in Stories

Rare week in Harare

It was a rare week in Harare as the funeral of Susan Tsvangirai united politicians from both the Movement for democratic change and the Zimbabwe African National Union- patriotic Front.

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee even commented: “This has been a rare week of civil political discourse and gestures in Zimbabwe with Mugabe and the MDC showering each other with roses.

The Herald, which traditionally has either criticised Tsvangirai or ignored him, prominently and positively reported on the week’s events involving Susan Tsvangirai.”

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09HARARE217, A TRUCE IN THE WAR OF WORDS IN ZIMBABWE

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09HARARE217

2009-03-12 13:03

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXYZ0000

OO RUEHWEB

 

DE RUEHSB #0217/01 0711303

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

O 121303Z MAR 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTAT WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4214

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2689

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2810

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1274

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2078

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2434

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2858

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5297

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1980

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000217

 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B.WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM ZI

SUBJECT: A TRUCE IN THE WAR OF WORDS IN ZIMBABWE

 

HARARE 00000217 001.5 OF 002

 

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (SBU) This week has been dominated by a church service

and public memorial for Susan Tsvangirai, and a public

internment. President Robert Mugabe had conciliatory words

for Morgan Tsvangirai at the church service; Tsvangirai’s

eldest son and MDC secretary general and GOZ finance minister

Tendai Biti reciprocated at the memorial and internment

respectively. Separately, the MDC had praise for retired

general Vitalis Zvinavashe who died this week. END SUMMARY.

 

—————————–

In Memory of Susan Tsvangirai

—————————–

 

2. (U) The Methodist memorial church service for Susan

Tsvangirai on March 10 was attended by several hundred people

including President Robert Mugabe, the two vice presidents,

the two deputy prime ministers, government ministers from

both parties, and diplomats. Mugabe was the only politician

to speak. In a lengthy address, he said the car crash was

the “hand of god” and that all, including Morgan Tsvangirai

and his family, should accept it as such. He said it would

take time for Morgan Tsvangirai to recover, and that “we are

with” the prime minister during this day and the days to

follow. He stated that all, including himself, were doing

their best to create a conducive environment in Zimbabwe for

the government of national unity to succeed, and that the

days of violence must now end. He went on to eulogize Susan

Tsvangirai, and urged the Tsvangirai children to honor their

mother by working hard to succeed in life.

 

3. (U) Later in the day, a public memorial was held at

Glamis Stadium and was attended by between 10 and 15 thousand

people. (The MDC estimated the crowd at 30 thousand.) The

event resembled an MDC political rally. No ZANU-PF officials

attended. Speakers included Biti, representatives of the MDC

women’s and youth leagues, and representatives of civil

society organizations allied with the MDC, including Zimbabwe

Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), National Constitution

Assembly (NCA), and women’s and youth groups. The general

theme was reconciliation. Discordant notes were booing at

the mention of MDC-M leader Arthur Mutambara (who was in

attendance), and a student leader’s comments that, given

Zimbabwe’s history, the death of Susan Tsvangirai was

suspicious and an investigation was necessary. Notably,

Tsvangirai’s eldest son referred to Mugabe’s remarks, praised

them for their conciliatory and fatherly tone, and said he

had become aware of another side of Mugabe.

 

4. (U) The internment of Susan Tsvangirai took place in

Buhera, the Tsvangirai family home, on March 11. (NOTE: The

Tsvangirais were traveling to Buhera last week for a rally

when the fatal accident occurred. END NOTE.) About 5,000

people attended, many traveling long distances. Again

notably, Tendai Biti, who publicly and privately has been one

of Mugabe’s most outspoken critics, thanked Mugabe for his

conciliatory words the day before and, like Tsvangirai’s son,

Qconciliatory words the day before and, like Tsvangirai’s son,

said Mugabe had revealed another side: “I think many of us

are transiting to understand him better and I think yesterday

(Tuesday) we saw a part that we are not used to and that part

is he is also human…He is also a human being like all of

us, if you get that message he gave at the church service, he

was speaking not as a politician but as a father.”

 

5. (U) In addition to Ambassador McGee, ambassadors from the

EC, Germany, Sweden, Namibia, Kenya, and Tanzania attended.

High-level government officials from Malawi and Zambia were

also present. Ambassador McGee arrived after proceedings had

 

HARARE 00000217 002 OF 002

 

 

begun. As he walked past the sitting crowd, he was

recognized by master of ceremonies Nelson Chamisa. Everyone

turned toward the Ambassador, raised an open hand in the

traditional MDC salute, and chanted “McGee” in appreciation

for his presence.

 

———————-

MDC Praises Zvinavashe

———————-

 

6. (U) General Vitalis Zvinavashe died on March 10. A

liberation fighter, he replaced Solomon Mujuru as commander

of the army in 1992 and in 1994 became Zimbabwe’s first

commander of defense forces. On the eve of the 2002

presidential election, Zvinavashe, in a clear rebuke to

Morgan Tsvangirai, said the service chiefs would only

recognize a president who had participated in the liberation

struggle.

 

7. (U) Zvinavashe ran for Parliament in March 2008 and lost

to the MDC candidate. He told other ZANU-PF candidates to

“accept the reality” that the MDC had won, and urged people

to preserve peace. In the last year, he reportedly has been

a behind-the-scenes critic of Mugabe.

 

8. (U) The MDC issued a statement praising Zvinavashe as a

liberation hero and mourning his death. MDC representatives

will reportedly attend his funeral.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

9. (SBU) This has been a rare week of civil political

discourse and gestures in Zimbabwe with Mugabe and the MDC

showering each other with roses. The Herald, which

traditionally has either criticized Tsvangirai or ignored

him, prominently and positively reported on the week’s events

involving Susan Tsvangirai. (A noteworthy exception to a

week of mostly objective journalism was a front-page article

in The Herald reproducing an on-line commentary by Jonathan

Moyo. Moyo suggested a suspicious connection between the

attack of Air Marshall Perence Shiri (noting that a USAID

driver was arrested), and the death of Susan Tsvangirai

(erroneously claiming the driver of the truck was a USAID

employee). It remains to be seen whether ZANU-PF will match

conciliatory words with actions. Short-term we will look to

see, inter alia, whether remaining detainees are released,

whether there is an agreement on permanent secretaries and

governors, and whether Parliament begins to take action to

establish an independent Media Commission to liberalize the

media environment and to repeal repressive legislation.

 

10. (SBU) In the short-term, at least, the death of his wife

has created enormous sympathy and support for Tsvangirai, and

the MDC itself feels that it has momentum. A Tsvangirai aide

told us Tsvangirai will take two weeks off before resuming

his duties. (The Herald reported today that Jacob Zuma had

offered Tsvangirai and his family a place to stay in South

Africa.) It will be important for Deputy Prie Minister

Khupe who will be acting prime minister in Tsvagirai’s

absence, Biti, and others to sustain this momentum until

Tsvangirai returns.

 

MCGEE

(10 VIEWS)

Don't be shellfish... Please SHAREShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

Write a Comment

Comment