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Mt Darwin has not benefitted from Mujuru’s vice-presidency

A public opinion poll, three weeks before the 2008 elections, showed that the Movement for Democratic Change was rapidly gaining support with its leader Morgan Tsvangirai pipping President Robert Mugabe and the general feeling was that people were yearning for change because they believed that ZANU-PF could no longer turn around the country’s economy.

United States embassy officials who toured the country during the run-up to the elections had this to say: “The need for change is a refrain heard more and more. An example of the dynamic which is building support for the MDC comes from a trip we made to Mt. Darwin in Mashonaland East.

“Mt. Darwin West is the constituency of vice-president Joice Mujuru. The area has not benefited from the position of its important representative. We observed conditions as bad as anywhere in the country: a dilapidatedinfrastructure, including terrible roads, almost non-existent public transportation, absence of adequate food supplies, and malnourished children.”

According to a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, embassy officials said that though Tsvangirai was more popular it would be foolish to write Mugabe off.


Full cable:


Viewing cable 08HARARE227, ELECTION UPDATE

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Reference ID






2008-03-21 11:29

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare



DE RUEHSB #0227/01 0811129


R 211129Z MAR 08

















C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 HARARE 000227












E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/16/2018








Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (d)






1. (C) A recent poll conducted by the Mass Public Opinion

Institute (MPOI) as well as observations by Embassy

pre-election teams from throughout the country indicate

strong and growing support for the MDC and its president,

Morgan Tsvangirai. This is due in large part to increased

antipathy toward Mugabe driven by a desperate economic

situation, and a political environment which is significantly

more open than in 2002 or 2005. President Robert Mugabe

still enjoys substantial support, buttressed by the

government machinery and government handouts, in rural areas.

Simba Makoni, despite early enthusiasm for his candidacy,

has failed to develop significant support, except in Bulawayo

and parts of Matabeleland. A runoff between Tsvangirai and

Mugabe appears a real possibility. But with ZANU-PF rigging,

including a manipulated registration process, potentially

fraudulent postal voting, and a potentially flawed vote

counting, tabulation and announcement process, Mugabe may be

able to claim an outright victory on the first ballot. In

the event he receives a plurality of the vote, Mugabe may

claim that a runoff is not legally mandated. The atmosphere

remains calm and we do not anticipate violence. END SUMMARY.



The MDC and the Political Environment



2. (SBU) A poll conducted by the Mass Public Opinion

Institute of Zimbabwe (MPOI) from March 3 to March 10 showed

Tsvangirai supported by 29.5 percent of the sample of 1,200,



Mugabe supported by 20.3 percent, and Makoni supported by 8.6

percent. 31 percent declined to state a preference, 4

percent said they didn’t know who they would vote for, and 5

percent said they wouldn’t vote. In an earlier poll

conducted between February 22 and February 26, Mugabe led

with 30 percent, followed by Tsvangirai with 28 percent, and

Makoni with 12 percent. 30 percent declined to state a



3. (C) Embassy officials, in pre-election trips throughout

the country over the past two weeks, noted enthusiastic

support for Tsvangirai. MDC candidates and officials with

whom we talked universally attributed this to a calm and

relaxed political atmosphere which stood in marked contrast

to the environment in 2002 and 2005. Police for the most

part were allowing the MDC to hold rallies and some had even

confided to MDC activists that they hoped the MDC succeeded.

We saw MDC posters in both rural and urban areas, and MDC

officials told us ZANU-PF partisans were generally allowing

them to stand, in part because the police were discouraging

unlawful activities. We frequently saw MDC supporters

wearing yellow T-shirts of the party and in some locals saw

MDC and ZANU-PF supporters greeting each other as they

marched past each other in opposite directions.


4. (SBU) Historically, many of the rural areas have been

no-go destinations for the MDC. The MDC this time around has

held relatively large rallies in a number of these areas,

including the ZANU-PF heartland of Mashonaland. MDC

officials told us that a number of traditional leaders in

these areas, in recent times tools of ZANU-PF, were now

supporting the MDC. The MDC attributes this support, and in

general support throughout the country, to a desperate

economic situation and the belief that ZANU-PF will do


HARARE 00000227 002 OF 005



nothing to turn the economy around. The need for change is a

refrain heard more and more.


5. (C) An example of the dynamic which is building support

for the MDC comes from a trip we made to Mt. Darwin in

Mashonaland East. Mt. Darwin West is the constituency of

vice-president Joice Mujuru. The area has not benefited from

the position of its important representative. We observed

conditions as bad as anywhere in the country: a dilapidated

infrastructure, including terrible roads, almost non-existent

public transportation, absence of adequate food supplies, and

malnourished children,


6. (C) While the atmosphere has improved, and support for

the MDC is growing, significant problems continue. We have

received occasional reports of kidnappings of MDC supporters

and arrests of officials. In some areas, ZANU-PF has

threatened small-plot farmers, resettled as part of the land

reform program, with repossession of their land if ZANU-PF

loses in their areas. Perhaps of most concern is food

manipulation. With food stocks running low in many areas of

the country and NGOs having suspended food deliveries during

the election period, many people are dependent on the Grain

Marketing Board (GMB) which has maize available at low

prices. We have heard a number of reports that the GMB was

selling maize only to traditional leaders loyal to ZANU-PF

who were in turn expected to distribute it only to ZANU-PF

followers. In addition to food, ZANU-PF has also distributed

farm equipment such as ploughs and carts, in many rural areas

as inducements for support


7. (C) Bulawayo and surrounding Matabeleland have been

traditional strongholds of the MDC, but Tsvangirai appears

weak in these areas. Tsvangirai held a rally in Bulawayo two

weeks ago and reportedly drew upwards of 20,000 people, but

our pre-election teams observed a lack of support for

Tsvangirai. A recent MPOI focus group in Bulawayo found



similar weakness. This is in part due to the MDC split.

Several prominent Matabeleland politicians, who would have

supported Tsvangirai had the MDC reunited, are now supporting

Simba Makoni. Additionally, Dumiso Dabengwa, one of the

principal Ndebeles in ZANU-PF, has broken with Mugabe and is

publicly supporting Makoni.



A Note on MDC Finances and Organization



8. (C) We have received a number of reports that the MDC is

receiving substantial support from South Africa.

Specifically, MDC treasurer Roy Bennett told Embassy Pretoria

(Ref C) that he had raised “significant” funds from

Zimbabwean businessmen living in the diaspora and that he

would provide US$1000 for each MDC parliamentary candidate.

Zimbabwean business magnate Strive Masiyiwa told Embassy

Pretoria (Ref B) that he had provide substantial financial

support to the MDC.


9. (C) In contrast to the representations of Bennett and

Masiyiwa, Tsvangirai has told the Ambassador in recent

conversations that the MDC is strapped for cash. And in our

pre-election visits, virtually every MDC candidate with whom

we talked told us they had received little or no financial

support from the MDC. For example, in Mt. Darwin North, MDC

candidate Timothy Mukwenge failed to meet our pre-election

team at the agreed-upon time and place. They subsequently

spotted him on the side of a road two hours later waiting for

public transport. Without money, he had slept on the side of

the road the night before and had not eaten. In Chipingi,

MDC candidate Samson Sithole said the only support he had

received from the MDC was less than US$100. Campaign

materials such as shirts and posters had not been sent from


HARARE 00000227 003 OF 005



MDC headquarters in Harare. A small businessman, he told us

he had been selling some of his business assets to finance

his campaign. Sithole speculated that whatever money the MDC

had it Harare it was using to finance the campaigns of MDC

bigwigs. He had raised the issue of campaign support with

MDC headquarters but found the central MDC disorganized and




ZANU-PF Machine in High Gear



10. (C) While there may be growing disenchantment with

ZANU-PF, it continues to mobilize its rural base. Our

pre-election teams observed numerous rallies around the

country. Mugabe has been using helicopters, obviously

unavailable to his opponents, to hopscotch the country and

attend many of these rallies. At a rally in Lupane, a

constituency in Matabeleland now held by the MDC, our

observer estimated that over 20,000 people attended. We have

received reports of large rallies elsewhere.


11. (C) ZANU-PF has committed considerable government

resources to the campaign. The party has handed out food and

agricultural equipment in the rural areas. Many ZANU-PF

candidates are business people with independent resources

that they have been using to gain support. The government

mouthpiece The Herald touts on a daily basis Mugabe’s efforts

to develop the country. Front page articles this week

described government housing construction and rehabilitation

of a power station. Inside on a daily basis are several full

page advertisements for Mugabe. Television and radio are

similarly supportive. And of course most of the media

coverage of the opposition is partisan rather than objective.



Simba’s Star Fades



12. (C) Makoni’s entry into the presidential race generated

excitement, but he has failed to build support. This is in

part because, with the exception of Dumiso Dabengwa, no

ZANU-PF heavyweights are publicly supporting him; and because

he is relatively unknown outside of Harare, Bulawayo and his

homebase of Manicaland. He is now viewed as the candidate of

the intelligentsia and the shrinking middle class.

Interlocutors in the rural areas who were aware of him and

who were anti-Mugabe were suspicious of the fact that his

roots were in ZANU-PF and that he had not disavowed the

party. Some thought he might be a ZANU-PF plant to confuse

the race. He is widely seen as arrogant and aloof; one of

our pre-election observers was told that after a rally Makoni

and his people refused to offer transport to attendees to the

nearby town.


13. (C) Makoni’s principal role in the election may be as a

spoiler. As noted, he has strength among the middle class

and intelligentsia, both centered in Harare, and he can be

expected to pull support from the MDC and Tsvangirai in the

capital. With the support of MDC Mutambara faction

candidates in Bulawayo and Matabeleland, he has demonstrated

some strength in these areas, primarily at the expense of





14. (C) Although ZANU-PF heavyweights such as Solomon Mujuru

who support Makoni have not come out publicly, they are

working for him behind the scenes. It is likely that in

Mashonaland and, to a lesser extent in Midlands and Masvingo,

Makoni will draw support from Mugabe.



The Great Equalizer–Rigging


HARARE 00000227 004 OF 005





15. (C) The potential for election rigging continues to be a

concern. Focus is now on the registration process, polling

stations, and the counting and tabulation of votes. In 2005,

there were 5.6 million registered voters. For this election,

there are over 5.9 million, despite a continuing exodus of

Zimbabweans. In a diplomatic briefing on March 20 attended

by the Ambassador, Tsvangirai said the MDC had conducted an

audit of the voter rolls in 28 rural constituencies that

revealed 90,000 ghost voters. Tsvangirai alleged that

600,000 ballots had been printed for postal voting (military,

police, election officials, overseas diplomats are eligible)

when the maximum number of postal votes would be under



16. (C) This week, Mubabe amended the Electoral Laws

Amendment Act passed as part of the SADC mediation process,

which eliminated police as persons who could be present in

polling stations. The new amendment allows them to be

present and requires their presence when electoral officials

are assisting illiterate of physically disabled voters. The

Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) and the MDC have

protested–so far to no avail.


17. (C) ZESN expects to have observers at all the country’s

polling stations. Votes for president will be counted at

each polling station and then will be tabulated at

constituency and provincial centers. From the provincial

centers, totals will be sent to a central command center in

Harare. To date, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)

officials have made no provision for observers at the

tabulation center or at the command center.



Legal Complications of a Runoff



18. (C) The Electoral Act requires a runoff when there are

two or more candidates and no candidate for president

receives over 50 percent of the vote. The Second Schedule to

the Act which expands and amplifies on the Act, states that

where there are two or more candidates for president, the

candidates with the greatest number of votes is elected.

Since there has never been a presidential election where a

runoff was a possibility, nobody realized that the Electoral

Act contained this apparent contradiction. When queried

about this, the ZEC has deferred to the courts. It is not

unrealistic to believe that if Mugabe emerged from the

election with a plurality of the votes, he would argue that

the Second Schedule is controlling.






19. (C) Because polling is difficult in Zimbabwe, and

because in the MPOI poll a high percentage of the sample

declined to respond, we believe it should be read for trends

rather than accuracy. It does comport with our on the ground

observations that Tsvangirai and the MDC have widespread

support, that Mugabe continues to have significant support,

and that Makoni significantly trails the other two. Even in

a non-rigged election it would be foolish to write Mugabe

off; his liberation credentials and his skillful use of the

ZANU-PF machinery to manipulate voters continues to result in

considerable backing. If rigging can be limited, a runoff is

likely. With a significant amount of rigging, Mugabe may

manage to claim more than 50 percent of the vote.


20. (C) The atmosphere continues to be remarkably tranquil.

While this could be the calm before the storm, we see nothing


HARARE 00000227 005 OF 005



to indicate that the election will result in widespread

violence, although isolated incidents are always a

possibility. The most likely scenario for violence would be

a Mugabe defeat. Notwithstanding the inflammatory statements

of Zimbabwe Defense Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga,

Police Commission Augustine Chihuri, and the head of the

Zimbabwe Prisons Services, Paradzayi Zimondi, that they would

not respect a result in which Mugabe was not reelected, we do

not believe that a Mugabe defeat would produce violence. The

aforementioned individuals do not enjoy great support among

the rank and file, and a significant number of ZANU-PF

officials, including Solomon Mujuru, Air Force Marshal

Perence Shiri, and Army Commander Philip Sibanda, would like

to see Mugabe go, even if he is replaced by Tsvangirai.



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