National Constitutional Assembly head Lovemore Madhuku said Movement for Democratic Change president Morgan Tsvangirai made commitments but did not follow them through but the major problem was that he and his secretary general Welshman Ncube often differed so he did not know what the party was likely to do.
Madhuku had been accused of “going it alone” instead of working with the MDC and other civic groups to be more effective.
He was organising a demonstration at the time and said he had told MDC leaders that the NCA could either participate in planning street level action, or mobilise its membership under an MDC plan – but the MDC had not responded yet to either proposal.
He said the planned demonstration was in part designed to motivate MDC leaders to move ahead with mass action.
Viewing cable 04HARARE778, NCA PLANNING DEMONSTRATION FOR MAY 12 IN DOWNTOWN
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 000778
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: 12/31/2014
SUBJECT: NCA PLANNING DEMONSTRATION FOR MAY 12 IN DOWNTOWN
REF: A. HARARE 752
¶B. 2003 HARARE 2257
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) is
planning a street demonstration in downtown Harare for May
12, but absent participation from other groups its prospects
for success are limited. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) On May 5, NCA Director Dr. Lovemore Madhuku said the
NCA called off a demonstration scheduled for the week before.
The government-friendly Mirror reported that police had
thwarted that “illegal” demonstration. Madhuku said they had
actually assembled on the street but had decided not to wear
t-shirts with protest slogans in the hope of melting into the
crowd and avoiding arrest afterward. The lack of
self-identification resulted in organizers failing to
differentiate on the scene between demonstrators, and
infiltrators; so the march never got going. NCA intended to
return to wearing t-shirts for the planned May 12 event. The
slogan will be, “no new elections without a new constitution”.
¶3. (C) The NCA has organized or participated in several
street demonstrations, or failed protests over the past few
years. Madhuku said they had recently been training a core
group of about 1000 demonstrators to march and motivate
members of the public to join in. Learning from past
mistakes Madhuku said march organizers, who would not wear
protest t-shirts, would carry cash for food and
transportation for the whole group. The organizers in
plainclothes would hopefully avoid arrest and be able to
respond if others were arrested. Madhuku said those arrested
or beaten in the past generally had all their cash and
valuables stolen by police officers before formal processing.
NCA also planned to set up a temporary command center
because police had generally occupied NCA’s main offices
after a demonstration preventing many NCA members from
seeking assistance there. Madhuku said they would arrange
legal representation beforehand, and record license plate
numbers of all police vehicles present before anything
¶4. (C) Madhuku responded to criticism that the NCA had a
reputation for “going it alone” when coordinated
demonstrations with other civic groups and the MDC might be
more effective. He said that since the November 2003
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) failed demonstration
(Ref B), when a who’s who of Harare civic leaders was
arrested, key civic groups and the MDC had met several times
to plan coordinated action (Ref A). In February, MDC, ZCTU,
NCA and the Zimbabwe Liberators’ Platform (ZLP) agreed to go
ahead with mass action in about April. Madhuku said that the
MDC wanted to publicly announce a “common front”, but the
other groups were reluctant to be publicly associated with
the opposition party. Madhuku said he told MDC leaders that
the NCA could either participate in planning street level
action, or mobilize its membership under an MDC plan – but
the MDC had not responded yet to either proposal. The May 12
demonstration, Madhuku said, was in part designed to motivate
MDC leaders to move ahead with mass action. Madhuku
criticized MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai for making
commitments, then not following through. He said
Tsvangirai’s commitments would often differ from Secretary
General Welshman Ncube’s — it was hard to know what the
party would do.
¶5. (C) Madhuku said he thought MDC leaders were uncomfortable
with the prospect that the NCA’s prominence might threaten
the MDC’s should a coordinated demonstration succeed.
Madhuku said the NCA had no interest in becoming a political
party. He said if the MDC failed, with all the promise it
had from winning 57 parliamentary seats in 2000, how could a
smaller organization like the NCA succeed? He said that if
the MDC came to power, NCA would continue as a watchdog group
for constitutional reform. Madhuku said that despite rumors
he was vying for a position in the MDC leadership, he had no
inclination to join the leadership of the opposition. He did
say, however, that if he were offered a cabinet-level
position in an MDC government he might accept it.
¶6. (C) Most observers realize that work stoppages cannot be
sustained for long periods of time and will not oust Mugabe
from power, so civic organizations are considering protest
marches. A small demonstration that did not invite a violent
police crackdown could build confidence for a larger one. A
police crackdown is highly likely, however, and arresting,
beating and detaining NCA leaders and members is likely to
damage confidence in further demonstrations rather than build
it. NCA demonstrations in the past couple years have
generally involved 15 – 200 people and their effectiveness
has been very limited. A large coordinated demonstration has
not really been attempted yet so coordination is a key issue
for the NCA, the MDC, and other civic groups. Although there
has been limited cross-organization participation in previous
civil actions, and supportive press statements, there is
little evidence so far that these key membership groups could
agree enough to pull together large numbers of their people
for a major march. In this repressive environment, failed
demonstrations are more likely to scare people away from
participating in the future, and build confidence within the
security forces for future crackdowns.