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MDC candidate for Gutu said violence not as bad as reported in the press

The Movement for Democratic Change candidate for Gutu North in the 2004 by-election Casper Musoni told United States embassy officials that the violence in the constituency was not as bad as was being reported in the independent media.

He was reacting to reports by the Standard that “marauding ZANU-PF youths” and war veterans had “laid siege” in Gutu North effectively making it impossible for the MDC to campaign.

Musoni who was contesting former air force chief Josiah Tungamirai of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front denied that ZANU-PF had brought any noticeable number of extra people, war veterans, youth militia members, or illicit voters into the constituency.

He said ZANU-PF supporters had beaten three of his campaign staff who subsequently needed medical attention. He also confirmed that one businessman was beaten allegedly for opposition political affiliation.

Musoni said that notorious war veterans leader Joseph Chinotimba had recently visited his restaurant and torn down campaign posters inside and threatened staff.   Other than these incidents, he said he knew of no other reports of violence or intimidation.

He said that in general he did not feel threatened, and he did not think the pre-election environment was particularly threatening.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 04HARARE122, LESS VIOLENCE – BUT ZANU-PF STILL AHEAD IN RUN-UP

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE122

2004-01-22 11:44

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 000122

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

DS/OP/AF

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2014

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: LESS VIOLENCE – BUT ZANU-PF STILL AHEAD IN RUN-UP

TO IMPORTANT BY-ELECTION

 

REF: A. HARARE 54

 

B. 2003 HARARE 2359

C. 2003 HARARE 1931

 

Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The MDC candidate in an upcoming

by-election reported that the pre-election environment was

less threatening than press reports describe. A Minister

reiterated ZANU-PF’s age-old theme that the West was

responsible for Zimbabwe’s problems at a rally for the ruling

party candidate. If the ZANU-PF candidate won, questions

remain as to whether he has the charisma to unify the party

in the province. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) On January 20, with colleagues from the British,

Swedish and Spanish Embassies, poloff visited Gutu-North,

attended a ZANU-PF rally, and met with candidates for a

February 7 – 8 by-election there. The parliamentary seat in

Gutu-North was left vacant with the September 2003 death of

Vice-President Simon Muzenda (Ref C).

 

Intimidation Less than Newspapers Report

—————————————-

 

3. (C) Although The Standard, an independent weekly,

reported that “marauding” ZANU-PF youths and war veterans had

“laid siege” to Gutu-North, effectively making it impossible

for the MDC to campaign, in a conversation with poloff the

MDC candidate Casper Musoni denied that ZANU-PF had brought

any noticeable number of extra people, war veterans, youth

militia members, or illicit voters into the constituency.

Musoni said that ruling party supporters had beaten three of

his campaign staff, who subsequently needed medical

attention, and he confirmed a Zimbabwe Independent report

that one other businessman was beaten during the past week,

allegedly for opposition political affiliation. Musoni also

confirmed press reports that on January 16 ruling party

supporters in three vehicles had attempted to detain him in

his vehicle. Musoni evaded the vehicles that he said tried

to block him from driving forward, returned to his

restaurant, and called police who escorted him home. Musoni

said that notorious war veteran Joseph Chinotimba had

recently visited Musoni’s restaurant and torn down campaign

posters inside and threatened staff.   Other than these

incidents, he said he knew of no other reports of violence or

intimidation. Musoni said that in general he did not feel

threatened, and he did not think the pre-election environment

was particularly threatening.

 

MDC Candidate Not Optimistic

—————————-

 

4. (C) Musoni reported that he had been engaged in daily

door-to-door campaigning and had not attempted to hold any

large meetings yet. The Standard reported that Musoni had

not been able to hold a single rally in the constituency, but

Musoni said that he only submitted a list of prospective

rallies to police on January 19 and that they had not

responded yet. Musoni said his first rally would be on

January 22 or 23. Musoni said he had already received about

Z$4.5 million (US$1,125) from the MDC national office, and he

expected to receive another allotment of the same amount for

campaign expenses. He said he had 1350 volunteers working on

his campaign, and he was using the money to pay for bus fare

and food for the volunteers to visit far-flung areas and

encourage voters. Musoni said he hoped some in the MDC

leadership would visit soon to give speeches and help his

campaign. He complained that ZANU-PF had all of the

government structures in the area – manpower, vehicles, and

fuel – mobilized for the ruling party campaign, giving

Tungamirai an unfair advantage.

 

Horse Confirmed Dead at ZANU-PF Rally

————————————-

 

5. (C) At the invitation of ZANU-PF candidate Retired Air

Chief Marshal Josiah Tungamirai, poloff attended a ZANU-PF

rally in Nerupiri (just outside Gutu-North). Minister of

Youth, Gender and Employment Creation Elliott Manyika

delivered the main campaign message that sanctions from the

West were responsible for the economic difficulties the

country was experiencing, and that only ZANU-PF could defend

the country against imperialist forces bent on controlling

the land. At one point Manyika pointed to poloff and the

other diplomats in attendance and said in Shona, they are so

interested in the land that they have followed us all the way

here from Harare. Tungamirai passed out sample ballots and

led an extensive clinic on how to mark a ballot for a ZANU-PF

candidate that included a description of good X’s (big bold

ones) in the appropriate box, and bad X’s (small,

non-descript ones). The average age of the approximately 200

rural attendees appeared to be 65, and most sat on the ground

under trees in the area designated for the rally. There were

three uniformed police officers present, two of whom sat

through the entire 3-hour event, while the third stood out on

the road leading into the area.

 

When the Going Gets Rough – Change the Subject

——————————————— –

 

6. (C) After the rally, poloff and the other diplomats met

for an engaging round-table discussion with Tungamirai and

Manyika back at a hotel in Gutu-North. Tungamirai came off

as rather quiet, perhaps a little tired, and not as talkative

as the jovial Manyika. During a discussion about whether

food had ever been distributed at a political rally,

Tungamirai denied that it ever had, and said that that would

imply that without food there would be no reason to have

campaign rallies. When asked to describe his campaign

message, Tungamirai deferred to the Minister, who elaborated

on the sanctions and land issues at length. Whenever the

discussion ranged into territory that Manyika was

uncomfortable with such as freedom of speech, GOZ food

politicization, or GOZ economic policy, he would change the

subject to Iraq, crime in America, or alleged politicization

of donor food aid.

 

7. (C) Tungamirai had scheduled about 25 rallies in the

final three weeks of the campaign. For most he expected

ZANU-PF Ministers or deputy Ministers to visit and deliver

keynote addresses.

 

8. (C) Tungamirai contested the ZANU-PF nomination for the

seat in 2000 but lost to the late Vice President Simon

Muzenda, and Musoni ran (unsuccessfully) against Muzenda in

that year. Tungamirai recently resigned his non-constituency

MP seat to run for the Gutu-North slot. In 2000 Musoni

polled 8,179 votes to Muzenda’s 14,867. In the 2002

Presidential race MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai polled

8,934 to President Mugabe’s 22,524 votes.

 

9. (C) COMMENT: That the remaining independent newspapers

in Zimbabwe exaggerated the level of pre-election violence in

Gutu-North demonstrates the difficulty in getting a clear

picture of this highly polarized political environment.

 

10. (C) Given the previous parliamentary and presidential

election results from Gutu-North, we would expect ZANU-PF to

retain the seat. Albeit, there are factors which favor the

MDC: an environment of lower political tension than previous

by-elections, the MDC national office contribution of more

funds to the campaign than previously reported (Ref A), and

the economy’s continued slide. But factors favorable to

ZANU-PF – the MDC waited until two weeks before the vote to

hold its first rally, it is a rural constituency

(traditionally ZANU-PF strongholds), the ruling party has an

aggressive rally schedule and is demonstrating considerably

more organizational energy and capacity – suggest an MDC win

is unlikely.

 

11. (C) Quiet and politically inexperienced, Tungamirai did

not impress poloff with any outward charisma, and he did not

relate to the electorate assembled for the rally in as

personable a manner as Manyika. But the task of uniting the

divided Karanga factions in the Masvingo province (Ref B)

might call for more back-room negotiating skills – something

we will likely never observe directly – rather than political

glad-handing.

SULLIVAN

(24 VIEWS)

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