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Government running scared despite presidential victory

The government was running scared despite its victory in the presidential elections of March and was using all of the means at its disposal to head-off and disrupt any kind of gathering lest it erupt into a demonstration or riot that might spark a larger uprising.

The major crackdown was in Manicaland home of Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Party spokesman Learnmore Jongwe said police had arrested 100 MDC members in Chibunji after MDC supporters allegedly burned down a bottle store belonging to Bernard Makuwe.

Makuwe, the ZANU-PF chairman for Buhera, was named as a defendant in the petrol-bomb murder of Tsvangirai’s driver and another MDC member in April 2000, but had so far refused without consequences to appear in court.

 

Full cable:

 

 

Viewing cable 02HARARE1448, ZIMBABWE GOVERNMENT, RUNNING SCARED, RENEWS

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

02HARARE1448

2002-06-18 14:09

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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 001448

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR CNEARY

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2012

TAGS: PGOV PHUM ASEC ZI MDC ZANU PF

SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE GOVERNMENT, RUNNING SCARED, RENEWS

CRACKDOWN ON MDC

 

Classified By: Political Officer Todd Faulk for reasons 1.5 (b)

and (d)

 

1. (C) Summary: In the last week, the Government of Zimbabwe

(GOZ) has renewed its crackdown on the opposition Movement

for Democratic Change (MDC), which is still considering some

sort of mass action to force the GOZ to rerun the flawed

March presidential election. Police have arrested hundreds

of MDC supporters and activists in Manicaland following an

attempted MDC rally in Mutare, and police beat up and

arrested more than 80 MDC members attempting to hold a public

meeting in Harare on June 16. The Harare detainees,

including an MDC Member of Parliament, have spent a second

night in jail and police denied medical attention to six who

were seriously injured in the beatings. Police also set up

large-scale roadblocks around the capital on June 17 in an

attempt to deter further political gatherings. The GOZ is

running scared, knowing that it is bankrupt of new ideas to

stop the country’s precipitous economic slide, and the

citizenry is increasingly hungry and impatient.

Consequently, the GOZ is increasingly reliant on repression

and the security forces to prevent popular protest from

taking hold. End summary.

 

———————–

Crackdown in Manicaland

———————–

 

2. (C) Over the last several weeks, the opposition MDC has

been exploring ways to mobilize some sort of mass action

against the GOZ, whether it be a limited stay-away or

large-scale demonstrations. Even though the MDC National

Executive decided June 9 that it was not yet ready to

undertake a nationwide mass action, MDC President Morgan

Tsvangirai may nonetheless be testing the waters for a mass

 

SIPDIS

action by gauging the reaction of the GOZ and the public. On

June 12, riot police and ax-wielding ZANU-PF youth occupied

the venue for an MDC rally in Mutare South that Tsvangirai

was due to address, and prevented any gathering from taking

place, according to the June 13 edition of the independent

“Daily News.” Learnmore Jongwe, MDC Secretary for Public

Information and a National Executive member, told poloff June

18 that 100 MDC members were arrested in Chibunji, in

southern Manicaland, after MDC supporters allegedly burned

down a bottle store on June 10 belonging to Bernard Makuwe.

Makuwe, the ZANU-PF chairman for Buhera, was named as a

defendant in the petrol-bomb murder of Tsvangirai’s driver

and another MDC member in April 2000, but has so far refused

without consequences to appear in court. Jongwe also told

poloff that the last 138 of the 170 MDC supporters who were

beaten up and arrested on June 12 in the town of Birchenough

Bridge, were released on bail. They were arrested after

holding a public meeting in the town. These actions followed

a police raid on MDC headquarters in Mutare and the Mutare

offices of two prominent MDC MPs on May 31. The police,

claiming to be looking for plans or weapons to “oust the

government or force a rerun of the presidential election,”

went away with nothing.

 

—————————

Crackdown Extends to Harare

—————————

 

3. (C) On June 16, about 85 MDC members and supporters

attempted to meet in Harare Gardens, the extensive park

across the street from the U.S. Embassy. The police quickly

got wind of their activities, and descended on the gathering.

They told the leaders that the park was not suitable for

such a meeting, ordered them to disperse, and attacked those

gathered with truncheons. According to Jongwe, they

attempted to regroup at the MDC’s Harare provincial

headquarters downtown, but were thwarted there as well.

Police continued to beat people, including MDC MP for

Highfield Munyaradzi Gwisai and a “Daily News” reporter, and

a total of about 80 were taken into custody. Jongwe reported

that when Gwisai’s attorney saw him in jail, Gwisai was

bleeding profusely and may have had a broken rib. A doctor

who examined the detainees the night of June 16 said that six

of them, including Gwisai, required hospitalization, but

police refused to release them, according to the June 18

“Daily News.” The detainees were held a second night June

17, but were due to appear in court on June 18. Alarmed by

the attempted gathering in Harare, police erected large-scale

roadblocks on major thoroughfares leading into central Harare

on the morning of June 17. Unlike with previous roadblocks,

where police would wave most vehicles through, nearly every

vehicle was stopped and nearly every driver questioned, which

led to unprecedented backups and traffic snarls in the

morning rush-hour. Police confirmed to us that preventing

civil protest was the objective of the roadblocks. As of

June 18, roadblocks remained in place, but vehicles were

being stopped less frequently.

 

——————————

Comment: GOZ is Running Scared

——————————

 

4. (C) Given the police’s swift and heavy-handed reaction to

attempted, small-scale gatherings in Manicaland and Harare,

the GOZ is clearly becoming more concerned about some kind of

MDC-sponsored mass action, the National Executive’s earlier

decision notwithstanding. The GOZ is using all of the means

at its disposal to head-off and disrupt any kind of gathering

lest it erupt into a demonstration or riot that might spark a

larger uprising. Mugabe and his backers evidently believed

that after the flawed presidential election, they could go

back to business as usual; instead things have only gotten

worse. They may be starting to realize that the economic

slide, with spiraling inflation, dried-up forex flows, and

growing food shortages, has become so acute that even if

ZANU-PF was willing to reverse its damaging policies now, it

would not be enough to prevent widespread hunger and

continued economic decline. Combined with deep pools of

disillusionment and anger, the hunger could become a

dangerous catalyst for an explosion that the GOZ might have

difficulty controlling. End comment.

 

 

SULLIVAN

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