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Tsvangirai admitted Harare councillors had sold out

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai admitted that some Harare city councillors had sold out but he was not sure that they would agree to resign and this had played directly into the hands of Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo.

He was commenting on factional issues within the party, especially in the MDC-dominated city council whose performance was abysmal.

MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said that the best solution would be a mass resignation of the council and new elections, which the MDC would still dominate.

Tsvangirai and Ncube agreed that they were uncertain that the councillors would resign.

Chombo had intimidated and co-opted the councillors to the point that they were allowing the town clerk Ngoni Chideya to run the council.

This had put the MDC leadership in the embarrassing position of having to remain mum on the poor performance of its own council.


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Reference ID






2004-02-13 07:40

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


130740Z Feb 04

C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 000268







E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/14/2008






Classified By: DCM REWHITEHEAD DUE TO 1.5 (B) AND (D)


1. (c) Summary. Ambassador and DCM dined with MDC President

Morgan Tsvangirai and Secretary General Welshman Ncube on

February 12. The MDC leaders commented on Tsvangirai’s

ongoing treason trial. Ncube and Tsvangirai both confirmed

that putative talks with ZANU-PF are going nowhere despite

what South African President Mbeki continues to say. They

termed Mugabe’s recent cabinet shuffle as meaningless. On

inner party rifts within MDC, they admitted that the

MDC-controlled Harare Municipal Council had become an

embarrassment and admitted that they were hard pressed to

mobilize their supporters to mass action. They said that a

UNDP team will be in Zimbabwe from March 3 to 13 to assess

conditions for the 2005 elections but expressed some

skepticism about the UN’s ability to play a meaningful role.

End summary.


2. (c) A relaxed Morgan Tsvangirai spoke briefly about his

ongoing treason trial and new evidence that further tarnished

the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness, Ari Ben

Menashe. Tsvangirai recounted a number of missteps by

prosecuting attorneys but noted that it mattered little

anyway — he was convinced that the GOZ would drag out the

trial as long as it suited their purposes.


3. (c) Ncube commented that the putative talks between him

and Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa were at a complete

standstill. Chinamasa, who had just come off vacation, had

thus far offered no comment on proposed revisions to AIPPA

POSA, and the Elections Act that Ncube had supplied.

Chinamasa’s only communication had been that he would get in

touch in the future — don’t call me, I’ll call you — and in

light of this South African President Mbeki’s recent claim

that talks were ongoing was a falsehood. Ncube stressed that

Mbeki was well briefed and questioned why he continued to hew

to the same line.


4. (c) Both men agreed that the recent cabinet reshuffle

represented no change. It was simply another effort by

Mugabe to keep all ZANU-PF factions under “his big tent.”

They noted that there were some factional issues within the

MDC as well, the most notable the abysmal performance of the

MDC-dominated Harare Municipal Council. Ncube said that the

best solution would be mass resignation of the Council and

new elections, which the MDC would dominate. However, they

were uncertain that the MDC councilors would agree to resign.

This played directly into the hands of Local Government

Minister Chombo, who had intimidated/co-opted the councilors

to the point that they were allowing Town Clerk Chideya,

Chombo’s front man, to run the Council. This put MDC

leadership in the embarrassing position of having to remain

mum on the poor performance of its own Council.


5. (c) Queried on when the MDC might consider mass action,

if ZANU-PF refused to engage in talks, Tsvangirai and Ncube

both appeared uncomfortable. Ncube said that he was unable

to predict this, and Tsvangirai admitted that it had been

difficult to mobilize the population to mass action. He

added that this could backfire anyway, since it would give

the South Africans an excuse to claim that just as a

breakthrough appeared imminent, intemperate MDC actions had

scuttled the opening.


6. (c) On the subject of elections, Tsvangirai claimed that

massive voter transfers in the Gutu by-election had tipped

the scales in favor of ZANU-PF. While there had been less

overt violence than in the past, intimidation continued,

especially of traditional leaders. GOZ threats to strip the

leaders of their status had worked — they had fallen in line

behind ZANU-PF. Ncube said that he had learned that a UNDP

team would be in Zimbabwe in early March to do an election

assessment. He said that the GOZ had requested assistance to

the tune of 27 billion Zimbabwe dollars. Both Ncube and

Tsvangirai questioned how deep UN commitment to pressing for



a free and fair election might be. Nonetheless, they had

encouraged the UN assessment mission as a means to press for

the massive overhaul of Zimbabwe’s election process needed to

make elections free and fair. Should the GOZ reject UN

recommendations for election system changes, this would

expose the GOZ’s unwillingness to organize fair elections.


7. (c) Comment. ZANU-PF and the GOZ-controlled press have

recently sought to create the impression that there is a

growing rift between the two most senior MDC leaders. Our

assessment is that this is little more than

propaganda/wishful thinking on the part of ZANU-PF, and that

Tsvangirai and Ncube continue to see eye to eye.






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