United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell brushed off reports about the rift between Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and secretary-general Welshman Ncube nine months before the party split.
Dell was told by Masvingo MDC legislator Silas Mangono that Tsvangirai was on a purge of Members of Parliament whom he thought were backing Ncube in the internal squabbles.
At least four legislators lost in the primaries for the 2005 elections. They complained about Tsvangirai’s heavy handedness and vowed to de-campaign the party which subsequently won 41 seats down from 57.
Welshman Ncube had predicted that the party would win 45 to 55 seats.
Dell said complaints about Tsvangirai’s heavy-handedness and non-transparency were not new.
He said the MDC’s intra-party squabbles did not rise to the level of divisiveness seen in ZANU-PF but with the elections just six weeks off they had come at a particularly inopportune time.
“We doubt the significance of a purported Tsvangirai-Ncube rift, rumours of which have been fanned by the official press for more than a year and are occasionally alluded to by some MDC members,” he concluded.
Viewing cable 05HARARE250, OPPOSITION BESET BY FACTIONALISM
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 02 HARARE 000250
AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2010
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION BESET BY FACTIONALISM
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION BESET BY FACTIONALISM
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: At a February 9 breakfast with the
Ambassador, MDC MP for Masvingo Central Silas Mangono gave an
account of the February 8 intra-party violence and his ouster
as MDC candidate for his current seat in the upcoming
election. According to Mangono, his supporters were
unsuccessfully petitioning to see Party President Morgan
Tsvangirai during a party rally in Masvingo when forces loyal
to Tsvangirai attacked them. Mangono attributed his ouster
to rumors that he supported a faction seeking to replace
Tsvangirai with Secretary-General Ncube – Several other MDC
candidates who lost out in intra-party selection processes
are pursuing internal party appeals and reportedly have
threatened to disrupt the party’s campaign if unsuccessful.
Spurned MP’s Tale
¶2. (C) Mangono told the Ambassador that his supporters had
gathered February 11 at the Masvingo Civic Center to seek an
audience with Tsvangirai, who was conducting party meetings
there. The supporters staged a &mini-demonstration8, with
placards demanding &free and fair elections8 in the wake of
a party candidate selection process that replaced Mangono as
the MDC candidate for his seat with a political rival of his,
Tongai Matutu. Mangono asserted that Tsvangirai refused to
meet them and set his bodyguards on the group while he
slipped out a back entrance. According to Mangono, the
bodyguards wielded logs and threw rocks at the crowd,
resulting in numerous injuries, including a broken arm and
¶3. (C) According to Mangono, the friction stemmed from the
non-transparent and heavy-handed way in which Tsvangirai, who
is also the party’s campaign coordinator for Masvingo,
engineered the selection of Matutu. Mangono alleged that
Tsvangirai convened a meeting of the provincial executive on
January 16 with no announced agenda and with notice to only
one faction. The meeting was effectively a primary that
selected Matutu. Mangono complained about the procedural
irregularities and walked out. He said he then appealed, and
was told that Tsvangirai would look into the matter. The
National Council subsequently took note of the problems and
commissioned an investigation, which had yet to produce any
¶4. (C) Mangono said that the party had overcome the problem
of voter apathy in Masvingo but that this fiasco would cost
the MDC votes in his district in next month’s election. He
said most posts held in the district were loyal to him, as
was the business community and local rank-and-file. On the
Ambassador’s inquiry as to the reason for his purported
exclusion, Mangono asserted that Tsvangirai never told him.
He said he had heard from others in the party that Tsvangirai
believed Mangono was working with a faction to supplant
Tsvangirai with MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube.
Mangono claimed that the source of intra-party tensions was a
continuing power struggle between Tsvangirai and Ncube.
Supports Election Boycott
¶5. (C) Mangono maintained that in spite of popular support
for democracy, Zimbabwe lacked sufficiently rooted democratic
institutions to support an effectively functioning democracy.
He said he had come around to National Constitutional
Assembly President Lovemore Madhuku’s view that democratic
elements should not participate in the political process
until a new constitution was adopted. The former teacher
maintained that each party had powerful people who viewed
themselves as above the law. In closing, he warned that,
despite its democratic roots, the MDC may be prone to the
same kind of anti-democratic behavior characteristic of the
current regime should it ever take power.
Other Candidacies Contested
¶6. (C) The semi-independent Daily Mirror newspaper on
February 15 reported that three other sitting MDC MPs who
lost their seats ) Justin Mutendadzamera (Mabvuku), Dunmore
Makuwaza (Mbare East), Tichaona Munyanyi (Mbare West) ) were
contesting their exclusion and had pledged to “de-campaign”
for the opposition if they were not satisfied. MDC Secretary
for International Affairs Pauline Mpariwa Gwanyanya confirmed
to poloff on February 15 that several sitting MPs were
appealing their losses and that the party would complete the
appeals process by the end of the month. She asserted that
all would receive fair hearings and the party would put the
rancor behind it quickly.
¶7. (C) Complaints within the opposition of Tsvangirai’s
heavy-handedness and non-transparency are not new ) many
analysts, for example, attributed the party’s loss of its
traditional stronghold Zengeza seat in a by-election last
year in part to the party leadership’s overruling local
structures’ preference for a popular local candidate. The
opposition’s intra-party squabbles do not rise to the level
of divisiveness seen in the ruling party of late but, with
the elections just six weeks off, come at a particularly
inopportune time. The party’s twice-postponed national
campaign launch remains uncertain, projecting an air of
disarray. (Note: In contrast, ZANU-PF conducted a
well-organized, once-delayed campaign launch on February 11.
End note.) We doubt the significance of a purported
Tsvangirai-Ncube rift, rumors of which have been fanned by
the official press for more than a year and are occasionally
alluded to by some MDC members.