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.
Viewing cable 04HARARE268, CONVERSATION WITH MDC’S MORGAN TSVANGIRAI AND
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
STATE FOR AF/S, SCOTT DELISI AND MIKE RAYNOR
NSC FOR SENIOR DIRECTOR FRAZER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/14/2008
SUBJECT: CONVERSATION WITH MDC’S MORGAN TSVANGIRAI AND
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.
¶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.