Welshman Ncube, who was secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change at the time, disagreed with party leader Morgan Tsvangirai on the future of President Robert Mugabe after the 2004 Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front congress where he bulldozed Joice Mujuru to vice-presidency.
Tsvangirai said the congress had been a significant event which had shown that Mugabe was absolutely determined to have his way on the presidential succession.
However, the fallout from Mugabe’s heavy-handed tactics could be hard for him to manage. The choice of Joice Mujuru as his successor was likely to increase ethnic friction within the party since she came from the same ethnic sub-group as Mugabe.
Tsvangirai said if Mugabe failed to satisfy other clans within the Shona, anything was possible, including the disintegration of the ZANU-PF.
He also suggested that moderate elements within the ZANU-PF, with whom the MDC could work, were in the ascendancy following the congress.
Ncube disagreed, arguing that the extremists would remain in charge as long as Mugabe remained in charge.
Tsvangirai speculated that Mugabe might be planning to turn the reins of government over to Mujuru in the near future, perhaps after the elections if ZANU-PF obtained a two-thirds majority.
Ncube was quick to disagree, suggesting that Mugabe would never voluntarily relinquish the presidency and would likely run in 2008.
Both agreed, however, that Mujuru was genuinely popular, would be a formidable candidate and that the MDC had to tread carefully in attacking her.
Viewing cable 04HARARE2049, MDC ON MARCH ELECTIONS; FUTURE EFFORTS
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 002049
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE, D. TEITELBAUM
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/16/2014
SUBJECT: MDC ON MARCH ELECTIONS; FUTURE EFFORTS
Classified By: Ambassador Chris W. Dell under Section 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) Summary: Over dinner on December 8, Morgan Tsvangirai
and the MDC leadership laid out their plans for contesting
the March parliamentary elections, should they decide to
participate. The Ambassador said the SADC countries appeared
ready to bless the March elections regardless; Tsvangirai and
his aides agreed. MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube
argued that turning land reform against the GOZ could be a
key not just to this election but to future elections as
well. The Ambassador urged that the MDC get better organized
for the long fight ahead to bring democracy to Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai argued that the West could best help by &using8
the inevitable ZANU-PF overtures following the election
rather than &spurning8 them. Tsvangirai said he would
carry that message to Washington in January, where a meeting
with the President would be most welcome. End Summary.
The March Elections and Beyond
¶2. (C) During a wide-ranging discussion with MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai at dinner December 8, Tsvangirai agreed
with the Ambassador,s observation that it was increasingly
clear that SADC countries would bless the elections,
regardless of the outcome or process. Tsvangirai added that
the regional governments were showing signs of fatigue and
wanted Zimbabwe &normalized,8 something that would never
happen until there was real reform. He said the MDC would
make a final decision on whether to participate within the
next two weeks. (Comment: It,s increasingly clear the MDC
will participate; SADC,s stance leaves then no real option.)
MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube noted that the actual
fraud would be less in the vote count than in the
registration and delimitation (i.e., gerrymandering)
processes going on now. The Ambassador suggested it was
important to get non-governmental regional groups, such as
trade unions, churches, and other elements of African civil
society to observe the elections and issue their own
assessments likely to counter-balance the SADC white-washing.
¶3. (C) During a discussion of land reform,s impact on the
election, Ncube said turning this issue against the
government would be a key to MDC electoral success not only
in this but in future elections as well. The precipitous
decline in the agriculture sector had weakened the ZANU-PF
since its base was with rural voters. The MDC had to develop
a message that ZANU-PF,s land reform had failed. First, it
had destroyed productivity. Second, it had merely replaced a
handful of large white commercial farmers with a handful of
large black commercial farmers with close ties to the
government. He thought this message could resonate with
rural voters but that the MDC also needed a positive message
to restore agricultural productivity and to move the issue
¶4. (C) Tsvangirai agreed that rural voters had suffered
disproportionately in the past three years from the regime,s
economic policies. He argued they were now more politically
active than urban voters. The MDC could win their votes if
it could overcome their fear of the ruling party. He
suggested that one tactic would be to encourage rural voters
to remain at the polling booths after voting and bear witness
to the process. This could serve to limit fraud. In the
cities, the MDC also had a difficult challenge: to inspire
anew voters who had become cynical and apathetic as a result
of two rigged elections and the survival of a regime that was
destroying their standard of living. Tsvangirai regretted
that the MDC,s task was made immeasurably more difficult by
its lack of access to the media, which put a premium on the
MDC,s ability to organize at the grass roots level and get
out the vote.
¶5. (C) The Ambassador said this was exactly the right lesson
to learn. The MDC had to accept that it was in a long-term
fight and had to organize to win that fight. One suggestion,
based on his recent trip to South Africa, was that the MDC
assign working level operatives there to organize the
Zimbabwean expatriate community. This sizeable community was
a potential source not just of important political support
but of funding as well. These operatives could also
coordinate and push civil society organizations in South
Africa with an interest in Zimbabwe but that too often became
distracted by other matters.
ZANU-PF Party Congress
¶6. (C) The Ambassador asked for MDC views of the recently
concluded ZANU-PF party congress. Tsvangirai said it had
been a significant event. Mugabe had shown that he was
absolutely determined to have his way on the presidential
succession. However, the fallout from his heavy-handed
tactics could be hard for him to manage. The choice of Joyce
Mujuru as his successor was likely to increase ethnic
friction within the party since she came from the same ethnic
sub-group as Mugabe. If Mugabe failed to satisfy other clans
within the Shona, Tsvangirai said anything was possible,
including the disintegration of the ZANU-PF. He also
suggested that moderate elements within the ZANU-PF, with
whom the MDC could work, were in the ascendancy following the
congress. Ncube disagreed, arguing that the extremists would
remain in charge as long as Mugabe remained in charge.
¶7. (C) Tsvangirai speculated that Mugabe might be planning to
turn the reins of government over to Mujuru in the near
future, perhaps after the elections if ZANU-PF obtains a
two-thirds majority and can amend the constitution at will.
Mugabe would retain his position as President of ZANU-PF,
allowing him to wield effective power while delegating to
Mujuru the task of negotiating an end to Zimbabwe,s
political and economic crises with the opposition and the
international community. Ncube was quick to disagree,
suggesting that Mugabe would never voluntarily relinquish the
presidency and would likely run in 2008. Both agreed,
however, that Mujuru was genuinely popular, would be a
formidable candidate and that the MDC had to tread carefully
in attacking her.
¶8. (C) Tsvangirai said he had had a successful trip to London
in November where he had made a pitch that bashing all things
ZANU was counter-productive. He was planning a trip to
Canada and the U.S. for late January and would have a similar
message. The West should be prepared for overtures from the
GOZ and he recommended that we &use8 those overtures to
influence the regime rather than &spurn8 them.
¶9. (C) Tsvangirai said his plan was to arrive in Washington a
day or two after the inauguration. The Ambassador cautioned
that this was usually a time of great turbulence in
Washington and asked if the visit could be delayed a week.
Tsvangirai said the parliamentary elections were likely to be
in early to mid March and he and his team needed to be in
Harare at least a month ahead of time. Given those
conditions, he thought a trip the last week of January would
¶10. (C) The Ambassador suggested that Tsvangirai give some
thought to whom he would want to see. The Ambassador
recommended that Tsvangirai ask to see Secretary-designate
Rice, NSC Hadley, and key Senators, Congressmen, and their
staffs. Tsvangirai thought a meeting with President Bush
would resonate positively and would demonstrate the depth of
the U.S. commitment to democracy in Zimbabwe and Africa. The
Ambassador said he would discuss the possibility of such a
meeting with Washington.
¶11. (C) We strongly support a meeting with the President and
recommend it be discussed at the planned DC on Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai is for now the visible face of the democratic
opposition in Zimbabwe and the signal such a meeting would
send would be a powerful reaffirmation that while we are
prepared to work with the Mugabe regime, our goal remains a
stable multi-party democracy in Zimbabwe. In that regard,
Ncube may be the more important interlocutor over time. He
seems to have a better feel than Tsvangirai of the importance
of better organizing the MDC: in effect making the transition
from a mass movement to a broad-based political party.