Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai was cheated by the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front when it assured him that the MDC would be allowed to campaign freely in the local government elections if his party agreed not to boycott President Robert Mugabe’s opening of parliament.
The violence had continued and at least 20 MDC candidates had been prevented from registering by ZANU-PF youths.
The party was, however, advised that instructions had gone out too late but nomination courts would be re-opened in the affected areas.
The United States embassy said though the MDC was being given a chance to contest perceptions were important in the early stages of any election.
“The ruling party has gained 44 out of 269 council seats already, and one mayoral seat – 16% of the total seats being contested. This is a significant headstart, and it appears the harassment campaign sent a strong signal early that MDC candidates will face an uphill battle against the usual intimidation tactics if they try to campaign openly,” the embassy said.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1491, MDC NOMINEES HARASSED, PREVENTED FROM FORWARDING
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 001491
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013
SUBJECT: MDC NOMINEES HARASSED, PREVENTED FROM FORWARDING
REF: HARARE 1475
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) On July 21, about 20 cities across Zimbabwe opened
nominations for candidates to stand in mayoral and urban
council elections to be held on August 30-31, but at least 20
would-be opposition candidates were prevented from
registering by ruling party youths. This occurred before the
MDC received assurances from ZANU-PF that they would be
allowed to campaign freely in exchange for Tsvangirai and MDC
MPs’ agreement not to boycott Mugabe’s speech at the opening
of parliament on July 22 (Ref). ZANU-PF officials have
reportedly promised to re-open the affected nomination
courts, and, if that happens and the MDC is allowed to
campaign freely, this could dramatically change the tenor of
these elections for the better, as compared to every other
election in the past two years, which has been tainted by
intimidation. End Summary.
¶2. (U) On July 21, nominations were held in about 20 cities
across Zimbabwe for candidates to stand in mayoral and urban
council elections to be held August 30-31.
¶3. (U) According to the independent Daily News at least 20
opposition candidates in Chegutu, Bindura, Marondera, Rusape
and Karoi were forcefully prevented from registering their
candidacies. According to the government-owned The Herald,
ZANU-PF candidates subsequently won 44 council seats and one
mayoral seat uncontested. The ruling party did, however,
fail to field two council candidates in Bulawayo–those seats
fell to the opposition MDC.
¶4. (C) In Chegutu, Amani Trust (a local human rights NGO)
reported that ruling party youths beat 11 people in the
vicinity of the nomination court. The Daily News reported
that MDC council candidate Albert Ndlovu suffered severe neck
injuries when he was attacked by ruling party youths who
manned the gate at Chegutu Town House (where nominations were
to take place.) The Daily News reported that in Chegutu, 10
ZANU-PF council candidates subsequently won their seats
¶5. (U) The Daily News reported that In Karoi, two MDC
candidates were taken to hospital for treatment of wounds
inflicted by ruling party youths.
¶6. (U) In Bindura and Chegutu ZANU-PF youths set up makeshift
roadblocks and prevented MDC candidate Fred Chimbiri from
reaching the nomination court.
¶7. (C) Amani Trust also reported that ruling party youth
militia members beat 4 people in Marondera near the
nomination site on July 21.
¶8. (U) The MDC reported that they failed to field all their
candidates in Rusape, Bindura, Karoi, Chegutu, and Marondera
because of violence.
Campaign of Intimidation
¶9. (C) In the weeks leading up to the nominations, the MDC
reported that ZANU-PF youths harassed and threatened one of
their council candidates in Marondera, Deliquah Nicholas
Simon Musiwa, and his family. According to the MDC, ZANU-PF
youths abducted Musiwa’s wife Sarudzai and their 18-yr old
son Peter on June 5, held them overnight, and assaulted them
at the ZANU-PF Mashonaland East Provincial Headquarters. On
June 6 Musiwa was detained by police for 2 days and was
reportedly assaulted by Criminal Investigations Department
(CID) Inspector Manjengwa and four other police officers.
Musiwa subsequently sought medical care at Masvingo General
Some Cities Unaffected
¶10. (U) According to the Daily News, both parties fielded a
full compliment of council candidates in Masvingo, Gweru and
Redcliff. In Kwekwe, Redcliff, Gweru, and Mutare, both
parties also fielded a full compliment of mayoral candidates.
¶11. (C) In a conversation with the Ambassador on July 22, MDC
President Morgan Tsvangirai said that his party had received
assurances from ZANU-PF that they would be allowed to
campaign freely for the upcoming mayoral, urban council, and
parliamentary by-elections. This was in exchange for
Tsvangirai and MDC MPs’ agreement not to boycott Mugabe’s
speech at the opening of parliament on July 22 (Ref). The
agreement came too late for ZANU-PF to notify their officials
in rural areas to stand down, and the intimidation campaign
went ahead. Tsvangirai was subsequently told that the
nomination courts would be re-opened in the affected areas.
We have not been unable to confirm with either the GOZ or MDC
officials that this might actually take place.
¶12. (U) In addition to mayoral and urban council elections,
parliamentary by-elections will also be held for a Harare
Central seat vacated by MDC MP Michael Auret who is stepping
down due to illness, and a Makonde, Mashonaland West, seat
vacated by the death of ZANU-PF MP and Minister of Higher and
Tertiary Education, Swithun Mombeshora.
¶13. (C) Perceptions are important in the early stages of any
election. The ruling party has gained 44 out of 269 council
seats already, and one mayoral seat – 16% of the total seats
being contested. This is a significant headstart, and it
appears the harassment campaign sent a strong signal early
that MDC candidates will face an uphill battle against the
usual intimidation tactics if they try to campaign openly.
The council terms are for 5-years, so this is the first time
the MDC has contested these seats. If the GOZ re-opens the
affected nomination courts, and allows the MDC to campaign
openly, they could dramatically change the tenor of these
elections for the better as compared to every election in the
past two years, which has been marred by intimidation.
Whether ZANU-PF is willing to re-open the nomination process
where it was blocked will be a significant test of ZANU-PF
goodwill and readiness to pay more than lip-service to calls
for national dialogue. End Comment.