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To us the word ‘Election’ means death

A villager in Gutu told visiting United States embassy officials he had no faith that the next elections would be free and fair because to him, the word election means death.

He said this in May 2009, barely three months after the formation of the inclusive government, but reports said Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front candidates Paul Chimedza and Shuvai Mahofa were already campaigning.

Dr Chimedza had already dished out 30 bicycles at one elementary school as part of his campaign.

Mahofa, who was beaten by Eliphas Mukonoweshuro in the 2008 elections, wanted to contest for the Senate and was telling people that under the inclusive government both she and Mukonoweshuro were Members of Parliament for the area.

Mukonoweshuro died in South Africa in August 2011.

Full cable:

Viewing cable 09HARARE379, FORGIVE AND FORGET? NOT YET — RECONCILIATION SLOW

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

09HARARE379

2009-05-07 15:51

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO8867

OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0379/01 1271551

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 071551Z MAY 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4451

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2805

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2926

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1369

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2189

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2554

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2974

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5415

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2098

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000379

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR M. GAVIN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/07/2019

TAGS: ASEC KDEM PGOV PHUM PREL ZI

SUBJECT: FORGIVE AND FORGET? NOT YET — RECONCILIATION SLOW

IN RURAL ZIMBABWE

 

REF: 08 HARARE 527

 

Classified By: Charge d’affaires, a.i. Katherine Dhanani for reasons 1.

4 (b) and (d).

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Progress towards forgiveness is slow in Gutu South, a

rural constituency that was hard hit by violence during the

2008 inter-election period. Although some chiefs are leading

an effort towards reconciliation between victims and

perpetrators of violence, fear and intimidation remain high

and reconciliation is slow. Villagers told us that ZANU-PF

leaders continue to threaten to beat MDC members whenever the

next election is held, and war veterans maintain bases in the

area. Reports of ZANU-PF political leaders’ distribution of

food and bicycles to party members represents a continuation

of years of politicized aid by the party. END SUMMARY.

 

——————————————— —-

Rural Zim — A Year After the “Moment of Madness”

——————————————— —-

 

2. (SBU) A year after political violence devastated

Zimbabwe’s rural communities, poloff and a poloff from the

British Embassy visited the Gutu South constituency, at the

invitation of the Gutu Rural District Council, on May 6. In

the 2008 parliamentary election, Gutu South elected MDC MP

Eliphas Mukonoweshuro (now also Minister of Public Service)

over ZANU-PF incumbent Shuvai Mahofa. In fact, this rural

area elected several MDC candidates for the first time ever,

sparking significant violence (Ref). A year ago, this region

was a no-go area and our visit would have caused an uproar

and perhaps violence or retribution against our

interlocutors. This trip, in contrast, was peaceful and we

were greeted warmly.

 

3. (SBU) This area is far from the beaten track and newspaper

distribution, meaning radio is the only real source of

information. Community leaders told us in hushed voices that

they rely on Studio 7, the local VOA outlet, as their primary

source of balanced, fair news.

 

—————————

Schools Open and Struggling

—————————

 

4. (SBU) We first visited Rupiri Secondary School, home to

about 280 students who walk as much as 10 km to reach the

school. Despite threats of a teachers’ strike, all teachers

were present and teaching full classes. None of the children

in the school had paid any portion of the US$5 school fee for

the term, which began on May 5. Teachers and administrators

acknowledged that none of the children could afford to pay

the fee, which would normally fund supplies for the school

like textbooks, chalk, and cleaning supplies. Without school

fees, the headmaster does not know how they will obtain the

supplies. Not surprisingly, a significant textbook shortage

means children must share. The headmaster, also the English

teacher, has just four textbooks for his two classes of about

40 children each. (NOTE: In rural schools, this

textbook-to-student ratio is not uncommon. END NOTE.)

Qtextbook-to-student ratio is not uncommon. END NOTE.)

 

———————————————

Villagers Not Yet Ready to Forgive and Forget

———————————————

 

5. (SBU) In Ma-na township, an hour’s drive on a dirt road

from the main highway, we met with the MDC councilor for ward

 

HARARE 00000379 002 OF 003

 

 

27, Jeffrey Tangimari, and about 40 constituents under the

shade of a tree behind the empty general store. Although the

meeting was intended to be an opportunity for ZANU-PF

perpetrators and MDC victims to share their experiences and

discuss moving forward, only one perpetrator was present. He

stood before the group and said he felt used by the ZANU-PF

apparatus. He and others were promised jobs and money if

they beat MDC members so that they would not vote in the June

27, 2008 runoff election. He said he is like everyone else

in the constituency and has nothing. He expressed regret for

his actions and asked for help in providing medical care to

the victims still nursing injuries. Villagers also explained

that even though some ZANU-PF perpetrators regret their

actions and want to be reintegrated, they remain fearful of

ZANU-PF retaliation for “changing sides.”

 

6. (SBU) After the lone perpetrator present asked for

forgiveness, numerous villagers, including several elderly

women, rose to tell of the beatings they endured, the

livestock stolen, and the nights they slept in the cold after

their homes were burned to the ground by ZANU-PF supporters.

One woman told of a cow that was stolen in 2002 — a sign

that memories and anger go far beyond the 2008 election

violence. Many reported they were forced to vote for Robert

Mugabe in the June 27 runoff election. Although some said

they could forgive these wrongs — if they could recoup lost

property and they were assured future elections would be

peaceful, free, and fair — none expressed a willingness to

forget.

 

7. (SBU) Although some chiefs and councilors have spearheaded

community-building efforts, like reciprocal watering of

community gardens and soccer games, tensions and fears are

still palpable.

 

—————————————

“To Us the Word ‘Election’ Means Death”

—————————————

 

8. (SBU) Villagers went on to tell us that they had all heard

recent threats from ZANU-PF supporters and ZANU-PF affiliated

headmen and chiefs that they will be beaten or killed in the

next election. In addition, ZANU-PF and war veterans were

already forming bases just a few kilometers away. One man

told us he had no faith that the next elections would be free

and fair; he explained, “to us the word ‘election’ means

death.” Although they all want the inclusive government to

work at the national level, even more important to them, at

the local level they want village headmen and chiefs to be

non-partisan and the threat of election-related violence to

end.

 

—————————–

ZANU-PF Campaigning Has Begun

—————————–

 

9. (C) In his Ministry office on May 7, MP Mukonoweshuro

confirmed that Dr. Paul Chimedza has already begun

campaigning against him for his parliamentary seat. The

defeated ZANU-PF MP candidate (who now says she wants to be

Senator), Shuvai Mahofa, has also been in the constituency

QSenator), Shuvai Mahofa, has also been in the constituency

and was distributing maize seed to ZANU-PF supporters as

recently as April 2. In her statements to locals, she misled

constituents and told them that under the “unity government”

both she and Mukonoweshuro are MPs for the area. According

to MDC activists in the constituency, at the end of April,

Chimedza distributed 30 bicycles at one rural elementary

school. (NOTE: Chimedza, who is a former president of the

Zimbabwe Medical Association, is also chairman of Zimbabwe

Health Alliance Trust (ZIHAT), an NGO that claims to solicit

funds from the U.S. and Europe to benefit Zimbabwe’s public

 

HARARE 00000379 003 OF 003

 

 

health system. END NOTE.)

 

10. (C) Mukonoweshuro told us that ZANU-PF candidates are

distributing goods that were taken from the government and

Reserve Bank before the unity government was formed in

February. He acknowledged widespread fear of violence and

told us that Zimbabwe needs to return to a “modicum of

normalcy” in order to develop an honest people-driven

constitution and to have a free and fair election. He hoped

the MDC would push through enough structural changes in the

government, including to the police and army, to make change

inevitable and propel the country towards a free and fair

election.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

11. (C) The continued fear in Gutu South is indicative of the

long term devastation the 2008 ZANU-PF terror campaign

inflicted on the countryside. While the public remains

hopeful that the transitional government will bring about

peace, our visit made clear that people are nowhere near

letting their guard down. Memories of last year’s violence

are still fresh, and no significant steps have been taken to

return livestock or crops that were stolen or destroyed.

Some measures, like community soccer, are playing a modest

role in rebuilding trust, but broader efforts, like a

restructuring of police and de-politicization of village

heads, are needed to reduce the fear associated with

elections. For the moment, poor, rural victims in Gutu have

no real means of obtaining the recourse they desire to

achieve meaningful reconciliation. END COMMENT.

 

DHANANI

 

(11 VIEWS)

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