Econet boss Strive Masiyiwa predicted victory for Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change and funded an anti-rigging plan which he hoped would generate enough pressure on Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front’s Robert Mugabe to accept defeat.
Masiyiwa disclosed his plans to United States embassy officials in Pretoria on 19 March, 10 days before the crucial parliamentary and presidential elections, according to a cable just released by Wikileaks.
He said the information had to be strictly protected because he was not sharing it with any other government.
The exiled Zimbabwean businessman said he was funding campaign materials for the MDC which were being printed in South Africa and smuggled into Zimbabwe.
He had also created a hotline to report rigging with financial rewards for those who reported verifiable cheating.
Masiyiwa had also created a parallel vote counting centre in Johannesburg that would report the results publicly as soon as they were available.
Once the results were announced at each polling place, MDC agents were to text messages or call in the results to a Zimbabwe cell phone number.
The call would be secretly rerouted to a computer centre in Johannesburg, where Masiyiwa had compiled a team of technical experts to enter the results into a database.
The centre would then post the results on an Internet site as they come in, essentially pre-empting the Zimbabwe Election Commission results and any ill intention of Mugabe to falsely claim victory.
Masiyiwa hoped that the quick public announcement on his Internet site — before the ZEC had time to consult with Mugabe — would generate intense public pressure on Mugabe to accept defeat.
The parallel results could also be used by the United States government and others to encourage South African President Thabo Mbeki, African Union Chairman Jakaya Kikwete, and others to intervene with Mugabe.
Viewing cable 08PRETORIA604, S/NF) MASIYIWA PREDICTS MDC VICTORY IN ZIMBABWE
RR RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #0604/01 0801450
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 201450Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3903
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 5437
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 9667
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 PRETORIA 000604
DEPT FOR AF/S S. HILL
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/19/2018
SUBJECT: (S/NF) MASIYIWA PREDICTS MDC VICTORY IN ZIMBABWE
POLL; FUNDS ANTI-RIGGING PLAN
REF: A. PRETORIA 0419
¶B. 05 PRETORIA 01253
PRETORIA 00000604 001.2 OF 003
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Donald Teitelbaum. Reasons 1.4(
b) and (d).
¶1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai will win the
March 29 election, predicted respected Zimbabwean businessman
Strive Masiyiwa (strictly protect). The only question is the
extent of ZANU-PF rigging and whether this might force a
second round presidential poll. Masiyiwa downplayed the
impact of Simba Makoni’s candidacy, arguing that Makoni has
made significant blunders and lacks public support from key
ZANU-PF leaders. Tsvangirai will never accept a secondary
role to Makoni. Masiyiwa is quietly floating a proposal in
which Makoni would endorse Tsvangirai in return for Makoni’s
appointment as Prime Minister — although he was not
optimistic the deal would happen. Masiyiwa is funding a
sophisticated “anti-rigging” initiative in cooperation with
the MDC (1) that seeks to discourage rigging at the local
level and (2) that will tabulate results from local MDC
electoral agents at a center in Johannesburg and post these
results on an Internet site. Masiyiwa hopes the public
announcement of parallel results through will generate
pressure on Mugabe to accept defeat. END SUMMARY.
Tsvangirai Has Support to Win
¶2. (C) In a March 19 meeting with visiting Staffdel Marsh,
PolCounselor and PolOff (notetaker), exiled Zimbabwean
businessman Strive Masiyiwa claimed that Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has the
votes to win in the March 29 Zimbabwe elections. Tsvangirai
is drawing huge and enthusiastic crowds, including in deep
rural areas that were thought to be Mugabe strongholds. In
any “normal” election, Tsvangirai would win in the first
round with more than 50 percent of the vote, although in
Zimbabwe it’s possible there will be a run-off between
President Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai-Makoni Alliance Unlikely
¶3. (C) Masiyiwa downplayed the impact of Simba Makoni’s
candidacy, stating categorically that Makoni will come in
third in the presidential poll. Makoni has made significant
blunders in his campaign, including scheduling
(poorly-attended) rallies in Harare and Bulawayo the same
weekend. The support of ZANU-PF strongman Solomon Mujuru —
and even the Zimbabwean military — means little unless they
come out publicly. That said, the “Makoni phenomena” is
“extremely valuable,” Masiyiwa said. It has exposed
divisions in ZANU-PF and served as a “foil” for Tsvangirai,
who has been able to campaign relatively freely with Mugabe
focused on Makoni.
¶4. (C) On prospects for a Tsvangirai-Makoni alliance,
Masiyiwa was not optimistic. Buoyed by the large turnout at
his rallies, Tsvangirai will never accept a secondary role to
Makoni. Masiyiwa has been quietly floating the idea of
Makoni endorsing Tsvangirai in the next few days. In return,
Tsvangirai would promise to make Makoni prime minister, and
offer Makoni’s camp at least seven cabinet ministers (out of
21 total), more if they win more than 50 parliamentary seats.
The person that Masiyiwa had identified to take the “deal”
to Makoni backed down the night of March 18, so Masiyiwa was
looking for another emissary. (NOTE: Masiyiwa discussed the
Qlooking for another emissary. (NOTE: Masiyiwa discussed the
prime minister idea, which draws on the Kenya model, with
former UNSG Kofi Annan, whom he recently met in Kampala. END
¶5. (S/NF) Working with the MDC, Masiyiwa has developed a
sophisticated, two-part plan to prevent Mugabe from rigging
the election, or at least reduce the extent of rigging.
(NOTE: Masiyiwa asked Staffdel to strictly protect this
information, stating that he was only sharing this
PRETORIA 00000604 002.2 OF 003
information with the USG, not/not other governments, and had
planned to do so only next week. Any public disclosure would
doom the initiative, Masiyiwa stressed. In addition to the
anti-rigging effort, Masiyiwa is funding campaign materials
for the MDC, which are being printed in South Africa and
smuggled into Zimbabwe. END NOTE.)
— First, the Masiyiwa/MDC team is reaching out to
local-level GOZ election officials across the country with
cards and other materials to urge them not to rig the
election, pointing out that rigging is a criminal offense.
He has created a hotline to report rigging, with financial
rewards for those who report verifiable cheating. While
Masiyiwa recognizes the limitation of this effort, he
believes many local officials will be sympathetic to this
message; he also notes that even a small reduction in rigging
is potentially useful.
— Second, Masiyiwa has created a parallel vote count center,
based in Johannesburg, that will report the results publicly
as soon as they are available, independent of and in advance
of, any Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announcements.
The plan works like this: Once the results are announced at
each polling place, the MDC agents will text message or call
in the results to a Zimbabwe cell phone number. (Masiyiwa
and the MDC are ensuring that all their agents have access to
cell phones or even satellite phones as necessary, in the
event that the local network is interrupted.) The call will
be secretly rerouted to a computer center in Johannesburg,
where Masiyiwa has compiled a team of technical experts to
enter the results into a database. MDC observers will also
count the number of people who enter each local polling
station and will compare this number with the local precinct
vote count, highlighting discrepancies. The center will then
post the results on an Internet site as they come in,
essentially preempting the Zimbabwe Election Commission
results and any ill intention of Mugabe to falsely claim
victory. Masiyiwa’s team will send the Internet link to
diplomats and journalists once the results are tabulated.
¶6. (S/NF) Masiyiwa hopes that the quick public announcement
on his Internet site — before the ZEC has time to consult
with Mugabe — will generate intense public pressure on
Mugabe to accept defeat. The parallel results could be used
by the USG and others to encourage South African President
Mbeki, AU Chairman Kikwete, and others to intervene with
¶7. (S/NF) Masiyiwa’s anti-rigging initiative strikes us as
innovative and carefully planned. It plays to Masiyiwa’s
strength as an engineer and problem-solver. His technical
expertise and ownership of Zimbabwe’s Econet cellular phone
company, with coverage throughout the country, places him in
a unique position to pull this off. However, we note that
the initiative depends on the ability of MDC agents, many of
whom are not well trained, to accurately and quickly send
electoral results to Masiywa’s call center. It is possible
that GOZ intelligence officials will catch wind of the plan,
and corrupt the data being fed to Johannesburg. Even if the
results are compiled accurately and Tsvangirai’s victory
publicly announced, Mugabe may simply dismiss them as
“Western” manipulation. We also doubt that Mbeki would use
Q”Western” manipulation. We also doubt that Mbeki would use
the results to pressure Mugabe to step down. South Africa’s
core interest in Zimbabwe has always been stability, not
democracy, and we believe Mbeki will intervene only if he
feels it is necessary to prevent violent upheaval.
¶8. (C) On Masiyiwa’s political analysis, we defer to Embassy
Harare, but note that Masiyiwa is an ardent MDC supporter and
perpetual optimist. He predicted an MDC victory in the
parliamentary elections in 2005 (ref B), when ZANU-PF won 78
of 120 elected seats. Masiyiwa appears to be motivated by a
genuine and strong sense of nationalism and frustration with
the deterioration of Zimbabwean political, economic, and
social life. He is clearly investing significant personal
resources in this endeavor, joking that it is “costing as
much as the invasion of Iraq.” Masiyiwa also said that if
all goes well in the next few weeks, he will finally be able
to go home.
PRETORIA 00000604 003.2 OF 003
¶9. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Harare.
Staffdel Marsh did not/not have an opportunity to clear this
message before departing Johannesburg.