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Tsvangirai arrested after organising successful stay-away

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested after organising a successful stay-away in which between 80 to 95 percent of the shops were closed.

He was charged with contempt of court for going ahead with the mass action.

His colleague Tendai Biti was also arrested but it was not clear on what charges.

Tsvangirai was, however, released to attend his treason trial.

He was charged with trying to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE1101, STAYAWAY SUCCESSFUL, DEMONSTRATIONS QUELLED – DAY

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1101

2003-06-02 15:33

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001101

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

BANGKOK FOR WIN DAYTON

DS/OP/AF

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: STAYAWAY SUCCESSFUL, DEMONSTRATIONS QUELLED – DAY

ONE OF MDC PLANNED MASS ACTION

 

REF: A. HARARE 1097

B. HARARE 1081

 

Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

Summary:

——–

 

1. (C) The MDC planned stayaway has been largely successful

with 80 – 95% of shops and businesses closed on June 2 in

Harare and Bulawayo. There was very visible police and

military presence in both cities starting on May 31, with

several arrests and a few reports of beatings. ZANU-PF

members distributed leaflets throughout Harare encouraging

people to go to work, and the police obtained a High Court

ruling on May 31 outlawing the mass action. Police arrested

and released MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai. GOZ forceful

counter measures have succeeded in preventing demonstrations

so far, and leave Mugabe as entrenched as ever after day one

of this mass action, albeit sitting on an increasingly

fragile economic and political situation. End Summary.

 

Riot Police Disperse Students

—————————–

 

2. (U) By about 11:00 a.m. riot police with shields and

helmets had dispersed a few hundred students at the

University of Zimbabwe campus with tear gas. Gate guards at

the University’s several entrances refused to allow any

vehicles to enter campus citing the disturbance, and police

later confined students to their dormitories. According to a

student organizer, the students planned to assemble on campus

and march to the city center to join with marchers.

 

Two Deaths?

———–

 

3. (U) There were several unconfirmed reports that police

shot at least three people at a demonstration in the

high-density suburb of Highfield. Two were reportedly

killed; one was wounded and is said to be currently receiving

treatment at a local clinic.

 

Intimidating Police and Military Presence

—————————————–

 

4. (C) During the morning of June 2 there were several other

reports that hundreds and sometimes even thousands of people

were gathering at various locations in the Harare area in

order to demonstrate. Poloffs investigated several of these

locations as the reports surfaced and found no increased

crowds present. At some of these locations there were

significant police presences.

 

5. (C) Over the weekend May 31 – June 1 convoys of tanks and

military vehicles were seen traveling around various areas of

Harare. According to MDC Presidential Advisor Gandi

Mudzingwa, the vehicles, loaded with soldiers, would

generally travel around the high-density suburbs at night and

return to their barracks during the day. Emboffs observed

mounted police patrols during daylight hours on both May 31

and June 2.

 

6. (C) Poloffs observed groups of 5 – 8 police officers on

many blocks throughout downtown Harare in the morning of June

2. In Africa Unity Square, the proposed location of a

demonstration, Poloffs observed a group of at least 15

officers. RSO later observed police beating about 30 – 40

people they had detained and had ordered to lay face down on

the sidewalk near the Square. According to Mudzingwa, the

MDC had planned a large demonstration at the Square, but had

subsequently canceled it because transport was not

functioning to bring enough attendees into town.

 

Disturbances Downtown

———————

 

7. (C) During clashes with what appeared to be MDC youth,

police in downtown Harare fired tear gas in the morning of

June 2. The Embassy’s PAS office, located near the MDC’s

headquarters, was contemplating closure at midday on June 2

due to these disturbances, but ultimately remained open.

Also located downtown, the Swedish Embassy closed at

mid-morning on June 2 due to similar fears.

 

Bulawayo: Demonstrators Dispersed, Stayaway Successful

——————————————— ———

8. (SBU) According to Sheba Dube, head of the Bulawayo

chapter of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), in Bulawayo,

police were present since the early hours of June 2 at

Queen’s Park in the downtown area – the site of a planned

demonstration. Although about 200 people did gather police

reportedly disbursed the crowd beating several people in the

process. Police also arrested about ten MDC officials and

activists from around the Bulawayo area on June 1 – 2; many

were still in custody in the afternoon of June 2.

 

9. (SBU) Dube reported that many shops and businesses in

Bulawayo were reportedly closed in the morning, but some

grocery stores opened in the afternoon of June 2. In general

more than 80% of businesses remained closed with very light

pedestrian and vehicle traffic present in downtown Bulawayo.

 

GOZ Counter-Measures

——————–

 

10. (U) In addition to obtaining the May 31 High Court ruling

outlawing the planned mass action, the GOZ also printed and

distributed leaflets encouraging Zimbabweans to ignore the

stayaway. In the days before the mass action, the government

press reported that the GOZ would revoke business licenses of

companies that did not open and that anyone demonstrating

would be defying the High Court order. The GOZ propaganda

machine also gave major publicity to war-vet threats to

demonstrators.

 

Police Arrest MDC Leaders

————————-

 

11. (U) In addition to the arrest of MDC President Morgan

Tsvangirai on the morning of June 2, around midday police

 

SIPDIS

arrested MDC Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, Tendai Biti.

Tsvangirai was charged with contempt of court for going ahead

 

SIPDIS

with the mass action, there was no confirmation of charges

against Biti at the time of writing. Police actually

released Tsvangirai so that he could attend his treason trial

at 10:00 on June 2. There were unconfirmed reports that a

few MDC officials in Bulawayo, and a few MDC MPs in Harare

were also arrested.

 

Stayaway Successful

——————-

 

12. (SBU) Although there were a fair number of people milling

around downtown Harare on the morning of June 2, Poloffs saw

almost no shops open, and only a handful of business open.

Some public busses were running but the commuter bus pick-up

areas had about 15% of the normal crowd present. Other

Emboffs traveled around downtown Harare on the afternoon of

June 2 and found almost no one present.

 

Comment:

——–

 

13. (C) By deploying tanks and other intimidating military

hardware and personnel in the Harare area, the GOZ has

succeeded so far in quashing nascent gatherings that could

turn into marches or demonstrations before they have really

gained momentum. The MDC is likely to claim victory for the

stayaway and for the gatherings that were supposed to be

demonstrations, but nothing has yet happened on a massive

scale that would boost public confidence that the time is

shortening for the Mugabe regime. While it is likely the

stayaway will continue for a few more days, and

demonstrations are still possible, the GOZ has demonstrated

on day one, for its part, that it will use whatever force is

necessary to assure that no serious threat to its power can

gain momentum. End Comment.

SULLIVAN

(11 VIEWS)

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