in Stories

Coltart asks party to boycott elections

Movement for Democratic Change Shadow Minister for Justice David Coltart said the party would impose conditions on inter-party talks and boycott flawed elections after the government had announced more than a year in advance that the 2005 parliamentary elections would be held March.

He also took donors to task for extending certain assistance to the government and for their indulgence of “quiet diplomacy”.

The United States embassy, however, said that for the MDC the elections were a Hobson’s choice.

The party feared that its participation in a flawed election would confer greater legitimacy on President Robert Mugabe’s party while a boycott would marginalise the MDC in the eyes of its electorate and the international community, particularly within the region.


Full cable:


If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID






2004-02-19 14:00

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000298












E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/20/2009





REF: (A) HARARE 268 (B) HARARE 249 (C) HARARE 199 (D)



Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5(b)(d)


1. SUMMARY: The GOZ’s February 19 announcement that

parliamentary elections would be conducted in March 2004

follows a series of setbacks to prospects that their conduct

would be free and fair. During the past week, the GOZ

withdrew its request for UN involvement in elections;

extended the permissable period of detention without charge

to a month; and continued to prevent The Daily News from

publishing. The ruling party gives no indication that it

will brook a fair election contest next year, leaving the

frustrated opposition contemplating an election boycott.

Instead, the message is that ZANU-PF is prepared to run

elections in its own flawed manner and intensify internal

repression while defying any international reaction this

provokes. END SUMMARY.


March Election Date



2. (C) State radio announced on February 19 that President

Mugabe had stated that parliamentary elections would be held

in March 2005. The constitution requires that elections be

conducted by June 2005. The announcement appeared to squelch

rumors that the government would declare snap elections in

the coming months. Minister for Justice, Parliamentary and

Legal Affairs (and principal inter-party interlocutor)

Patrick Chinamasa announced that voter registration would

begin in May. No mention was made of the timing of

presidential elections, which are scheduled for 2006 but have

been the subject of inter-party talks on talks (refs A and

D), or of any potential electoral reforms.


3. (C) UN officials confirmed to the Embassy press reports

that the GOZ had withdrawn its request for UN assistance in

the parliamentary election’s administration. They indicated

that the GOZ may reconsider but that the visit of a UN

election assessment team scheduled to begin March 3 had been



Due Process Further Curtailed



4. (U) The GOZ on February 13 promulgated by executive fiat

the “Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Amendment of

Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act” (text e-mailed to AF/S),

which permits police to hold individuals for seven days

without charge pending investigation of a crime, and for an

additional 21 days if the state produces prima facie evidence

of a crime. The measure prohibits a court from granting bail

in such instances. The GOZ trumpeted the measure as

necessary for its counter-corruption agenda and, indeed, the

measure has first been employed against a ZANU-PF politburo

member, James Makamba, in connection with alleged illegal

forex dealings.


5. (U) According to initial state media reports and

officially circulated summaries of the new measure, it was to

apply only to “economic” crimes, such as foreign exchange

“externalization” and trading in controlled items such as

grains or minerals. However, the measure’s annexes include a

host of non-economic offenses, including those under the

Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the law that often

serves as a pretext to arrest those criticizing the



6. (U) The MDC and Zimbabwe’s legal community have vocally

condemned the new act in forceful terms. Objections include:


— The measure violates a constitutional provision limiting

detention of an individual without charge to 48 hours.


— It violates separation of powers principles as an

unconstitutional usurpation of legislative authority by the



— It represents an unconstitutional usurping of judicial

prerogative on bail by the executive.


Courts Temporizing



7. (U) We are reporting via septel on the recess of

opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s treason trial and

deferral of decision on the consolidated appeal of issues

relating to operation of The Daily News (TDN). In the

meantime, TDN, the country’s only independent daily, has not

published since the Supreme Court upheld the

constitutionality of the Access to Information and Protection

of Privacy Act (AIPPA) on February 5 (ref E).


MDC to Sit Out?



8. MDC Spokesperson Paul Themba-Nyati reiterated on SW Radio

Africa February 18 that the party was seriously weighing a

boycott of the parliamentary elections if the GOZ did not

undertake meaningful reforms, including the establishment of

an independent electoral commission and significant curbs on

intimidation. MDC Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs David

Coltart circulated to diplomats and civil society

representatives the same day a missive (e-mailed to AF/S) in

which he suggested that the party impose conditions on

inter-party talks and boycott a flawed electoral process. He

also took donors to task for extending certain assistance to

the GOZ and for their indulgence of “quiet diplomacy”.





9. (C) The GOZ’s withdrawal of its solicitation of UN

electoral assistance is just the most recent, though perhaps

most telling, indication that ZANU-PF has no intention of

countenancing a fair election contest or even a South

African-sponsored dialogue leading to presidential and

parliamentary elections in 2005. If ZANU-PF cannot entice

the MDC into a government of national unity (which still

seems unlikely), it will be content to have the opposition

participate in an election it will not be permitted to win.

The ruling party is unlikely to be moved by MDC threats to

boycott the election; it probably calculates on a quiescent

response to a flawed (even uncontested) election from enough

neighbors and developing countries to meet its low threshhold

of desired respectability. We see no evidence that the party

is considering the balancing — even superficially — of a

heavily tilted playing field to mollify its critics, as it

appears to fear the risks of a level field more than it does

any diminution of international assistance. The

non-substantiveness of the recent cabinet shuffle (ref B)

offers little hope of new perspectives in GOZ thinking;

indeed, it reflects a circling of wagons and preparation for

a campaign to crush the opposition electorally.


10. (C) For the MDC leadership, the election is a Hobson’s

choice: it fears that the opposition’s participation in a

flawed process will confer greater legitimacy on Mugabe’s

party while a boycott will simply marginalize themselves in

the eyes of their electorate and many in the international

community, particularly within the region. The detention

measure may significantly complicate prospects for mass

action by the MDC or civil society. In the past, arrested

demonstrators could effectively count on being released

within 48 hours; they must now weigh the costs to job and

family of a month’s detention. The MDC’s growing frustration

is likely to sharpen their appeals for international support.



11. (S/NF) Why did the GOZ implement its controversial new

measure via executive fiat instead of through a parliament it

thoroughly controls? Speed was important; sensitive

reporting indicates that Mugabe personally wanted to engineer

a quick, legal, and onerous sanction to shackle Makamba. In

addition, the ruling party wanted to avoid another brouhaha

like the one instigated by the opposition in parliament over

the recent Land Acquisition Act Amendments (ref C). Finally,

the party leadership may been nervous about the reaction of

its own MPs over the measure: several had been outspokenly

critical of the lengthy police detention without charge of

ZANU-PF MP Philip Chiyangwa (ref F), a practice effectively

legalized by this measure and one that can now be employed

against each of them.


12. (U) The coming months will offer a number of litmus

tests for government intentions toward individual liberties,

democratic processes, and the opposition. The MDC awaits a

response to its various proposals, including key electoral

reforms, in the inter-party talks on talks. The Supreme

Court has deferred a decision on TDN’s consolidated appeals,

which may decide the paper’s fate, until March 3. Nomination

filings for the Zengeza parliamentary by-election, often an

occasion for intimidation of opposition candidates, are

scheduled for February 20, with the by-election set to be

held March 27-28. A by-election for a formerly MDC-held

parliamentary seat in the rural district of Lupane will

follow at a date to be announced.






Don't be shellfish... Please SHAREShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

Write a Comment