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MDC candidates face citizenship queries

The Movement for Democratic Change, whose Shadow Minister for Justice David Coltart had said would win only 25 seats, managed to register candidates in all 120 parliamentary constituencies in 2005.

Some candidates, however, had difficulties proving their Zimbabwean citizenship or renouncing any other citizenship.

Coltart faced some problems because his mother was born in South Africa.

Roy Bennett was barred from registering because he had been convicted by Parliament yet the law restricted convictions to criminal courts. His wife stood in as the candidate.

Zacharia Rioga was disallowed because his parents were of Malawian origin.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 05HARARE318, PRE-ELECTION ENVIRONMENT POSITIVE BUT MIXED

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

05HARARE318

2005-02-25 13:32

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 04 HARARE 000318

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR BNEULING

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE, D. TEITELBAUM

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR ZI MDC ZANU PF

SUBJECT: PRE-ELECTION ENVIRONMENT POSITIVE BUT MIXED

 

REF: (A) HARARE 83 (B) 04 HARARE 1787

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The election campaign period for the

parliamentary elections scheduled for March 31 is in full

swing with the peaceful launches of the ZANU-PF and MDC

campaigns. The environment is notably less violent than in

past elections, although the opposition continues to

experience sporadic obstacles. The MDC’s rallies are

frequent, numerous, and span the nation, although some

party meetings have been disrupted or have resulted in the

temporary detention of participants.   Nomination courts,

where candidates filed their applications, were held

without major incident on February 18 in each of the

provinces, with the MDC successfully registering candidates

for all 120 constituencies. Jonathan Moyo’s registration

as an independent candidate resulted in the loss of his

ZANU-PF membership and cabinet position. The Ministry of

Foreign Affairs announced a list of countries invited to

apply for accreditation as electoral observers; most

European countries and the United States were excluded but

will be permitted to send diplomats to observe.   The

Government issued regulations for access to state media by

all parties but continues to harass correspondents of

foreign media and to constrain the independent press. END

SUMMARY.

 

ZANU-PF, MDC Launches Peaceful

——————————————–

 

2. (U) ZANU-PF’s campaign launch February 11 in Harare

reportedly was well-organized and well-attended. President

Mugabe’s speech drew on familiar rhetoric, casting the

campaign as the “anti-Blair” campaign. Mugabe criticized

Secretary Rice’s “outpost of tyranny” remark, accusing

 

SIPDIS

Britain and the US of not respecting human rights in Iraq.

He reiterated economic themes as well, including the

party’s intention to return to more of a command economy

and scaling back privatization initiatives associated with

“bookish” western approaches. In keeping with recent

trends, he did not attack opposition Morgan Tsvangirai

personally and reiterated his party’s commitment to

democracy and human rights.

 

3. (C) The MDC launched its election campaign in Masvingo,

a key election battleground, on February 20 with no

disruptions. Observers estimated that as many as 5,000

people attended, including MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai,

the MDC’s 120 candidates, other MDC officials, civil

society, and citizens. A USAID local staff member who

attended reported that the atmosphere was festive.

Diplomats from other missions who attended the event

reported that police presence was limited to about 20

officers positioned at the far (empty) end of the stadium

where the event was held, armed with teargas canisters but

no other riot gear. MDC campaign posters were visible all

over town the day before and the day of the launch. Poloff

observed many people in and near town making the open palm

sign of the MDC. A Swedish diplomat reported encountering

ZANU-PF youth supporters at a nearby tourist site the day

before the launch and said they were friendly and

interested in the diplomat’s presence. There were no

reports of ZANU-PF youth congregating near the launch or

disrupting any activities.

 

4. (SBU) Journalists from both local and international

print and broadcast media were present at the launch, and

there were no reports of police harassment. The launch did

not receive live broadcast coverage on the state-run

television station, unlike the ZANU-PF campaign launch on

February 11, but the state-run radio and television

reported on the launch in their news programs and showed

five minutes of Tsvangirai’s speech.

 

5. (U) On February 17, the day before the nomination courts

were convened, police broke up an MDC meeting in Harare.

According to news accounts, police arrived, demanded to sit

through the meeting, then declared it was illegal under the

Public Order and Security Act and detained MDC elections

director and businessman Ian Makone. Makone was released

that night.

 

Attacks Result in Arrest of ZANU-PF Supporters but not

Soldiers

——————————————— —————

 

6. (U) On February 5, 31 ZANU-PF supporters were arrested

in connection with violence in Norton and were subsequently

charged for public violence and held without bail. After

reportedly driving through a nearby suburb looking for MDC

supporters and finding none, they returned to their

neighborhood, assaulted known MDC supporters and others,

caused destruction in some shops, and raided a police

station. In opposing bail, the prosecutor cited President

Mugabe’s statements against political violence.

 

7. (U) On February 6, drunken soldiers reportedly beat up

15 MDC supporters holding a rally in Nyanga and took them

to the police station. The soldiers accused the MDC

supporters of holding the rally without permission. Police

released the 15 the same day after determining that the

rally had police permission. Police took no action against

the soldiers or victims. (Note: In the past, MDC

supporters who were victims of political violence were

often charged themselves for violence.)

 

Nomination Courts Orderly

—————————–

 

8. (C) The nomination courts, held on 18 February, were

similarly peaceful. Diplomats from Sweden, the UK, Japan,

the Netherlands, Australia, Norway, and the United States,

as well as EU officials observed activities at six of the

nine nomination courts. Zimbabwe Election Support Network

(ZESN) volunteers and officials observed at each of the

courts. Each candidate for parliament was required to file

an application, provide proof that s/he is a Zimbabwean

citizen, and pay an application fee before a nomination

court conducted in each province by the Registrar General.

(Note: In the past, ZANU-PF supporters had physically

blocked some MDC candidates from entering the courts or

filing their papers. Observers reported no such

obstructions this time.)

 

9. (C) In Chinhoyi, a ZANU-PF stronghold, poloff observed

candidates and their supporters coming and going through

the magistrate’s court, where the nomination court was

held. Some supporters lingered outside the small

courthouse. MDC campaign posters were visible throughout

town. A ZESN observer told poloff that Chinhoyi was not an

“environment conducive to whites,” but neither poloff nor a

Norwegian diplomat in Chinhoyi experienced any

difficulties. Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC)

supervisors questioned the diplomats as to their

affiliation and took down information from their diplomatic

cards but allowed the diplomats to observe the court, which

was open to the public. The ESC officials later told the

diplomats that they would have to check with headquarters

because the diplomats were not accredited as election

observers, but said nothing else before the diplomats

left. ZANU-PF candidates and their supporters in the court

were willing to talk to poloff and pointedly noted the lack

of violence. Police presence was obvious but not

overwhelming. In Chinhoyi, the First Lady was donating

computers to the local college. A ZESN observer reported

that after the event ended, many ZANU-PF youth moved over

to the nomination court but did not disrupt proceedings.

The police and military presence increased upon the arrival

of the ZANU-PF youth.

 

10. (C) The ZESN observer commented to poloff that,

although government officials had publicly denounced

political violence and the nomination courts were conducted

without violence, activity outside of town in the days

leading up to the election would be a better measure of the

election’s fairness.   He said that ZESN would have

observers roaming the rural areas to see if there was any

harassment or intimidation of opposition supporters.   He

said that Mugabe wanted the international community to

legitimize the elections and that easily observable

violence was unlikely. Years of intimidation and violence

nonetheless would deter many people from supporting the

opposition.

 

11. (U) MDC was able to register candidates in all 120

constituencies, although there were some reports that

candidates had difficulty proving their Zimbabwean

citizenship or renunciation of any other citizenship,

including MDC MP David Coltart, whose mother was born in

South Africa.   Jailed MDC MP for Chimanimani Roy Bennett

(ref B) was barred from registering, although Zimbabwean

law only disallows citizens convicted in criminal courts,

whereas Bennett was convicted by Parliament. Bennett’s

wife, Heather Bennett applied instead pending an MDC appeal

of the nomination court’s decision. Another MDC candidate,

Zacharia Rioga, was disallowed based on his Malawian

parentage, and MDC fielded a reserve candidate in his

place.

 

Moyo Runs as Independent

———————————

 

12. (U) Former Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo,

whose Tsholotsho candidacy foundered when the party

reserved the candidacy for a female candidate (ref A),

registered in Tsholotsho as an independent candidate.

According to ZANU-PF’s constitution, he forfeited his party

membership by running as an independent. President Mugabe

issued a statement the day after the nomination courts

stating that Moyo was relieved of his duties as minister.

He will face an incumbent MDC candidate, MP Mtoliki

Sibanda, and ZANU-PF’s Musa Ncube, the wife of Bulawayo

Governor Cain Mathema.

 

Selective Invitation of Election Observers

——————————————

 

13. (C) On 19 February, Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge

announced a list of 45 countries and organizations that

have been invited to observe the elections, including SADC

and its member countries and the UN. The list of invitees

did not include the United States or any European country

except Russia. According to the semi-independent Sunday

Mail newspaper, Mudenge said countries from the European

Union would not be invited due to their preconceived

notions of the outcome and sanctions against GOZ leaders.

Several missions, including the Embassy, have sent requests

for invitations or accreditation to the MFA and have not

received responses. MFA Permanent Secretary Joey Bimha

told the Ambassador that MFA was finalizing plans for

diplomatic observers and would send an invitation soon. A

UNDP official told poloff the UN currently has no plans to

send observers.

 

14. (C) SADC was to have sent a legal team to assess

Zimbabwe’s compliance with SADC election principles in

advance of a larger SADC observer mission to assess the

pre-election environment as well as observe on election

day, but the team is still awaiting an invitation from the

GOZ, according to news reports. A ZESN observer told

poloff that SADC had planned to send observers to the

nomination courts. There were no reports of SADC observers

at any of the courts, but diplomats from South Africa and

Zambia attended the MDC’s campaign launch.

 

15. (SBU) According to the government-controlled Herald

newspaper, ESC chairman Theophilus Gambe announced a

requirement for local observers to report their observation

results before the poll results would be announced, due to

instances in the past when observers would change their

assessments of the conduct of the elections after the

results were announced.

 

Media Opening Elusive

—————————-

 

16. (U) On February 16, the GOZ published regulations

governing access by political parties to the state media.

The GOZ had previously stated that all parties would have

equal access. The regulations require that parties receive

within 24 hours reasons for rejection of their advertising

material, but advertising rates are very high, about

$36,000 US for one hour of prime time television

advertising and about $14,000 US for one hour of prime time

radio advertising. The MDC continues to run large

advertisements in the semi-independent daily Mirror and

weekly independent newspapers.

 

17. (U) The Media and Information Commission issued a

statement that the new weekly The Zimbabwean newspaper

could be shut down for failure to comply with the Access to

Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), and the

police have stepped up harassment of journalists. Police

were searching for journalist Cornelius Nduna, supposedly

in connection with revived charges against newspaper

columnist Pius Wakatama, and police raided the offices of

four journalists working as correspondents for foreign

media outlets on 14 February, accusing them of spying and

working without accreditation from the Media and

Information Commission. Three of the journalists and Nduna

have since left the country.

 

Comment

———–

 

18. (C) Zimbabwe’s mixed pre-election environment continues

to present the opposition with both obstacles and

opportunities. That said, the MDC is consistently telling

us that it is a much better atmosphere than in the run-up

to the elections in 2000 and 2002 and that they are being

given much more space in which to campaign. While there are

sporadic reports of subtle intimidation (usually taking the

form of the passive but known presence of plainclothes

security officers in communities), there have been scant

reports of overt inter-party political violence. Indeed,

MDC reports that thus far, President Mugabe’s injunction to

the security forces to act firmly against perpetrators of

violence is being rigorously implemented by the police.

 

18. (C) The wider campaign space and greater public

exposure continues to buoy opposition energy and optimism,

and they can be counted on to press the envelope in efforts

to connect with the electorate, through the media and in

personal appearances. While the positive atmosphere could

change swiftly should Mugabe and ZANU-PF so decide, one MDC

candidate remarked to us “it is already too late for them

(i.e., ZANU-PF) to change many votes based on

intimidation.” Moreover, the MDC has seen no sign of

logistic preparations to sustain military or security

forces during a campaign of sustained violence.

 

19. (C) It is still too early to assert that this improved

environment will lead to a positive showing by the MDC on

March 31. Indeed, their elections experts are actually

worried that Mugabe and ZANU-PF have other tricks up their

sleeves that the MDC has not yet detected. Ultimately, how

well MDC does will hinge on factors that have yet to play

out — its ability to overcome residual fear in the rural

areas and apathy in urban ones, to develop a message that

appeals to voters, and, above all, Mugabe’s willingness to

remain on a course that so far offers considerably more

campaign space than the opposition enjoyed during the 2000

or 2002 elections.

DELL

(43 VIEWS)

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