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Rumours fly as MDC spokesman dies in jail

There was wide speculation when Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Learnmore Jongwe was found dead in his prison cell on 22 October 2002.

Jongwe was arrested in July for fatally stabbing his wife, and he subsequently confessed to the crime. He had been denied bail by both the High Court and Supreme Court, ostensibly for fear that he would abscond.

MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai blamed Jongwe’s death squarely on President Robert Mugabe’s regime.

“Deaths in custody are associated with tyrannical and oppressive regimes worldwide whose aim is to eliminate opponents, silence critics and promote open fascism,” Tsvangirai said in his statement.

MDC’s national youth chairman -and a close friend of Jongwe -Nelson Chamisa said the MDC had been denied access to the prison since Jongwe’s death.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 02HARARE2322, FORMER MDC SPOKESMAN FOUND DEAD IN PRISON

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

02HARARE2322

2002-10-22 14:30

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS HARARE 002322

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER

LONDON FOR GURNEY

PARIS FOR NEARY

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR ZI

SUBJECT: FORMER MDC SPOKESMAN FOUND DEAD IN PRISON

 

 

1. Former MDC spokesman and MP Learnmore Jongwe was found

dead in his prison cell early in the morning of October 22.

Jongwe was arrested in July for fatally stabbing his wife,

and he subsequently confessed to the crime. Jongwe had

been denied bail by both the High Court and Supreme Court,

ostensibly for fear that he would abscond. His trial had

been scheduled for November. (Note: In 2000, Jongwe won

his parliamentary seat in Kuwadzana — a high-density

suburb in Harare — with a convincing margin over his Zanu-

PF opponent: 15 691 votes to 4 349. End Note.)

 

2. MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai released a strong press

statement expressing the party’s shock and regret, and

saying the MDC “holds the Mugabe regime accountable for the

death of Jongwe.deaths in custody are associated with

tyrannical and oppressive regimes worldwide whose aim is to

eliminate opponents, silence critics and promote open

fascism.” The statement ends by vowing that the opposition

party “will intensify the struggle for the supremacy of the

people’s power and sovereignty.”

 

3. The MDC’s National Youth Chairman — and a close friend

of Jongwe — Nelson Chamisa told us that the MDC had been

denied access to the prison since Jongwe’s death. He said

Jongwe’s uncle had seen the former MDC parliamentarian at

approximately 1 pm on October 21 and that he appeared to be

in reasonable spirits at that time. MDC MP David Coltart

told us that the party had heard unconfirmed reports that

Jongwe had been taken out of his cell yesterday and

returned last night, a report we also heard from other

reliable sources. Coltart did not rule out suicide as a

possible cause of death but encouraged the international

community to call for an independent investigation and

autopsy.   The Director of Zimbabwe Prisons, Paradzayi

Zimondi, insisted that a “full investigation” would be

conducted, but the MDC is understandably reluctant to take

him at his word.

 

4. Comment: It is unclear at this stage what may have

caused Jongwe’s death or whether the GOZ may have played a

part in it. It is interesting that reports in the

government media have failed to provide any details on the

manner in which Jongwe might have died, only that he was

found dead in his cell. The GOZ had been using his case to

portray the MDC as a violent party, and planned to try to

further discredit the opposition party by trying Jongwe at

the same time as Tsvangirai’s treason trial. It thus is

not clear that the government would have had any motive for

ordering his murder. Although the Government is determined

to gain as many parliamentary seats as possible, in an

effort to regain a two-thirds majority, Jongwe likely would

have been convicted in November and lost his parliamentary

seat in any case.   The reports — as yet unconfirmed –

that Jongwe was taken from his cell for a number of hours

yesterday is troubling. Until we learn more details,

however, it would be premature to speculate, but the

Department may wish to consider David Coltart’s suggestion

that we call publicly for an independent investigation and

autopsy.

 

JSULLIVAN

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