This was revealed by none other than the party leader himself Morgan Tsvangirai when he met United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell on 8 September 2005.
Tsvangirai told the ambassador that though the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front had won a two-thirds majority in Parliament, it was treading on soft ground and some ruling party members were beginning to question whether the end was near.
It was, however, naïve to think that President Robert Mugabe would become a democrat and step down. He was prepared to die in office.
However, some ZANU-PF members, including parliamentary whip Joram Gumbo, had been reaching out to the MDC citing "irreconcilable differences" within the regime.
During his tour of the country he sensed that the government’s "burn the house down" mentality - as evidenced by Operation Restore Order - had left the Zimbabwean people increasingly demanding a change.
The MDC had to capitalise on this sentiment, he said, by demonstrating courage and proving -both domestically and internationally- that the democratic fight was still alive and relevant.
Tsvangirai said that the opposition should not be a "debating club" and asserted that MDC leaders might have to be arrested at demonstrations to give the public confidence in their leadership.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1271, TSVANGIRAI INVIGORATING BASE TO CAPITALIZE ON GOZ
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
091053Z Sep 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 001271
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/09/2015
SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI INVIGORATING BASE TO CAPITALIZE ON GOZ
REF: PRETORIA 003284
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) Summary. In a September 8 meeting with the
Ambassador, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) President
Morgan Tsvangirai said that ZANU-PF's hold on power was
fragile and that he envisioned a more confrontational MDC
as a means to boost the public's confidence in the
opposition and to exploit the opening created by GOZ
mis-steps over the last three months. There may be a need
for MDC leaders to be arrested, he said, in order to
demonstrate the party's courage and leadership. Noting
that the MDC had been conducting a permanent parliamentary
campaign for the past five years, Tsvangirai admitted that
the party needed to retool and invest in training the party'
s lower-rung cadre and in its communication network,
especially in the rural areas. The Ambassador reiterated
US willingness to support Zimbabwe's democratic forces in
appropriate ways. Tsvangirai noted that continued debate
over whether to participate in Senate elections and
differing views over the agenda for the MDC's party
congress to be held early next year may, however, divert
the party's attention from these institution building
moves. End Summary.
ZANU-PF Down, But MDC in Need of Courage
¶2. (C) Tsvangirai told the Ambassador that ZANU-PF was
treading on fragile ground and that some ruling party
members were beginning to question whether the end was
near. He pointed to the international community's
condemnation of Operation Restore Order and divisions
amongst Mugabe's traditional African backers as evidence
that the regime was increasingly isolated. Tsvangirai said
it was, however, na e to think that President Mugabe would
become a democrat and step down. Instead, he said Mugabe
is prepared to die in office. Meanwhile, some ZANU-PF
members, including parliamentary whip Joram Gumbo, had been
reaching out to the MDC citing "irreconcilable differences"
within the regime. Tsvangirai said that these talks might
produce a union that could work together in parliament or
contest the next election.
¶3. (C) Tsvangirai said that during his on-going travel
around Zimbabwe he sensed that the GOZ's "burn the house
down" mentality - as evidenced by Operation Restore Order -
has left the Zimbabwean people increasingly demanding a
change. Rather than being squashed by the GOZ's brutality,
the people were incensed and "challenged." The MDC has to
capitalize on this sentiment, he said, by demonstrating
courage and proving - both domestically and internationally
- that the democratic fight is still alive and relevant.
He said that the opposition should not be a "debating club"
and asserted that MDC leaders might have to be arrested at
demonstrations to give the public confidence in their
¶4. (C) The MDC has been in election campaign mode for five
years, but now was the time to focus on the party's
institutions, according to Tsvangirai. Noting the need
both to renew the party and to confront the regime, he said
that his top priorities now were to train the party's
lower-level cadres and build a "rapid-response"
communication network. The lack of investment in training
beyond the party's top leadership has left the majority of
its personnel with "wishy-washy" campaign skills.
Meanwhile, the party was losing the propaganda war.
Tsvangirai agreed with the Ambassador's suggestion to tap
into Zimbabwe's "bush network," saying that the urbanites
displaced by Operation Restore Order might give the party a
useful beachhead into the rural areas. Rather than destroy
the MDC's urban base, Tsvangirai agreed with the Ambassador
that "the virus" of the urban opposition was now being
spread into the rural communities.
¶5. (C) Tsvangirai noted that his plans to strengthen the
party's ranks and media connections might be undermined by
ongoing debate regarding participation in the Senate and
the MDC's party congress scheduled for February or March of
next year. Alluding to these hurdles, Tsvangirai said it
would be a struggle to ensure that the party does not turn
on itself. He said he was opposed to the MDC's
participation in the Senate, but noted that some MDC
members may be inclined to participate in the upcoming
election and that the party's posture on the Senate may
prove to be divisive. He called the Senate an unnecessary
diversion from the real national issues and questioned how
winning a few seats in the largely powerless Senate would
help the MDC advance its fight against the regime. Perhaps
a bigger distraction will be the MDC's party congress next
year. Tsvangirai said that preparation for the congress
was likely to divert the party's attention away from
national issues and institution-building plans.
¶6. (C) Responding to the Ambassador's question regarding
the political fortunes of the "third force" alternative to
both ZANU-PF and the MDC, Tsvangirai doubted the movement's
prospects, saying that its proponents lack popular
support. Suggesting that the third force was
personality-driven, Tsvangirai said there was a need for
unity against Mugabe's regime. Even Jonathan Moyo - the
third force's leading mouth - could only go so far in his
criticism of the government, Tsvangirai said. Tsvangirai
suggested the GOZ tolerated Moyo, for now, but was prepared
to crack down should he air too much of its dirty laundry,
or present a genuine threat.
Role of the International Community
¶7. (C) When asked by the Ambassador for ways the
international community could help the opposition,
Tsvangirai said other countries needed to condemn Operation
Restore Order and follow through on the UN
recommendations. UN Special Envoy Tibaijuka's report,
Tsvangirai cautioned, must not remain as simply debating
points. He even suggested that the EU bring a case before
the International Criminal Court to prosecute the regime
for launching Restore Order. Once again saying that South
African President Mbeki had failed to encourage dialogue in
Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai said the international community
needed to find some face-saving means to push forward on
prospects for interparty talks, folding Mbeki into a
larger, constructive process and thereby extricate him from
his own failed role.
¶8. (C) Tsvangirai reiterated a proposal made earlier to
Ambassador Frazer (reftel) that the prospects of lifting US
financial and travel sanctions could be dangled to entice
regime leaders to defect. The Ambassador replied that the
proposal was premature; in order for it to work, ZANU-PF
leaders had to calculate that the end of Mugabe's reign was
near and before we could think about an approach like this
we would probably want to increase the pressure and sense
of isolation these individuals felt they were under.
¶9. (C) Tsvangirai's analysis and recommendation for the MDC'
s renewal appear to be right on. Operation Restore Order
and the UN's subsequent report have ignited criticism
domestically, in the west, and within other African
capitals that are increasingly seeing Mugabe as a
liability. Equally spot on, political and campaign savvy
is limited to the MDC's upper rung and the opposition is
falling behind in the propaganda war, highlighting the need
for increased training and focus on communications,
especially in rural areas.
¶10. (C) Despite the probity of his analysis, Tsvangirai
fell flat on specific action steps for his party. Echoing
professed party priorities he has propounded continuously
since the disappointing "final push" effort of 2003, his
commitment to party rebuilding and more effective
confrontation ring somewhat hollow. Indeed, his goal of
looking inward to rebuild to some extent conflicts with his
stated need to demonstrate the party's relevance by
directly and publicly confronting the regime. This
juggling act will be further complicated by the impending
divide over the Senate - MDC middle-weights may be eagerly
eying Senatorial paychecks - and the upcoming party
¶11. (C) The MDC is battered and bruised after five years
of fighting losing electoral campaigns and producing few
results. Emerging talk of the third force hints to the
public's frustration with the MDC. Tsvangirai seems seized
with the imperative to demonstrate domestically and
internationally that the MDC remains a credible force in
Zimbabwean politics. At the same time, continued inaction
seems certain to accelerate a perception that the MDC is
drifting toward further irrelevance. To reverse this, it
needs to be more effective at tapping into what Tsvangirai
claims to be mounting public anger, strengthening its own
structures and finding ways to chip away at ZANU's cohesion