Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that recent moves by the government to open up the political space reflected the growing confidence within the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front that it would win the 2005 elections.
“The more confident ZANU-PF became the more space they would allow the MDC in the run-up to the elections,” Tsvangirai said but added. ”However, the government’s current confidence was misplaced.”
He said the government remained deeply unpopular and would lose a free and fair election.
Ed: It turned out that ZANU-PF’s confidence was justified. The party won a two-thirds majority and the MDC lost 16 seats that it won in 2000. The government allowed even greater freedom in the 2008 elections but this time its confidence was misplaced. It lost to the MDC but managed to salvage itself and remain in government.
Viewing cable 04HARARE1593, MDC HEAD DISMISSES GOZ MOVES; CALLS FOR MORE
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
231431Z Sep 04
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001593
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/22/2014
SUBJECT: MDC HEAD DISMISSES GOZ MOVES; CALLS FOR MORE
Classified By: AMBASSADOR CHRISTOPHER DELL FOR REASONS 1.5 (B)
AND 1.5 (D)
¶1. (C) Summary: The Ambassador and DCM met
September 17 with Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who said that the
GOZ was making cosmetic changes in the face of
internal and external pressure but that the
situation on the ground had yet to change and
until it did the MDC would hold to its threat to
boycott the elections. He added that the government
remained deeply unpopular, would lose a genuinely
free and fair election, and faced the prospect of
continuing and potentially more radical opposition
should it steal another election. The Ambassador
asked what more we could do to help. Tsvangirai
said the West needed to keep the pressure on SADC
in turn to put pressure on Mugabe. Separately, he
confirmed that a verdict in his treason trial was
now due October 15, and speculated that he might
be found not guilty because the GOZ might seek to
avoid controversy. End Summary.
¶2. (C) Tsvangirai said the MDC,s approach for the
coming elections was to hope for the best but plan
for the worst. The party faithful supported the
boycott plan as a way to put pressure on the
government to make real changes. The dilemma for
the MDC remained whether to participate in rigged
elections, when doing so would allow the government
to claim the elections were fair. On the other hand,
any positive changes that the government made at
this point would be seen as a win for the MDC,
regardless of whether in response to pressure from
the South African Development Council (SADC), and if
sufficient could lay the ground for MDC participation
in the elections.
¶3. (C) Tsvangirai acknowledged the government had
recently made some cosmetic efforts to allow the
MDC more space, including allowing three campaign
meetings to be held, but he said the reality on the
ground was still intimidation and bribery, especially
in rural areas. Government militias in the rural areas
had taken off their uniforms and blended back into the
populace but were still there, observing, and everyone
knew who they were )- which was more than enough to
intimidate the rural populace. The result was that
opposition activity remained muted in these areas.
In addition, the regime was buying off the local chiefs,
further ensuring that ZANU-PF would sweep the rural
areas in next spring,s parliamentary elections.
In addition, the GOZ was busy gerrymandering districts,
especially in rural areas, to further ensure a ruling
¶4. (C) The Ambassador asked whether land reform couldn,t
be turned against Mugabe in rural areas by arguing that
racial justice aside, it had been botched and had
devastated the economy. Without really addressing how
the MDC might capitalize on this issue, Tsvangari said
land reform was equated in many Zimbabwean,s minds with
hunger. In fact, the litany of woes for most Zimbabweans:
economic collapse, rising crime, and deteriorating
education and health systems, ensured that the elections
would be competitive. Even if ZANU-PF won, these issues
would not go away and would fuel continuing opposition.
¶5. (C) Tsvangari said the recent moves by the government
reflected their growing confidence. The more confident
ZANU-PF became the more space they would allow the MDC in
the run-up to the elections. However, the government,s
current confidence was misplaced. The regime remained
deeply unpopular and would lose a free and fair election.
The government might get another rude shock this spring
as the results rolled in. The three campaign meetings
he had attended, in Bulawayo, Gweru, and Harare, had all
been well attended and the participants enthusiastic.
¶6. (C) Tsvangirai said his deepest concern in the event
of another stolen election was that the Zimbabwean people
would lose hope that things would ever change and would
respond either with massive emigration or rising violence
or both. Tsvangirai said he was already having difficulty
convincing some in his party to continue non-violent
opposition. Some day soon, he might find himself pushed
to the side by more radical elements.
¶7. (C) The Ambassador noted that the U.S. had a
difficult line to walk with respect to Zimbabwe.
If we pushed too hard on the elections, it could be
counter-productive for the MDC since Mugabe was so adroit
at turning that support into rhetoric about race and
colonialism. He asked what additional steps the U.S.
and the West in general could take to put pressure on the
regime. Tsvangirai agreed that the role of the U.S., UK,
and other non-African countries was tricky and that our
approach would have to crafted carefully to avoid playing
into Mugabe,s hands. He argued that regional pressure
from SADC remained key.
¶8. (C) The Ambassador said we were unsure whether SADC
would really pressure ZANU-PF as there was little evidence
to suggest such willingness. Tsvangirai agreed, noting
that South African President Mbeki,s preferred outcome
would be a &fairly8 free election that kept Mugabe
and ZANU-PF in power, restored their legitimacy,
and muted Western pressure and criticism. Tsvangirai
said an MDC delegation was due to travel to South
Africa the following week to meet with Mbeki; he
promised a readout of the meeting (septel). That said,
the goal for both the MDC and the West should
be to put the burden on SADC to enforce the principles
they agreed to in Mauritius.
¶9. (C) The Ambassador mentioned to Tsvangirai that we
had heard from his lawyers (septel) that there would be
a verdict in his treason trial on October 15 and asked
what outcome he expected. Tsvangirai said the timing of
the decision was curious. October 15 was a Friday, which
would not leave any time for the government to find him
guilty but then grant him clemency before the weekend,
the outcome he had expected in August. For that reason,
he and his lawyers were beginning to think the court might
find him not guilty. He speculated that the GOZ might be
hoping to avoid controversy and present a &nice face8 to
the outside world.
¶10. (C) Tsvangirai confirmed other reports we have heard
that the GOZ and ZANU-PF, confident that they,ve got
the election in the bag, may be easing up a bit on the
MDC. The motivation is almost certainly to give SADC
and other regional leaders enough evidence to back the
election results. For his part, Tsvangirai appears
confused and somewhat unrealistic in his own analysis.
He continues to hope that somehow enough outside
pressure can be generated to constrain ZANU-PF,s
electoral antics even as he admits this is highly unlikely.