Did MDC plan bombings or was it a hoax?

Charles Mutama, who only two months earlier had told United States embassy officials about his arrest and torture by central intelligence organisation operatives, said the Movement for Democratic Change was planning a series of bomb attacks on police stations, militia bases, and ZANU-PF-owned shops and gas stations in five cities around the country.

Mutama, who described himself as the Harare regional coordinator for intelligence for the MDC, said he had identified 41 police stations and several businesses from a list of ZANU-PF-owned businesses supplied by the MDC Information Department.

He said one of the targets was a gas station in Highfield owned by former Harare mayor Solomon Tawengwa and a slew of Exor gas stations in the Harare area owned by Saviour Kasukuwere.

Mutama said the goal of the activities was to pressure the government to hold fresh elections, to re-open negotiations with the MDC leadership, and to galvanise the public behind the MDC.

He said he thought the MDC leadership was motivated to plan such activities by recent press reports criticising Morgan Tsvangirai for taking an ineffective armchair approach in comparison to the more confrontational approach of National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku, Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri, and maverick MDC MP Job Sikhala.

Although embassy officials doubted Mutama’s plans, they described him as a long-time contact.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE516, BOMB ATTACKS PLANNED: LOW-LEVEL MDC INTELLIGENCE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE516

2003-03-12 11:45

2011-08-30 01:44

SECRET

Embassy Harare

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

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000516

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2013

TAGS: PGOV PINR ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: BOMB ATTACKS PLANNED: LOW-LEVEL MDC INTELLIGENCE

OFFICIAL

 

 

Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

Summary:

--------

1. (S) Charles Mutama, Harare regional coordinator for

intelligence for the MDC, reported to Poloff that the

Security, Intelligence, and Youth branches of the MDC are

planning bomb attacks on police stations, militia bases, and

ZANU-PF-owned shops and gas stations in five cities around

the country in the coming weeks. While Mutama has in the

past been a reliable source, we have no independent

confirmation that the MDC leadership authorizes the plan, and

no information on the capability of anyone in the MDC to

execute such attacks. End Summary.

 

2. (S) Charles Mutama, who identifies himself as Harare

regional coordinator for intelligence for the MDC, reported

to Poloff today that the Security, Intelligence, and Youth

branches of the MDC are planning dynamite and petrol bomb

attacks on police stations, militia bases, and ZANU-PF-owned

shops and gas stations in five cities around the country in

the coming weeks.

 

Long-time Contact

-----------------

3. (S) Mutama, who has been known to the Political Section

for some time, was recruited into the MDC from the student

movement in 2000, along with MP Job Sikhala. He said he

received training in Uganda around that time, but did not

describe the training. He was tortured along with Job

Sikhala on January 14--the resulting burns and scars are

still visible. Mutama said he reports to the number two in

MDC Intelligence, who in turn reports to MDC Intelligence

Head Solomon Chikowero. He said Chikowero was briefing MDC

Deputy Secretary General Gift Chimanikire on the planned

attacks.

 

Call to Action Misinterpreted as Call to Attack ?

--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (S) We have heard from a variety of MDC sources that there

are plans to organize mass action for as early as March 13,

but more likely about two weeks later due to incomplete

planning. Mutama said that the Intelligence, Security, and

Youth branches are interpreting the call to mass action as a

call for confrontational activities such as attacking the

types of targets listed above. His particular role was to

identify targets in Harare. He said that plans for the

Harare activities were incomplete, but in good shape, however

he was not sure of the status of plans for attacks in

Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru and Masvingo.

 

Targets Identified but Plans Incomplete

---------------------------------------

5. (S) He said he had identified 41 police stations, several

businesses from a list of ZANU-PF-owned businesses supplied

by the MDC Information Department, including several gas

stations in Harare owned by ZANU-PF officials. He mentioned

that the planning for attacks on most police stations in the

Harare area were in good shape except for several police

stations in the low-density suburbs, as MDC youths were not

well represented in those areas. He mentioned specifically

that a gas station in Harare suburb of Highfield owned by

ZANU-PF former Harare mayor Solomon Tawengwa, and a slew of

Exor gas stations in the Harare area owned by ZANU-PF MP

Savior Kasukuwere, were on the list, as well as other ZANU-PF

owned shops. He also mentioned that employees of the Tel-One

central telephone switch house on Samora Machel Ave. and 2nd

Street in downtown Harare had identified phone circuits

associated with police stations and senior ZANU-PF officials,

and would disable those circuits at a critical moment. He

said that most of the more senior people involved in the

planning had police or military backgrounds, but that the

actual attacks would be carried out by MDC youths.

 

6. (S) He commented that while plans were well underway,

preparations were nevertheless incomplete, or at least he was

unaware of all the details. He said he thought the MDC

leadership planning the attacks had not thought through the

whole scenario very well; for example, he anticipated there

would be reprisals by GOZ authorities, but no one had

suggested a plan for dealing with those. He said the goal of

the activities was to pressure the GOZ to hold fresh

elections, to re-open negotiations with the MDC leadership,

and to galvanize the public behind the MDC. He said he

thought the MDC leadership was motivated to plan such

activities by recent press reports criticizing Morgan

Tsvangirai for taking an ineffective armchair approach in

 

SIPDIS

comparison to the more confrontational approach of National

Constitutional Assembly (NCA) Director Lovemore Madhuku,

Harare MDC Mayor Elias Mudzuri, and maverick MDC MP Job

Sikhala.

 

USG Would Not Condone Violence

------------------------------

7. (S) Poloff responded that the Embassy and USG would not

support any violent activities, that such activities would

not motivate the GOZ to re-open negotiations with the MDC and

instead would most likely justify a violent crackdown against

the party. Poloff said the Embassy would support peaceful

mass action involving as many Zimbabweans as possible, and

that this represents the democratic process. Violent actions

by a few individuals does not represent democracy, would

jeopardize all that the MDC stood for, and was a bad idea.

Mutama responded that while he was involved in the planning,

he didn't think he could head off the initiative, which he

suggested had wide appeal.

 

8. (S) Mutama is a longtime Embassy contact who called on

Poloff to ask his advice on whether he should accept an

invitation to go to South Africa for torture counseling at

this critical moment. Poloff's questions about why the

moment was critical lead to Mutama revealing the above.

 

Comment:

--------

9. (S) Mutama is a fairly low-level MDC official, but

nevertheless levelheaded and soft-spoken, almost bookish. He

is not one of the ones who would actually carry out the

attacks, but his sincerity suggests he is describing a

planning process that is actually under discussion. We are

aware that he may be testing the waters for this plan on

behalf of either the CIO (in the wake of his torture) or the

MDC, and will make discreet inquiries as to his legitimacy.

It is very likely that some members of the MDC are frustrated

and angry and would like to bomb ZANU-PF facilities, but we

have no independent confirmation that the MDC leadership

authorizes the plan. We also doubt that the MDC is actually

capable of executing such attacks, especially on the scale

that Mutama described. Similar past warnings by anti-Mugabe

individuals that violent anti-government actions were

imminent have not panned out. We are dubious that this one

will either, but will continue to follow this threat as

closely as discretion permits and will urge the MDC at

multiple levels not to engage in violent acts. End Comment.

SULLIVAN

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