Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai said the militias would have to be dissolved in order to minimise the possibility of violence before any new elections could be held.
He told this to United States ambassador Joseph Sullivan in 2003 and said Parliament would also have to repeal repressive laws such as the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Sullivan had told Tsvangirai that the United States wanted to know Zimbabwe’s needs during the transitional phase should President Robert Mugabe step down.
Tsvangirai said the immediate needs would be energy and food as it would take at least two years before the agricultural sector would be at par.
He said the MDC was finalising an economic recovery plan which he would make available to the embassy upon its completion.
The ambassador commented that by laying down the plan for a transitional phase Tsvangirai was, in effect, confirming that his new public position against a transitional authority was merely a negotiating ploy to respond to hardened ZANU-PF public positions.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1076, TSVANGIRAI TALKS ABOUT MASS ACTION, REGIONAL
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
300644Z May 03
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001076
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
BANGKOK FOR WIN DAYTON
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2013
SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI TALKS ABOUT MASS ACTION, REGIONAL
INITIATIVES, LEGAL WOES, AND TRANSITIONAL PERIOD NEEDS
Classified By: POLITICAL OFFICER KIMBERLY JEMISON FOR REASONS 1.5 C/D
¶1. (C) At a meeting on May 28, 2003, MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai and MDC deputy Secretary General Gift Chimanikire
discussed the impending mass action, the status of the
Mbeki-Muluzi-Obasanjo initiative, the court cases, and
transitional period needs. Tsvangirai seemed confident that
the June mass action would be both non-violent and controlled
and would push ZANU-PF hardliners closer to the negotiating
table. He seemed less optimistic about the success of the
regional initiative to get ZANU-PF and MDC talking and the
likelihood of the judge granting an acquittal in his treason
case. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) The Ambassador, AF/S Director Scott DeLisi, and PolOff
met MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC deputy Secretary
General Gift Chimanikire on May 28,2003, a day after
Tsvangirai briefed G8 representatives on the MDC,s position
vis–vis various current issues, including plans for mass
action (See Reftel). Tsvangirai said there has been a
progressive frustration and anger among the Zimbabwean people
and he expected a high level of participation in the mass
action. When asked what form the mass action would take, he
said he had asked MDC supporters whether they preferred a
stayaway or demonstration. He said the overwhelming majority
preferred the demonstration option. Tsvangirai told us the
MDC leadership had been preaching non-violence in preparation
for the demonstration and believed it would be able to
control the crowds. Both the Ambassador and DeLisi
reiterated the U.S. position that demonstrations should be
non-violent and every precaution should be undertaken to
ensure they remain non-violent.
¶3. (C) In spite of this confidence in being able to control
the crowds, Tsvangirai expressed concern about the youth
getting out of control, particularly if the war veterans
decide to take on the demonstrators. Ironically, Tsvangirai
was also concerned that if the police and/or military did not
react to the demonstrations with force, the marchers would
feel emboldened and expand the scope of activities and get
out of control.
¶4. (C) When asked where the demonstrations were likely to
take place–city center or high-density suburbs–Tsvangirai
said the city center was an option. He said a march on State
House was not planned. Both he and Chimanikire seemed to
believe the police and military (and most likely the MDC
youth) would be less likely to behave in an unruly fashion or
destroy the infrastructure in the city center than if they
were in the high-density areas.
¶5. (C) In a separate conversation May 28, Gibson Sibanda,
Vice-President of the MDC, told the Ambassador that the MDC
was doing all in its power to keep its supporters under
control. MDC marshals will attend each rally and leaders at
each event will remind people to remain peaceful. The MDC
does believe that the war veterans have been issued weapons
and are planning to run an ad asking them not to interfere.
(NOTE: In the past, rumors that war veterans were being armed
have been false. END NOTE.) Sibanda said the MDC was also
planning to be on the lookout for potential infiltrators
hoping to stir up trouble.
REGIONAL INITIATIVE ON HOLD
¶6. (C) Turning to the regional initiative and his meeting
with Malawian President Bakili Muluzi, Tsvangirai said the
planned meeting had to be cancelled because he needed to
apply to the court to travel to Malawi and knew he would
never get approval. Tsvangirai also claimed that Mugabe
expressed reservations about him going out of the country and
was suspicious of the host,s and invitee,s intentions.
¶7. (C) Tsvangirai commented that Mugabe met with Mozambican
President Joachim Chisamo, Muluzi, South African President
Thabo Mbeki, and other regional foreign ministers and heads
of state at the Walter Sisulu funeral to discuss ways to
resolve the Zimbabwe crisis. According to Tsvangirai, these
leaders were disappointed with the outcome because Mugabe was
not willing to negotiate and offered no suggestions on how to
resolve the situation. As a result of the meeting, the
regional initiative is on hold. In spite of the failed
talks, Tsvangirai feels it is important the region keep up
the momentum and pressure on Mugabe. Both the Ambassador and
DeLisi commented that it might be necessary to regenerate the
¶8. (C) Regarding the treason trial, Tsvangirai thought the
prosecution would wrap up its case in two or three weeks. He
said the MDC attorneys were planning to apply for an
acquittal. He said if the judge grants the acquittal then
the trial is over but the judge may decide he wants to hear
all the evidence before making a decision. In that case, the
defendants would most likely take the stand.
¶9. (C) Tsvangirai said the election challenge was on hold for
two reasons. One, the MDC was trying to get another judge to
preside over the case. At the moment, Garwe, the judge who
is presiding over the treason trial, is slated to hear
arguments. Two, Mugabe has said in a defense filing the
trial is not an emergency, hence, it will not be tried soon.
¶10. (C) The Ambassador remarked that the U.S. was interested
in Zimbabwe’s needs during a transition phase. He asked
Tsvangirai for recommendations for support. Tsvangirai
responded that energy and food needs would be paramount but
it would take at least two years before the agricultural
sector would be up to par. He revealed that the MDC is
finalizing a recovery economic plan, which he would make
available to the Embassy upon its completion in the first
week of June.
¶11. (C) Prior to the Ambassador,s specific questions on
transition, Tsvangirai identified immediate changes that
would need to occur if Mugabe were to step down. He said the
parties would need to agree on a transition strategy, be it
what is already described in the Constitution or something
new. He thought ZANU-PF would like a shorter transition
period before elections while MDC would like a longer period
in order to build confidence in the process. Whatever the
method, Tsvangirai maintained that before any new elections,
the militias would have to be dissolved in order to minimize
the possibility of violence and Parliament would need to
repeal repressive legislation, such as the Public Order and
Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act, and amend the Electoral Act to allow for
independent and terror-free election education and
campaigning. (COMMENT: Tsvangirai, in effect, confirmed that
his new public position against a transitional authority is
merely a negotiating ploy to respond to hardened ZANU-PF
public positions. END COMMENT.)
¶12. (C) After weeks of speculation, it seems that the MDC is
finally ready to move to the next stage in its campaign to
force change. The party leadership,s confidence in a
successful mass action, the increased regional interest in
resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe, and the belief that the
treason trial may result in an acquittal, seem to have
bolstered the confidence of the party. Nonetheless, there
are two serious risks here–the risk that the public will not
turn out in the face of government threats and the risk that
the confrontation between MDC demonstrators and government
security forces will result in serious violence and massive
arrests, including of MDC leaders–that jeopardize the
efficacy of the mass action. END COMMENT.