MDC received. ZANU-PF clearly
did not pull out all the stops, and as a result the magic
number of parliamentary seats they must obtain to reach the
absolute two-thirds majority they seek remains at this time,
still tantalizingly out of reach. End Comment.