Former United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell said Morgan Tsvangirai was the heart and soul of the Movement for Democratic Change and party secretary-general Welshman Ncube knew this.
He said this just before the party split when Ncube argued that the MDC should contest the re-introduced senate elections while Tsvangirai called for a boycott.
Dell said Ncube and his supporters saw the MDC as a political party operating within the confines of the current system.
He was committed to gradual change from within the system, contesting every election and exerting whatever influence the MDC had to moderate government policies.
Tsvangirai, on the other hand, wanted to overthrow the system, a ruthless and corrupt dictatorship.
“More worrisome is that there is increasingly bad blood on both sides as they accuse each other of bribery and impugn each other’s motives. That said, Tsvangirai is the heart and soul of the MDC and without him the party would likely not exist,” Dell said.
“Ncube knows this and also knows that as an ethnic Ndebele he has no prospect of winning power in his own right.”
Though Dell believed that the MDC would find a way to bridge its differences, this never happened and the party split.
Two years later Dell said the United States could not rely on Tsvangirai because he was “not readily open to advice, indecisive and with questionable judgment in selecting those around him”.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1421, TSVANGIRAI ON SENATE ELECTIONS; MDC DIVISIONS
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 001421
DAS T. WOODS
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/18/2015
SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI ON SENATE ELECTIONS; MDC DIVISIONS
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai on October 18 told
the Ambassador that there was division within the MDC over
participation in Senate elections but no split of the party.
The party leadership was effectively divided in half, but the
party,s supporters strongly favored his position in favor of
non-participation. Tsvangirai expected that position to
ultimately prevail and vowed to lead a strong boycott
campaign. The Ambassador noted that this was an opportunity
for the MDC to put months of indecision behind them and take
the offensive by campaigning for an electoral boycott.
Tsvangirai agreed that it was a critical moment in the
party,s history. End Summary.
Deep Divisions Over Senate
¶2. (C) Tsvangirai told the Ambassador that ever since the
formation of the Senate had been announced there had been
division within the MDC about how to respond. Those in favor
of non-participation, including Tsvangirai himself, had
argued that the Senate was part of Mugabe,s agenda and that
participation would only legitimize a powerless institution
designed to solve internal ZANU-PF problems. Moreover, not
only would the institution do nothing to solve the country,s
problems and help its increasingly poor and desperate people,
it would in fact make things worse by siphoning off scarce
resources to elect and support a new bureaucracy. Those in
favor of participation had argued that the MDC should not
concede electoral space to ZANU-PF without a fight and that
the party was and should be committed to contesting
All Hell Breaks Loose
¶3. (C) Tsvangirai said the party had decided to resolve the
impasse by having its provincial party structures sound out
the party faithful on their preferences. The response of the
people was overwhelming opposition to participation, save for
in Bulawayo and Matabeleland. However, not all the
provincial party structures had carried out their
instructions or faithfully reported the results. When the
party,s Executive Council had met last week the vote had
been six province in favor of participation and six against.
Those in favor of participation then forced a vote of the
Executive Council, which by a bare majority (33 to 31) had
voted in favor of participation.
¶4. (C) Tsvangirai said at that point he had intervened and
made a statement that the party,s leadership was closely
divided but that the people were opposed to participation and
that therefore his decision was that the party would not
participate. At that moment &all hell broke loose,8 and
his opponents subsequently accused him of anti-democratic
behavior and of ignoring the will of the majority. In fact,
they were the ones who had behaved anti-democratically by
ignoring the sentiment of the people out of their desire to
be elected and enjoy the perks of being Senators. Moreover,
he had heard reports that several Council members had been
bribed to vote in favor of participation, and he suspected
the CIO was responsible, both because the government wanted
MDC participation and wanted to sow confusion within the
¶5. (C) Tsvangirai said both sides had argued with great
passion but that while the party was clearly divided it was
not splitting. Both sides were committed to staying together
despite the strong feelings. More worrisome was the
perception that the party was divided along ethnic lines.
This was a false impression. The issue was a national one
not regional or ethnic, but that perception could do the
party great damage. To that end his plan was to reconvene
the Executive Council next week t agree on a way forward )
not to revisit participation ) but to discuss a boycott and
other protest measures.
¶6. (C) The Ambassador responded that his impression was also
that most MDC supporters supported non-participation and that
Tsvangirai,s position was therefore the more democratic.
With that in mind, this crisis represented an opportunity for
Tsvangirai to reassert his leadership of the people both in
the party and in the country. It also represented an
opportunity to turn the tables on Mugabe and ZANU-PF, which
had put the MDC on the defensive over the past six months
through their efforts to divide the party. A successful
boycott of the election would undermine the Senate,s
legitimacy, demonstrate the ruling party,s unpopularity, and
prove that Tsvangirai was in closer touch with the people of
Zimbabwe than either his MDC rivals or his ZANU-PF opponents.
This approach was not without risk. There was a chance that
a portion of the MDC might choose to break away but it could
still prove to be the right way to reenergize opposition to
the Mugabe regime. Tsvangirai agreed, noting that the party
had already begun to recapture the fighting spirit of 1999 in
anticipation of a boycott campaign.
¶7. (C) The MDC is clearly at a crossroads. The Senate
elections have helped expose the fundamental disagreement
between Tsvangirai and his supporters, who see the MDC as a
revolutionary movement and Secretary General Welshman Ncube
and his supporters, who see it as a political party operating
within the confines of the current system. Ncube is
committed to gradual change from within the system,
contesting every election and exerting whatever influence the
MDC has to moderate government policies. Tsvangirai wants to
overthrow the system a ruthless and corrupt dictatorship.
¶8. (C) More worrisome is that there is increasingly bad blood
on both sides as they accuse each other of bribery and impugn
each other,s motives. That said, Tsvangirai is the heart
and soul of the MDC and without him the party would likely
not exist. Ncube knows this and also knows that as an ethnic
Ndebele he has no prospect of winning power in his own right.
We believe the MDC will find a way to bridge its differences
and we believe that successful boycott of the Senate
elections would be the right way to do so. A low turnout
would put the government on the defensive and would be far
easier for the MDC and the international community to monitor