Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai showed his muscle when he turned down a decision his party’s executive council to participate in the 2005 Senate elections.
The executive council had voted 33 for and 31 against.
The party’s youth and women’s leagues supported the boycott.
Civil society also backed Tsvangirai, roundly criticising the reconstituted Senate as a worthless and patronage-filled institution.
Tsvangirai’s decision, however, led to the split of the party as some of the senior members accused Tsvangirai of being dictatorial.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1455, TSVANGIRAI GAINING UPPER HAND IN SENATE DEBATE
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 001455
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/24/2015
SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI GAINING UPPER HAND IN SENATE DEBATE
REF: A. REF A: HARARE 1446
¶B. REF B: HARARE 1421
¶C. REF C: HARARE 1405
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai appears to be
emerging on top in the intra-party debate over participation
in the Senate elections. Tsvangirai,s stance has clearly
resonated with the MDC,s rank and file, which believes that
participation would only legitimize a corrupt and powerless
institution. The National Executive, convened by Tsvangirai
on Saturday, supported his decision to overturn the earlier
decision by the party,s Executive Council to participate in
the vote. That said, MDC provincial leaders in the three
Ndebele areas have continued the nomination process for
Senate candidates raising the specter of an MDC split along
ethnic lines. Tsvangirai successfully quelled efforts by
four of the MDC,s &Top 68 to involve South African
President Mbeki in mediation efforts. End Summary.
Tsvangirai Winning the Battle for Hearts and Minds
¶2. (C) Tsvangirai appears to be emerging the victor in the
fierce battle over the MDC,s participation in the November
26 race for Senate. The MDC leader instigated the crisis on
October 12 when he overturned a 33 to 31 Executive Council
decision in favor of contesting (ref B and C). Tsvangirai,s
stance against the Senate has clearly resonated with the
opposition,s rank and file, who remain loyal to the MDC
president and who appear increasingly eager to confront the
government. Within the MDC, the party,s youth and women,s
leagues support the boycott, as do the party structures in
nine of the 12 provinces ) the three Ndebele provinces are
the only holdouts.
¶3. (C) Civil society has also backed Tsvangirai, roundly
criticizing the reconstituted Senate as a worthless and
patronage-filled institution. The National Constitutional
Assembly and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions have both
publicly declared their opposition to the Senate. And,
despite the doom and gloom portrayed by the state-controlled
media, Zimbabwe,s independent press has reported favorably
on Tsvangirai,s gambit, echoing the theme that the Senate is
merely a patronage-generating machine for ZANU-PF.
National Executive Back Tsvangirai
¶4. (C) In response to MDC Vice President Gibson Sibanda and
others who charge he has adopted anti-democratic means to
enforce his opinion, Tsvangirai convened the party,s
National Executive on Saturday. The Executive voted to
support Tsvangirai,s decision to boycott, although Sibanda,
Ncube, and other members of the pro-participation faction
were not present. The Executive,s decision came ahead of
Monday,s sitting of the nomination courts, with which all
candidates ) even those not endorsed by the party – must
¶5. (C) Tsvangirai also successfully outmaneuvered efforts by
his pro-participation rivals to insert South African
President Thabo Mbeki as a mediator in the intra-party
dispute. On 20 September, Sibanda and Ncube, along with
deputy Secretary General Gift Chimanikire and party treasurer
Fletcher Dulini Ncube traveled to Pretoria to meet with
Mbeki; national chairman Isaac Matongo reportedly backed out
of the trip at the last minute. Fending off Mbeki,s offer
to moderate, Tsvangirai told reports that the South African
President was being &abused8 by party members who had
attempted to drag him into an internal party affair.
But Ndebele Going Forward With Participation
¶6. (C) Tsvangirai,s only setback as of late afternoon today
came when, as expected, the MDC leadership in Bulawayo and
Matabeleland North and South nominated five candidates each
to contest the election. MDC Secretary for Legal Affairs
David Coltart earlier this month told poloff that the Ndebele
people had worked hard to rid themselves of ZANU-PF
politicians and did not want them back by default (ref A).
¶7. (C) The debate over participation in the Senate may very
well prove a defining moment for the MDC and Tsvangirai.
Months of intra-party squabbling that have paralyzed the
party have now come to a head. Tsvangirai appears to be
using the crisis to reassert his leadership and to rally the
party behind him. A rejuvenated MDC may well be a more
confrontational MDC and given the increasing unpopularity of
the government, the moment may be propitious. There is still
a real chance of a split within the MDC (and unfortunately
along ethnic lines) if the Ndebele provinces contest the
elections. That said, we believe the locus of the opposition
would remain around Tsvangirai, who maintains broad-based
support, and we believe that is unlikely the Ndebele people
will ever reconcile itself with a ZANU-PF government. End