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Tsvangirai said Mugabe wanted to use Murambatsvina to crush opposition

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai said the only logical explanation for the government’s Operation Murambatsvina was to provoke a response which it could then crush because the operation did not make sense either politically or economically.

He said the government had never before been more hated nor relied so overtly on naked force to maintain its control. As with commercial farmers and other targets, President Robert Mugabe had defined the urban informal economy as a source of opposition and he was determined to crush it.

However, this time there were more people involved and they were more desperate, with no other options; that Mugabe was sowing the seeds of civil unrest.

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell said in his experience when people’s survival mechanisms were threatened, as in this case, civil unrest could erupt quickly. The opposition, therefore, needed to ensure that unrest was led soberly.

Tsvangirai agreed completely, noting that while anger was building, it needed to be expressed in a sustainable fashion, not simply erupt spontaneously.

.

Full cable:


Viewing cable 05HARARE741, MDC HEAD ON GROWING UNREST; WASHINGTON TRIP

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

05HARARE741

2005-05-27 11:47

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.

 

271147Z May 05

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000741

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR U/S BURNS, AF A/S NEWMAN/DAS WOODS

OVP FOR NULAND

NSC FOR ABRAMS, COURVILLE

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/27/2015

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ZI MDC

SUBJECT: MDC HEAD ON GROWING UNREST; WASHINGTON TRIP

 

REF: HARARE 737

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. MDC Head Morgan Tsvangirai met with the Ambassador May 27

to discuss the growing unrest in the country. Tsvangirai

said the GOZ seemed to be trying to provoke a response that

it could crush but may have miscalculated given the numbers

of people involved and their desperation. He said the

opposition, including civil society leaders, had met that

morning to discuss how to help organize the discontent so

that it could be sustained over time and lead to real change.

Tsvangirai said that despite the unrest he was still

interested in visiting Washington the latter half of June,

with the exact date depending on the Secretary,s

availability. End Summary.

 

————————-

Operation Create Disorder

————————-

 

2. (C) Tsvangirai said the only logical explanation for the

GOZ,s recent actions (reftel) was to provoke a response that

it could then crush. Otherwise, &Operation Restore Order8

made no sense, either politically or economically. He said

it would inevitably provoke such a reaction. The government

had never before been more hated nor relied so overtly on

naked force to maintain its control. As with commercial

farmers and other targets, Mugabe had defined the urban

informal economy as a source of opposition and he was

determined to crush it. However, this time there were more

people involved and they were more desperate, with no other

options; he was sowing the seeds of civil unrest.

 

3. (C) The Ambassador said it was his experience that when

people,s survival mechanisms were threatened, as in this

case, civil unrest could erupt quickly. The opposition

needed to ensure that unrest was led soberly. Tsvangirai

agreed completely, noting that while anger was building, it

needed to be expressed in a sustainable fashion, not simply

erupt spontaneously. Tsvangirai noted that the people had

erupted in street protests only once in recent years, the

1998 food riots. The Zimbabwean people needed to be

organized and led and to that end he had met that morning

with leaders of civil society to coordinate on how best to

encourage and harness the growing discontent.

 

4. (C) Tsvangirai added that the opposition must avoid

falling into one of Mugabe,s traps. The MDC and its allies

needed to help organize democratic resistance but needed to

avoid the spotlight. There would be no public statements

that would allow the regime to paint protesters as pro-MDC

and give it an excuse for the crackdown. He asked if there

had been any response from Washington on the MDC,s request

for support to channel civil discontent. The Ambassador said

the USG was focused on 2008 as the next opportunity for

change, but would obviously take another look if the current

crisis worsened.

 

———————-

MDC Internal Divisions

———————-

 

5. (C) Tsvangirai acknowledged that internal MDC tensions had

led to violence at the party,s headquarters the week before,

when the senior leadership had been out of the country in

Mauritius. He said he had restored order upon his return and

that an investigation was ongoing. The senior leadership

itself was unified. He suspected the youths who had

initiated the violence might have been paid to do so by the

GOZ, but had nonetheless stressed to the party the importance

of remaining focused on restoring democracy to Zimbabwe, and

not fighting among themselves.

 

—————

Washington Trip

—————

6. (C) Tsvangirai said he was open to a trip to Washington

sometime between June 15 and June 25. The exact date would

depend on the Secretary,s availability. He planned to stop

in West Africa on his way to the U.S. However, while the

trip was important, if the crisis in the country worsened, he

might have to once more delay it.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

7. (C) We would agree that the GOZ is playing with fire and

that if it continues its current crackdown on the urban

informal economy it will provoke civil unrest, possibly on a

greater scale than any unrest since 1998. The fact is this

is playing out against a backdrop of severe food and fuel

shortages and accelerating economic decline that is already

sapping the regime,s eroded popularity and further

undermining its legitimacy. That said, the GOZ appears ready

and able to crush discontent, unless it is on a very large

scale. And we have seen no signs yet that this is likely,

nor that the MDC and its allies know how to make it happen.

DELL

(3 VIEWS)

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