The funeral of a Movement for Democratic Change activist, Gift Tandare, who was killed by the police, had to be postponed because most of the leaders of the party including leader Morgan Tsvangirai were in hospital after being beaten by police.
Also in hospital were party secretary general Tendai Biti and spokesman Nelson Chamisa.
The most seriously injured activist was MP Sekai Holland who underwent surgery as the result of multiple fractures. Deputy secretary for foreign affairs Grace Kwinjeh was beaten over much of her body and her ear was nearly severed while deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma had a badly damaged leg.
National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku was also nursing a broken arm and deep gashes on his head.
The MDC members were receiving legal aid and medical care from Counselling Services Unit.
Viewing cable 07HARARE213, FUNERAL MARCH DELAYED TO LET LEADERS RECOVER,
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000213
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NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2017
SUBJECT: FUNERAL MARCH DELAYED TO LET LEADERS RECOVER,
COUNTRY REMAINS TENSE
REF: REFTEL: HARARE 204 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C) MDC leaders have been forced to postpone the wake and
funerary march for the MDC activist killed by police to allow
Morgan Tsvangirai to participate and resolve logistical
issues. They hope to finalize plans tomorrow. Tsvangirai
remains at Avenues Hospital, where the Ambassador visited him
and other injured activists today; doctors expect to
discharge him tomorrow. Continuing police violence has
sparked spontaneous protests throughout the country. End
Activist’s Funeral Delayed
¶2. (C) MDC sources originally told us the funeral for slain
MDC activist Gift Tandare was scheduled for March 17, but
Tsvangirai’s continued treatment in hospital, efforts to
locate a pathologist to examine the deceased’s body, and
other logistical issues will likely push back this timeline.
These sources told us opposition leaders intend to meet
tomorrow to finalize the schedule.
¶3. (C) The Ambassador and DCM visited Tsvangirai and the
others remaining in hospital March 15 to wish them well.
Pro-Senate MDC leader Arthur Mutambara, who was also visiting
Tsvangirai, told the Ambassador that the MDC factions planned
to hold a joint press conference on March 16. Mutambara
noted that the shared suffering had brought the two factions
closer together and that they were now working together “in
Injured Making Steady Progress
¶4. (SBU) The Ambassador spent five minutes with Tsvangirai
whom he found a bit groggy, but recovering from his injuries
and in good spirits. Tsvangirai said his doctors had decided
to keep him under observation for another 24 hours but
expected to release him tomorrow. The Ambassador also
greeted National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore
Madhuku as he was released from hospital to nurse a broken
arm and deep gashes on his head at home. Madhuku, who was
received by a throng of NCA members, was also in good
spirits. In the afternoon, MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti
and MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa were released, leaving eight
at the hospital recovering.
¶5. (SBU) Representatives from Counseling Services Unit,
which is providing legal and medical care for the MDC
members, told us the most seriously injured activist was
anti-Senate MDC MP Sekai Holland. Hospital officials told us
that the 64-year old underwent surgery as the result of
multiple fractures today and was recovering well. Also in
serious condition were MDC deputy secretary for foreign
affairs Grace Kwinjeh, who was beaten over much of her body
and whose ear was nearly severed, and MDC deputy treasurer
Elton Mangoma, whose leg was badly damaged.
HARARE 00000213 002 OF 003
Urban Centers Flaring Up
¶6. (SBU) The savage treatment of the opposition leaders at
the hands of police has triggered seemingly spontaneous
demonstrations in several cities. On March 12, MDC activists
marched from party headquarters in Mutare to protest the
ill-treatment of their leaders in Harare, according to human
rights lawyer Trust Manda. Manda told us that police
arrested 62 demonstrators who were subsequently granted bail
on March 14.
¶7. (SBU) Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) lawyer
Tafadzwa Mugabe told us that late last night police in
Bulawayo arrested Sam Sipepa Nkomo, the former editor of the
banned Daily News, on suspicion of organizing a march.
According to Mugabe, on March 13, eight opposition
supporters, including MDC MP Amos Chibaya, were arrested in
Gweru for gathering at the MP’s house. He also informed us
that some MDC supporters were arrested in Kwekwe on March 14.
Mugabe noted that details of demonstrations and arrests
throughout the country were sketchy, but he believed protests
taking place outside of Harare were spontaneous as all of the
opposition leadership was either in hospital or attending to
those in hospital.
¶8. (SBU) Further fueling popular discontent, police have
been beating and in some cases arresting small groups of
people gathered together, apparently to forestall possible
demonstrations. Lawyer Manda told us, for example, that 16
people were arrested in Mutare on Monday walking to work with
friends. In Harare, police have entered bars in the
high-density suburbs at night, beat and arbitrarily arrested
patrons, and then closed down the bars.
¶9. (U) Meanwhile, the state-controlled Herald newspaper on
March 15 reported that a police station in Harare and one in
Gweru had been firebombed on the night of March 13. They
portrayed the attacks as evidence of MDC violence and
splashed graphic photos of the alleged victims across the
front page of the Herald.
¶10. (SBU) A British Embassy security officer who was
formerly an officer in the Zimbabwe Republic Police told us
that off duty police officers are now afraid to wear their
uniforms in their neighborhoods for fear of being attacked,
especially at night. He added that the discontent and unease
among his former colleagues, especially the long-term
professionals, was on the rise.
¶11. (C) The decision to postpone for now Tandare’s funeral
may give things a chance to calm down over the coming
weekend. Still, neither side appears ready to back down and
the funeral could still prove a flash point. We plan to
assemble as many diplomats as possible at the event to try to
forestall police violence. The reports of spontaneous
demonstrations around the country are evidence that the
government may be starting to lose control of the situation.
They have neither the manpower nor the resources needed to
suppress all of these demonstrations. The fact that violence
may now be directed at the police themselves is regrettable
but not necessarily surprising. The people are fighting back
and the police are the nearest government representatives at
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