Movement for Democratic Change leaders Welshman Ncube and Gibson Sibanda told a United States embassy official that their party was not like Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union.
They said that although Nkomo and his ZAPU were emasculated by President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front in negotiations in the 1980s, ZAPU had no international support like the MDC.
Besides, many in the West were so anxious to see Zimbabwe succeed that they encouraged ZAPU to agree to a settlement.
They also distanced themselves from Nkomo who they said had sold out for a high ranking position and a comfortable life.
Asked about finances and other difficulties they were facing Sibanda said their budget was not in good shape.
Ncube said their problem was raising enough money for legal fees and medical expenses for supporters and shelter for those who were afraid to go home.
United States ambassador Joseph Sullivan promised to look into using the Victims of Torture Fund to cover these expenses.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1207, MDC LOOKS TO THE FUTURE; TSVANGIRAI SPENDS ANOTHER
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 001207
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/12/2008
SUBJECT: MDC LOOKS TO THE FUTURE; TSVANGIRAI SPENDS ANOTHER
NIGHT IN CUSTODY
Classified By: POLITICAL OFFICER PEGGY BLACKFORD FOR REASON 1.5B/D
¶1. (C) MDC leaders worried that President Mugabe might try
to influence the judiciary to keep their president, Morgan
Tsvangirai, in jail for a month or more. They welcomed the
reported visit of President Bush to the region and hoped that
it would step up pressure for dialogue. They judged last
week’s mass action to be a success overall and were
especially pleased with the favorable media coverage the
events had received in South Africa. In the coming month,
the party’s priorities will include party building,
international policy development and communication as well as
preparing for dialogue and a transition government. Their
budget has been strained by the need in recent days to pay a
large number of legal fees, fines, medical expenses and to
provide shelter for those under threat.
MDC Leaders Concerned for Tsvangirai
¶2. (C) At dinner with the Ambassador and PolOff June 11, MDC
leaders, Vice-President Gibson Sibanda, Secretary-General
Welshman Ncube, and spokesman Paul Nyathi expressed their
concern for President Morgan Tsvangirai. He had been brought
to court for his bail hearing in the morning wearing prison
khakis and in handcuffs and leg-irons. Upon application by
his attorney, he was permitted to change into his own
clothes. The hearing; however, had not concluded by late
afternoon and was continued until June 12. The MDC leaders
do not believe that the Judge is likely to hand down a ruling
before Friday if then. They have heard rumors that Mugabe is
pressuring the judiciary to keep Tsvangirai in jail for at
least a month “to teach him a lesson.” They asked the US to
intervene urgently with the South Africans to bring pressure
to bear to get Tsvangirai released.
¶3. (C) Ncube who was arrested June 9 on charges similar to
those pending against Tsvangirai, namely making public
statements calling on people to oust Mugabe, was released
after one night in prison. He was very grateful to be out.
The Ambassador inquired if he felt that the government had
released him so promptly in an effort to drive an wedge
between him and Tsvangirai. Interestingly, for one so
skeptical about the independence of the judiciary, he
rejected this possibility and seemed to believe that his
release was simply the result of the fact that the government
failed to make a good case. He could prove he was not at
several of the meetings where he was alleged to have made
Relying on International Initiatives
¶4. (C) All three leaders were delighted with press reports
that President Bush is to visit South Africa next month.
They believed that such a visit would put great pressure on
President Mbeki to get a real dialogue going. Asked where
they stood with the South Africans, they said that the MDC
had furnished the SAG with a memo laying out its priorities
and conditions weeks ago and had not yet received any
feedback from either the South Africans or ZANU-PF. They
believe that the South Africans were still awaiting a ZANU-PF
Evaluating Last Week’s Mass Action
¶5. (C) Asked to judge their success in last week’s mass
action, they all professed to be quite content with the
result. Sibanda said that they had always expected that the
demonstrations would fail to materialize, but announced them
anyway in the anticipation that the government would crack
down as it did and assure a very successful stayaway. The
Ambassador raised the issue of unmet expectations. Sibanda
acknowledged that some people had interpreted the “final
push” rhetoric literally and might be disappointed but
overall none of the leaders seemed to believe that their
support had eroded in any significant way. Nyathi, who spent
last week in South Africa, was very pleased with the coverage
the events had received in the South African media. He
believed that the MDC had gained considerable support among
the South African population which would be useful in
motivating the SAG to push harder for dialogue. He did
indicate that he believed the mass action had uncovered a
weakness in the party’s internal communication system which
would have to be addressed.
¶6. (C) PolOff asked the leaders what came after last week’s
mass action. Ncube said that they were planning to lay low
and let tempers cool for a couple of weeks and then they
would try to get negotiations back on track. Although
admitting that Mugabe had never negotiated with his domestic
opponents except from a position of overwhelming strength,
Ncube and Sibanda pointed out that he had done so on occasion
in international disputes. They pointed out that although
Nkomo and his ZAPU party had been emasculated in negotiations
in the 80’s, ZAPU had no international support and, in fact,
many in the West were so anxious to see Zimbabwe succeed that
they had encouraged ZAPU to agree to a settlement. They also
distanced themselves from Nkomo who they intimated had sold
out for a high-ranking position and a comfortable life.
Ncube also said they would be continuing to focus on three
main objectives: party building, international policy and
communication. In response to an inquiry from the
Ambassador, Sibanda confirmed that they were continuing to
work on a Blue Book of policies which would form the basis
for a transition government.
¶7. (C) The leaders were asked about finances or other
difficulties they might be facing. Sibanda replied that
while their budget was not in as good a shape as it was last
year, that was only to be expected given the current
inflation rate. Ncube said that their big problem over the
last 10 days or so has been raising enough money for legal
fees and fines for those arrested, medical expenses for
supporters who were injured and particularly shelter for
those afraid to go home. The Ambassador promised to look
into the use of the Victims of Torture Fund to see if we
could assure that USAID funds to cover these expenses were
made available expeditiously. (Note: Part of the problem
has been GOZ harassment of fund managers.)
¶8. (C) Although clearly tired and somewhat dismayed at
being pursued by GOZ forces of law and order, on the whole
the MDC leadership still at liberty seemed relatively upbeat
and relaxed. They appear to be planning well for the future
and making the most of opportunities to bring international
pressure to bear on Mugabe. Mugabe, however, has proved
remarkably immune to such pressure in the past and shows no
signs of believing that he needs to come to an understanding
with the opposition.