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MDC plans mass action to force Mugabe out

The Movement for Democratic Change was left with no option but to organise mass action to force President Robert Mugabe out after the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front leader insisted his party would not participate in inter-party talks until after the courts had ruled on the MDC’s legal challenge of the presidential elections.  

ZANU-PF had called for the suspension of the talks because of the court challenge but one of the facilitators Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo had said the talks would continue even if he had to come to Harare to make this happen.

Mugabe, however, insisted that his party would not participate.

MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai said mass action now appeared to be the only feasible alternative left for the opposition party.

“We have come to a stage where non-violent action has to be taken. It is evident that mass action is unavoidable. It is now inevitable,” Tsvangirai said.

“The people are refusing to accept Mugabe as their president and as a responsible leadership we are going to channel their emotions in a positive way that will resolve the crisis this country is in.”

His advisor Gandi Mudzingwa said the objective of mass action would be to make the country ungovernable and create an imperative for an election rerun by forcing Mugabe from office.

But he conceded that the party needed at least six months to prepare the groundwork.

Political analyst Brian Raftopoulos said that the MDC did not have the muscle to mount effective mass action.

ZANU-PF, he said, had succeeded in neutralizing influential civic groups that were key to a successful mobilisation effort and had the MDC and its leadership very much on the ropes.

 

Full cable:

Viewing cable 02HARARE1219, TSVANGIRAI VOWS MASS ACTION; MUGABE WARNS MDC

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

02HARARE1219

2002-05-21 14:09

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 03 HARARE 001219

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR CNEARY

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/21/2012

TAGS: PGOV ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI VOWS MASS ACTION; MUGABE WARNS MDC

AGAINST IT

 

REF: A) HARARE 1151 B) HARARE 1136 AND PREVIOUS

 

Classified By: political section chief Matt Harrington.

Reasons: 1.5 (B) and (D).

 

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) The talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC have collapsed

for now, as President Mugabe insisted the ruling party would

not participate until after the courts rule on the

opposition’s legal challenge of the presidential election

results. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai subsequently declared

that mass action is now unavoidable and inevitable since the

population is “combative and defiant” and refused to

recognize Mugabe’s legitimacy. The objective of mass action

would be to make the country ungovernable and force a new

election, but an MDC advisor said the party needed at least

six more months to lay sufficient groundwork for such an

effort to be successful. An independent political analyst

thought that the MDC would not be able to sustain effective

mass action and should concentrate instead on strengthening

its own structures, devising appealing policy alternatives,

and intensifying efforts to build bridges to the continent,

particulary to South Africa. Taking these steps, while

letting food shortages and economic decline take their

inevitable toll on the current government, might be the best

of Tsvangirai’s narrowing options. End Summary.

 

Interparty talks collapse

————————-

 

2. (C) After several days of energetic attempts by the

South African and Nigerian facilitators to jump start the

nascent dialogue between ZANU-PF and the MDC, it appears that

the talks have collapsed before they ever really began. As

reported in reftels, the ruling party requested a suspension

of the dialogue (which had, to date, produced only an

agreement on agenda items) until the MDC’s legal challenge of

the election results was completed, and President Mugabe

refused to budge from this position in a subsequent

discussion with the facilitators. We understand that MDC

leader Morgan Tsvangirai plans to phone Nigerian President

Obasanjo, presumably to follow up on the latter’s promise to

travel to Harare personally to ensure continuation of the

dialogue.

 

3. (C) Prominent political analyst (and occasional advisor

to the MDC leadership)Brian Raftopoulos told us that the MDC

needs the talks more than the ruling party. The dialogue

gives the MDC visibility, and the longer the opposition party

is out of the public spotlight, the more they lose

credibility and relevance.

 

Mass action “inevitable”

————————

 

4. (C) In a May 18 interview with an independent weekly

newspaper, MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai said mass action

now appears to be the only feasible alternative left for the

opposition party. “We have come to a stage where non-violent

action has to be taken. It is evident that mass action is

unavoidable. It is now inevitable.”   He reiterated some of

the points that he made with us on May 14 (reftel), namely

that the party has engaged in nationwide consultations on the

way forward, and that the mood around the country is

“combative and defiant.” He implied that, ultimately, the

achievement of peaceful change depends upon Zimbabweans

themselves, not on the international community. Throwing down

the rhetorical gauntlet, Tsvangirai insisted that “The people

are refusing to accept Mugabe as their president and as a

responsible leadership we are going to channel their emotions

in a positive way that will resolve the crisis this country

is in.”

 

5. (C) Gandi Mudzingwa, Tsvangirai’s special advisor, told

us on May 21 that the objective of mass action would be to

make the country ungovernable, and create an imperative for

an election rerun by forcing Mugabe from office. Sufficient

groundwork, however, has not yet been laid for mass action to

be successful, according to Mudzingwa. Although the party

had completed consultations with its own structures around

the country, it had only just begun to confer with

broad-based civic organizations — such as the Zimbabwe

Congress of Trade Unions and the Zimbabwe National Students

Association — whose participation would be critical to the

success of such an endeavor. In addition, the MDC must also

concentrate on demoralizing members of the armed forces,

reducing their inclination to fire on protestors, a factor

which will depend in large measure on the passage of time, as

the economy continues to deteriorate and affects soldiers and

their families. Mudzingwa estimated that the party would not

be ready to launch mass action for at least six months.

Asked whether Tsvangirai agreed with that assessment or was

inclined to act much sooner, Mudzingwa said it was unclear,

and that the MDC leader is under tremendous pressure to act.

In a separate conversation, MDC Member of Parliament David

Coltart told us some form of limited mass action was

necessary, as it would send a signal to the region and

international community of continuing unhappiness with the

election outcome. He thought the party could and should shut

down the country for two days, but that anything longer than

that would be unsustainable and would simply play into

Mugabe’s hands.

 

6. (C) Raftopoulos maintained that the MDC currently does

not have the muscle to mount effective mass action. The

ruling party, he said, has succeeded in neutralizing

influential civic groups that are key to a successful

mobilization effort and has the MDC and its leadership very

much on the ropes. An attempt to organize a broad-based and

sustained anti-government campaign would, therefore, almost

certainly fail, and lead the GOZ to engage in a no-holds

barred effort to crush the opposition leadership.

Raftopoulos thought Tsvangirai might go for broke, anyway,

since he is under enormous pressure to channel the anger of

his supporters and demonstrate the party’s capacity to

deliver, but the consequences of failure are very high. In

order to avoid erosion of its influence and bargaining power,

Raftopoulos believes the MDC must concentrate on

strengthening its organizational structures, regularly devise

dynamic policy positions, particularly on land, maintain its

international stature as a credible alternative to ZANU-PF,

and intensify efforts to build political bridges on the

continent, particulary with South Africa.

 

Mugabe to “deal with” the MDC

—————————–

 

7. (U) Meanwhile, President Mugabe’s remarks on May 15 to a

national gathering of ZANU-PF youth made clear that the MDC

must tread very carefully. Using the truculent language

typical of his rantings against his political opposition,

Mugabe said his government would not tolerate further

“nonsense and rubbish” from the MDC. He warned that “if they

choose violence, then we will deal with them effectively,”

and described the organization of mass action as a “dangerous

undertaking” that would not be tolerated.   The President

once again cautioned Zimbabweans against allowing the

assumption of power by a party he claimed is funded and

manipulated by the British.

Comment

——-

 

8. (C) Morgan Tsvangirai’s latitude for maneuver is

narrowing. He faces on one side large numbers of disgruntled

supporters who are fed up with ZANU-PF’s economic

mismanagement and lawlessness and are leaning heavily on the

MDC to do something to extricate them from increasing misery.

Failure in the near term to demonstrate that the party is a

force to be reckoned with could relegate it to irrelevance.

At the same time, President Mugabe knows that large-scale

demonstrations could quickly get out of hand and lead to

consequences he cannot control. We have no doubt, therefore,

that he will use all necessary force to crush demonstrations

even before they begin. Under these circumstances, we doubt

there is a critical mass of people willing to risk their

necks without some realistic possibility it would lead to

positive change, an outcome which Tsvangirai cannot

guarantee.

 

9. (C) The MDC leader thus finds himself in a box with few

good policy options. His best course of action may be simply

to bide his time, focusing on strengthening his party

organizationally and staying in the public spotlight by

holding regular rallies and proposing appealing, realistic

policy alternatives to those being pursued by ZANU-PF. In

the meantime, worsening food shortages and continued economic

deterioration will generate their own pressures on the

current regime, making Mugabe’s position domestically and in

the region increasingly untenable.

 

 

SULLIVAN

 

(4 VIEWS)

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