The leadership was imposing decision on the membership without consultation.
Public statements were not cleared properly and candidates were not selected properly.
MDC MPs fought with staff members over party responsibilities and general communication was broken between the leadership and provincial structures.
The membership was despondent, frustrated, disillusioned and depressed.
These were some of the things that came up when consultants looked at the MDC’s organisational structure eight years ago.
The question today is, have things changed?
Viewing cable 04HARARE752, WHITHER THE MDC
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 05 HARARE 000752
AF/S FOR SDELISI, LAROIAN, MRAYNOR
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2014
SUBJECT: WHITHER THE MDC
REF: A. HARARE 716
¶B. HARARE 649
¶C. HARARE 401
¶D. 3/16/04 E-MAIL FROM BESMER TO RAYNOR
¶E. 2003 HARARE 2412
¶F. 2003 HARARE 1359
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The fledgling opposition MDC is suffering
from some basic but critical problems: infighting within the
higher ranks, insufficient communication and consultation
with the broader membership, despondency, and increasing
criticism from within the party. These factors coupled with
ZANU-PF's increasingly aggressive posture and upper hand in
all aspects of political life in Zimbabwe are reducing public
confidence in the MDC's ability to bring about political
change. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) On April 4 - 5 the MDC leadership participated in an
organizational strengthening workshop in which consultants
presented a strategy and program to assess the talents of MDC
leadership and staff to position them appropriately within
the organization. The MDC President, Vice-President,
Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, National
Chairman and Treasurer, the so-called "top six", participated
in the exercise which included a personality assessment. MDC
MP Roy Bennett, who helped organize the workshop, said that
the talents and leadership positions of President Morgan
Tsvangirai, the Secretary General Welshman Ncube, and the
Deputy Secretary General Gift Chimanikire were confirmed.
The others did less well, but it was unclear what immediate
impact the exercise would have on their positions. Bennett
said most officials would undergo the assessment in a major
reorganization of the party to occur in the coming months.
¶3. (C) The party is being reorganized with a focus on
contesting the March 2005 general Parliamentary elections.
The "top six" will focus on strategy, and an elections
coordinator will oversee all of the party's operations. The
coordinator will head up an elections directorate, which is
to be organizationally located within the President's office.
During the April 4 - 5 meeting, it was decided that MDC
staffer and CEO of First Mutual (a local insurance company),
Ian Makoni, would be the elections coordinator. Bennett said
Makoni's role in that position was decided by the MDC
leadership, rather than by personality assessment.
¶4. (C) The consultants, Dren Nupen, Mandlha Mutungu and Alan
Bruce, are senior members of the South Africa's ruling
African National Congress (ANC), who have reportedly worked
on organizational strengthening with the ANC for several
years. Bennett said that the initiative for the consultants
and reorganization came from within the MDC, and funding for
the consultants came from the Swedes and Norwegians. The
initiative to bring in outside consultants to help the MDC
reorganize itself came out of organizational conflicts that
surfaced most notably after the June 2003 failed "final push"
(Ref F). The results of the workshop and way forward with
restructuring were presented to the 37-member MDC national
executive on April 10 - 11. The consultants will reportedly
continue to work with the MDC for the foreseeable future.
Elections Playing Field
¶5. (C) In an April 29 briefing to Harare-based diplomats, MDC
President Morgan Tsvangirai reiterated the party's five
demands for leveling the elections playing field: end
political violence, repeal repressive legislation, establish
an independent elections commission, open the voters' roll
early and hold voting on a single day, and restore ballot
secrecy. Although he said these reforms were essential,
Tsvangirai did not explain how the party was going to press
for them. Tsvangirai said the party was focused on preparing
for the March 2005 elections, but was still considering a
boycott and would decide later whether to participate.
Planning Mass Action
¶6. (C) MDC staff members said that during the April 4 - 5
workshop, the leadership approved plans for mass action, but
groundwork to carry out that effort was still in its infancy.
Dennis Murira, personal assistant to the Party Chairman and
mass action coordinator said that the primary purpose of the
planned demonstrations would be to influence the government
to acquiesce to the MDC's elections demands.
¶7. (C) MDC Director of Presidential Affairs, Gandi Mudzingwa,
said it would take considerable time to organize for mass
action. The strategy envisioned three phases: strengthen
grassroots support at the village level (April to May),
consolidate, test and review party structures (June to July),
and stage mass action in about August. Mudzingwa
acknowledged that party morale was at a low point, but he
compared the party's present low-morale to the low point
before the successful March 2003 stayaway, after which the
party had a major rebound.
¶8. (C) Mudzingwa and Murira said that mass action would be
carried out with a broad alliance of civic groups: the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the Zimbabwe
Liberators' Platform (ZLP), the National Constitutional
Assembly (NCA), and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
(Crisis). Each organization would be expected to mobilize
its memberships to participate. The MDC would invite other
NGOs to participate. The MDC hoped that ZLP with its
connections to the security forces would be able to
discourage the police and army from responding violently.
The officials said that previous stayaways (work stoppages)
did not effectively influence the government and that protest
marches were required.
¶9. (C) Murira said protests would take place in high-density
suburbs nationwide as church-led events in which MDC members
would march from a church to a city hall or a police station
where they would deliver petitions, cards or flowers urging
non-violence. Murira said there would be "rolling" mass
actions for as long as the MDC could sustain them, until and
unless the government acquiesced to any of the opposition's
¶10. (C) MDC Mayors, MPs, provincial chairpersons, councilors,
and street-level activists have described organizational
weaknesses that afflict the party. Frequent complaints were
that one or more leaders is leaking information to ZANU-PF,
that the leadership imposes decisions on the membership
without consultation, that public statements have not been
cleared properly, that candidates were not selected properly,
that MDC MPs have fought with MDC staff members over party
responsibilities, and that general communication has broken
down between the leadership and provincial structures and
between the leadership and the membership. Officials who
distrust and or despise each other uniformly agreed that the
early April series of meetings and workshops to address
organizational issues was a good idea and they would accept
the outcome of that process.
¶11. (C) Mudzingwa suggested in advance of the workshop that
the solution to the rift problem between MDC staffers and MPs
was to "ignore" the MPs because getting them involved in mass
action and other planning was "stupid" -- presumably
logistically cumbersome and prone to leaks. Mudzingwa said
there was a need to make the party more command oriented,
rather than overly consultative.
¶12. (C) Just two months ago, party leaders maintained
publicly and privately that there were only "perceived
divisions" within the MDC, not actual ones. As the local
media, including the independent press, has exposed
internecine rifts, they have become more candid.
¶13. (C) MDC Mayors, MPs, provincial chairpersons, councilors,
and street-level activists have commented that the MDC
membership is despondent, frustrated, disillusioned and
depressed. Morale was low after the March 27 - 28 defeat in
the Harare suburb of Zengeza and people were confused about
threats to boycott the March 2005 polls. Having fought hard,
they did not understand why the party might not contest the
elections. The officials said that members in both urban and
rural areas felt ignored because they have received no
communication from the leadership in many months, angry
because they felt the leadership had abandoned the membership
and the party's principles in favor of fancy cars and nice
houses in Harare, and suspicious because Tsvangirai wanted to
talk to Mugabe -- a move that many members thought smacked of
selling-out, a la ZAPU.
¶14. (C) Several MDC interlocutors including Tsvangirai have
suggested that rogue MDC elements were inclined to mount
armed resistance to the GOZ. Some MDC officials have
commented that they spent significant time trying to dissuade
rogue and youthful elements within the party from such
inclinations. Officials have suggested that despite their
discouragement, youths either from within Zimbabwe or from
the thousands of young MDC members in South Africa, could
strike out on their own, outside the command and control of
the party leadership. Two different officials even suggested
that an army mutiny was possible. There are rumors that
unnamed ex-Zimbabwean farmers residing in Zambia were willing
to fund an armed struggle against Mugabe.
¶15. (C) There has been no recent indication that ZANU-PF
would engage in formal dialogue with the MDC. Nevertheless
MDC officials, notably Welshman Ncube, have suggested
dialogue is still possible. Reporting on conversations the
ANC consultants had had with members of Mbeki's cabinet, on
April 27 Bennett said that Ncube had visited Mbeki numerous
times over the past several months and had presented Mbeki
with a draft constitution that was reportedly approved by
both Ncube and Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa.
Bennett was optimistic that once South African elections were
behind him, Mbeki wanted to deliver progress on the Zimbabwe
crisis. (Ncube himself paints a much more limited picture of
the status of his discussions with Mbeki and Chinamasa.)
¶16. (C) Welshman Ncube has suggested privately that there was
consensus within SADC countries that Mugabe must talk.
(Note: Conversations with Botswanan (Ref C) and Zambian (Ref
D) diplomats here revealed sympathies for the need for
reform, but no indication that SADC countries would be
willing to publicly encourage Mugabe to talk or resolve the
political crisis. End note.) Ncube predicted in March that
the rules for formal dialogue would be laid down and formal
talks would restart in the near future. He said the MDC did
not want to engage the ruling party on substantive issues
before formal talks began for fear that that engagement could
be construed as "talks" - further delaying the start of real
¶17. (C) Lower-level MDC officials or those outside Harare
expressed deep skepticism about talks. They could not
understand the purpose of talks with Mugabe except as an
opportunity for MDC President Tsvangirai to sell-out the
membership and join ZANU-PF.
Criticism from Within
¶18. (SBU) While there was no real public or private debate on
Tsvangirai's leadership of the MDC, critics of the MDC
President from within the party have in recent weeks been
more bold in attacking Tsvangirai in the press. On March 24,
maverick MDC MP for St. Mary's Job Sikhala lashed out at
Tsvangirai during a Zengeza campaign rally held by Harare
North MP Trudy Stevenson. Sikhala said the MDC's threat to
boycott the March 2005 polls was dangerous, self-defeating,
and gave ammunition to the party's enemies (Ref A). He
asserted that Tsvangirai lacked a strategy to rule, and that
the MDC leadership had a tendency to pre-empt positions
without taking stock of the consequences.
¶19. (U) In early April a group calling itself "MDC Supporters
for Democracy" (MSD) wrote a letter to Tsvangirai, sending a
copy to the government-controlled weekly the Sunday Mail,
criticizing the imposition of Makore as the MDC candidate in
Zengeza. The leader of the group, Kurauone Chihwayi, was a
frequent and controversial letter-writer to the Sunday Mail.
Chihwayi called for Tsvangirai and Matongo to resign, and
said MSD would continue to guard against abuse and
dictatorship within the MDC.
¶20. (SBU) In Johannesburg on April 19, Zimbabwean MDC youths
residing in South Africa reportedly criticized Tsvangirai
repeatedly for lack of a strategy at an MDC public meeting.
¶21. (C) Compounding nearly all of the party's myriad problems
is the collapse of its financial base. The mainstay of its
revenue source, the commercial farm sector, has all but
evaporated. The GOZ's recent take-over of Bennett's
Charleswood estate was just the latest manifestation of the
ruling party's priority of choking off MDC revenue. Even
outside the agricultural sector, businesses are pressed to
contribute to or conduct business on favorable terms with the
ruling party -- and are punished if perceived to be
opposition sympathizers. As a result, the party is unable to
sustain meaningful operations in many parts of the country --
in part from intimidation and in part from lack of resources.
The Mashonaland West Provincial Chairman told Poloff in
April, for example, that the party had totaled its only car
dedicated to the province and had no means to purchase a
replacement. MDC officials have complained that legal fees
from the Tsvangirai treason trial, the elections challenge
and other cases are the biggest drain on the MDC's scarce
resources. MDC officials have repeatedly made requests to
Poloff for funds, saying that their lack is a prime
constraint to party activities.
¶22. (C) The MDC is suffering from a myriad of organizational
problems, and is operating within a repressive political
environment. These are major challenges for a young
opposition party, but the deterioration of the economy and
widespread anger against ZANU-PF provide a giant unifying and
motivating force in its favor. The party as a whole seems to
be lacking in its ability to coordinate its members and
galvanize public frustration toward political change.
Confidence in the party at many levels appears to be at an
all-time low. Getting substantial numbers of Zimbabweans
into the streets to demonstrate may prove an insurmountable
¶23. (C) Continued: Threatening to boycott the March 2005
polls might publicize the gross unevenness in the electoral
playing field, but boycotting the 2005 polls would shut the
MDC out of parliament, its most visible public presence.
While ZANU-PF appears to have some concern for its electoral
legitimacy, such concerns do not make ZANU-PF inclined to run
a fair election or to share power with the MDC. All
indications are that ZANU-PF would be happy if the MDC
disappeared in the next election.
¶24. (C) Continued: The conflict between MPs and technocrats,
the lack of effective communication and consultation with the
membership, and general feelings of despondency are serious
problems that the party would need to resolve in order to
achieve any programs requiring massive coordination.
Mudzingwa's suggestion to ignore MPs because what they asked
for was stupid was a startlingly naive suggestion on dealing
with the problem. The benefits of restructuring based on
advice from the ANC consultants may not be fully realized for
¶25. (C) Continued: An armed "adventurist" resistance to the
GOZ by a rag-tag group of youths would be doomed to failure
at the hands of government security forces. Such resistance
would likely result in violent retribution against MDC
leaders and members. Notwithstanding the suggestion of
adventurism by various MDC leaders, we have no evidence that
the risk is real or that any actual preparations are
underway. The real question is who might command such
activities -- it wouldn't be the MDC.