The mayor of Harare Elias Mudzuri was gaining support at the expense of Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai as people were beginning to question the effectiveness of Tsvangirai’s approach to the Zimbabwean problem.
Mudzuri had managed to organise demonstrators to town house and had defied an order by police that he accompanies them to the central police station.
Although this was reported to be part of a plan by the MDC to mobilise large numbers of people to the town centre, the United States embassy felt Mudzuri was benefitting more.
“Mayor Mudzuri is beginning to gain quite a following from those pleased with his in-your-face stance toward the government and its tactics of intimidation, as more Zimbabweans — including some in the MDC — begin to question the effectiveness of Morgan Tsvangirai’s quieter approach,” the embassy said.
It was, however, disappointed by the speed at which people dispersed when confronted by the riot police.
“Although the turnout of residents was impressive, the crowd’s rapid dispersal at the first sign of danger could not have been an encouraging sign for those in the MDC advocating mass action as the principal means of confronting the (government),” the embassy said.
Viewing cable 03HARARE214, HARARE RESIDENTS CLASH WITH RIOT POLICE
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 HARARE 000214
LONDON FOR CGURNEY
PARIS FOR CNEARY
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/29/2013
SUBJECT: HARARE RESIDENTS CLASH WITH RIOT POLICE
REF: A) HARARE 77 B) HARARE 42
Classified By: political section chief Matt Harrington. Reasons: 1.5 (
B) and (D).
¶1. (U) Riot police on January 29 clashed with several
hundred Harare residents gathered in the city center for a
meeting with Mayor of Harare Elias Mudzuri, who represents
the opposition MDC. The meeting had been planned — and
well-publicized — more than a week in advance, and was to
discuss the variety of challenges facing the city, including
water shortages. The DATT and poloffs were prevented from
entering Town House by a senior police officer, who advised
them that the meeting had been cancelled and they should
summon their driver to collect them. Others who arrived for
the same meeting were told the same thing. A walk around the
block revealed a heavy deployment of approximately 75 riot
police — many of them equipped with helmets, AK-47’s, tear
gas canisters, and batons. A crowd comprising hundreds of
mostly young men gathered outside the gate which encircled
Town House. A confrontation soon ensued inside the gates
between an individual apparently angry that people were not
being admitted and the senior police officer. The crowd
quickly became agitated at the police’s manhandling of this
individual, jeering at the officers involved and throwing
bottles, stones, and bricks. The police responded
immediately by firing tear gas into the crowd, which
¶2. (U) The Mayor subsequently told us that police had
authorized him to hold the meeting so long as it occurred
inside, not on the front steps as planned. The police,
however, cancelled it at the last minute, citing concerns
about the Mayor’s safety. After the situation calmed down,
police asked the Mayor to accompany them to the Harare
Central police station, but he declined to do so, instead
returning to his office. As of 4:00 p.m. on January 29,
police were still milling around outside his office, and
Mudzuri was bracing himself for his second arrest in two
weeks (ref A), although it is unclear what the police would
charge him with.
¶3. (C) Comment: MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s special
advisor told us that the MDC had devised this meeting as a
legitimate reason to convene large numbers of disgruntled
residents in the city center. The police clearly considered
it a provocation and demonstrated their determination to
quash any protests by deploying in large numbers and with
overwhelming force. Although the turnout of residents was
impressive, the crowd’s rapid dispersal at the first sign of
danger could not have been an encouraging sign for those in
the MDC advocating mass action as the principal means of
confronting the GOZ. Mayor Mudzuri is beginning to gain
quite a following from those pleased with his in-your-face
stance toward the Government and its tactics of intimidation,
as more Zimbabweans — including some in the MDC — begin to
question the effectiveness of Morgan Tsvangirai’s quieter