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Talks dead, MDC in a quandary

Movement for Democratic Change Mutambara faction secretary general Welshman Ncube said on 29 January 2008 the Southern African Development Community sponsored talks between the MDC and the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front were dead.

President Robert Mugabe had killed the talks by declaring an early nomination date of 8 February and an election date of 29 March that did not give the MDC time to evaluate the delimitation exercise, inspect the voters roll and select candidates.

Ncube said the question now as whether to participate or boycott the elections. The two parties seemed to be divided.

The Mutambara faction including its leader favoured a boycott, but the Tsvangirai faction seemed divided with secretary-general Tendai Biti favouring a boycott while Tsvangirai’s “kitchen cabinet” and the national executive favoured participation fearing that if they boycotted the MDC would cease to exist.

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGhee said the MDC was in a no win situation.

“If it participates and loses, it will in some measure confer legitimacy upon Mugabe–particularly if, as possibly is the case, the GOZ allows international observation of the elections. If the MDC boycotts, it risks its continuing viability as a party. In any event, attention is beginning to shift to post-election ZANU-PF and succession.”

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 08HARARE81, SADC TALKS DEAD; MDC TO CONSIDER PARTICIPATION IN

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08HARARE81

2008-01-29 14:49

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO4033

RR RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0081/01 0291449

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 291449Z JAN 08

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2436

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1748

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1874

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0466

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1151

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1508

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1930

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4359

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1001

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000081

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL,

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN AND L. DOBBINS

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/29/2018

TAGS: PREL PGOV ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: SADC TALKS DEAD; MDC TO CONSIDER PARTICIPATION IN

ELECTION

 

REF: A) HARARE 70 B) HARARE 46 C) PRETORIA 152

 

Classified By: Amb. James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (d)

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) (Mutambara

faction) secretary general Welshman Ncube believes Zimbabwean

president Robert Mugabe has effectively killed the SADC

talks, and that SADC is afraid to challenge Mugabe’s

peremptory dismissal of South African president Thabo Mbeki

and his mediation efforts. Leaders of both factions favor an

election boycott in an effort to create a “tipping point” in

the Zimbabwean situation, but a reconciled MDC is likely to

decide to participate in the March 29 elections. END

SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) Ncube told polecon chief on January 29 that ZANU-PF

had engaged in “provocative” behavior over the last 10 days

by declaring an early nomination date (February 8) and

election date (March 29) that do not give the MDC time to

evaluate the recently completed delimitation exercise,

inspect voter rolls, and select candidates. By acting

peremptorily, according to Ncube, Mugabe had effectively

ended the SADC mediation process. The SADC process was dead

and the only question was how Mbeki would bury it.

 

3. (C) Ncube noted that Mbeki had sent his chief mediator,

Sydney Mufamadi, last week to attempt to revive the talks by

arranging a meeting between Mugabe and MDC presidents Morgan

Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara and continued to press Mugabe

 

SIPDIS

on the issue. Mugabe was refusing to meet with them–he

insisted he could not meet with Tsvangirai who was disputing

his legitimacy through a still-pending challenge to the 2003

presidential election results–and now even refused to take

Mbeki’s phone calls. The MDC had appealed to SADC, but SADC,

in Ncube’s opinion, was weak and would not challenge a

sitting leader.

 

4. (C) According to Ncube, the MDC was unprepared for the

elections and was certain to lose. He and the leadership of

his faction, including president Arthur Mutambara, favored a

boycott. The MDC had engaged in an incremental strategy,

including participating in elections, for the last eight

years and had gone nowhere. Acknowledging that the MDC had

no alternative strategy in the event of a boycott, Ncube said

a boycott might produce a “tipping point” and an unknown

succession of events that might be preferable to the status

quo. But Ncube believed his faction’s national council

favored participation.

 

5. (C) Ncube stated that Tsvangirai and his secretary

general, Tendai Biti, also favored a boycott, but

Tsvangirai’s “kitchen cabinet” and a majority of his national

 

SIPDIS

council favored participation. Reasons articulated for

participation in both factions included lack of an

alternative program in the event of a boycott; fear that the

MDC would cease to exist (as had occurred with boycotting

parties in other African countries); the opportunity for

ZANU-PF to establish footholds in areas that would no longer

have MDC parliamentarians, causing diminution of MDC strength

in these areas; and the fact that the absence of a challenge

to ZANU-PF would allow that party to conserve resources.

Ncube did not feel the decision was being driven by

parliamentarians who favored participation in order to keep

their seats; a number of parliamentarians favored a boycott.

 

6. (C) Ncube said the national councils of both MDC factions

would meet later this week to vote on the agreement reached

 

HARARE 00000081 002 OF 002

 

 

by standing committees of each faction to act as a coalition,

and to reunify no earlier than April 2009. He expected the

national councils would then meet jointly to decide on

whether or not to participate in the March elections. He

believed the decision would be to participate.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

7. (C) As we have pointed out (Ref B), the MDC is in a

no-win situation. If it participates and loses, it will in

some measure confer legitimacy upon Mugabe–particularly if,

as possibly is the case (Septel), the GOZ allows

international observation of the elections. If the MDC

boycotts, it risks its continuing viability as a party. In

any event, attention is beginning to shift to post-election

ZANU-PF and succession. END COMMENT.

 

MCGEE

(45 VIEWS)

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