National Constitutional Assembly President Lovemore Madhuku told United States embassy officials that it was increasingly becoming difficult to organise protest marches because about 80 percent of those “in the front row” of the NCA marches in the run up to the constitutional conference in 2000 had left the country.
“Those remaining were demoralized and recruiting new energy was a challenge,” he said.
The NCA inflicted the first defeat for the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front when people rejected the proposed national constitution.
Madhuku was speaking about organising protest marches after successful prayer meetings by churches.
At one of the prayer meetings Archbishop Pius Ncube castigated as “liars” those who pretended Zimbabwe’s situation was “normal”.
Viewing cable 04HARARE539, PRAYER DAY GOES SMOOTHLY; NCA MARCH PLANNED NEXT
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
291347Z Mar 04
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000539
AF/S FOR S. DELISI, L. AROIAN, M. RAYNOR
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/27/2009
SUBJECT: PRAYER DAY GOES SMOOTHLY; NCA MARCH PLANNED NEXT
REF: HARARE 495
Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5 b/d
¶1. (U) Public prayer events (reftel) addressing a host of
political and economic issues were conducted relatively
smoothly on March 27 in Harare and Bulawayo. At Bulawayo’s
Catholic Cathedral, a host of clerics, including Archbishop
Pius Ncube, a few South Africans, a Zambian, and a number of
Zimbabweans spoke to a crowd of 3-400 (including poloff)
about the need for national reconciliation. Speakers
generally projected a moderate tone, with South Africans
emphasizing the solidarity of their congregations with
suffering Zimbabweans. A Zimbabwean urged all Zimbabwean
congregations to set aside a time during the work week on a
regular basis to pray for resolution of the national crisis.
Ncube’s intervention was the most provocative of the group;
the speaker who introduced him quoted from the American
Declaration of Independence on the need to throw off the
shackles of tyranny and Ncube castigated as “liars” those who
pretended Zimbabwe’s situation was “normal.” The Harare
gathering of about 500, which was dominated by evangelical
church groups, was similarly measured in its tenor. Speakers
included one Zambian and one Botswanan, the latter of whom
quoted from Martin Luther King on the imminence of
¶2. (C) National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) President
Lovemore Madhuku told poloff March 27 that the NCA was
planning its next public march the weekend of April 17-18.
He advised that a centralized single march that weekend would
be followed up the following week with a host of dispersed
marches in an effort to raise the profile of public ire and
to challenge an increasingly complacent regime. He
acknowledged that intimidation, apathy and emigration were
severely handicapping the organization’s ability to turn
people out. Illustrating emigration’s devastating effect on
Zimbabwean civil society, he noted that about 80 percent of
those “in the front row” of NCA marches in the run-up to the
constitutional referendum of 2000 had left the country.
Those remaining were demoralized, and recruiting new energy
was a challenge. He noted the chilling effect posed to mass
action of new laws permitting a month’s detention without
bail. He asserted, however, that GOZ detention of a large
number of demonstrators for more than a couple of days would
pose logistical and morale challenges for an unenthusiastic
police force and a public relations problem for the
¶3. (C) COMMENT: The prayer events represented the largest
unobstructed gatherings of regime critics in recent memory.
In February 2003, several clerics were arrested and some
beaten when they demonstrated publicly against the GOZ. GOZ
indulgence of these events now may reflect a calculation that
civil society will have difficulty developing meaningful
momentum. Indeed, the prayer events, which were planned for
months, could have been better engineered. The churches’
extensive network and an advertisement in a weekly newspaper
did not result in wide public knowledge of plans; in the week
before they were held, other diplomats and even the mayor of
Bulawayo — certainly most of the public — were unaware of
their existence. Should the churches (or any other
organization) show capacity to sustain a perceptible level of
publicly displayed criticism, we would expect the GOZ to act
more forcibly against them. It likely will show less
restraint if the NCA proceeds with its planned marches next
¶4. (C) COMMENT (CONT’D): Absorbed by election preparations
and internal organizational issues, the opposition MDC has
maintained a relatively low profile on the streets amidst
these periodic low level public demonstrations by civil
society. The party leadership nonetheless continues to
communicate and to coordinate with churches, the NCA,
organized labor and other regime critics, all of whom
coordinate loosely among themselves. The looseness of these
relationships allows the players to finesse differences among
themselves. In addition, the relative independence of each’s
anti-regime activities avoids putting all their eggs into one
basket, reducing the risk to each and permitting each to wait
for the approach of another to gain purchase with the public
before all join in.