Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that President Robert Mugabe was not a democrat and would never give up power through an election.
“He would have to be driven from office,” he said.
Though Tsvangirai said this in 2005 when Mugabe’s post was not up for grabs and his Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front had just won a two-thirds majority in the parliamentary elections, Mugabe was to prove so three years later when Tsvangirai beat him, though the win was not an outright victory for Tsvangirai.
Dell had told Tsvangirai that he was going to Washington for consultations on US policy towards Zimbabwe following the March elections. He wanted to know what the MDC’s post-election plans were.
Viewing cable 05HARARE588, MDC Post-Election Plans Taking Form
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 03 HARARE 000588
DEPT FOR U/S BURNS, AF A/S NEWMAN/DAS WOODS; OVP FOR
NULAND; NSC FOR ABRAMS, COURVILLE
DEPARTMENT PASS EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
E.O. 12958: DECL: (04-16-15)
SUBJECT: MDC Post-Election Plans Taking Form
Classified by CDA Eric Schultz, reasons 1.5 (b) (d)
Ref: (A) Harare 548 and previous
¶1. In an April 14 meeting with the Ambassador, MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai laid out in more detail his party’s plans
for challenging the GOZ in the wake of a third successive
stolen election. Tsvangirai said Mugabe would never leave
power by democratic means. The Zimbabwean people would
have to force him from office through a campaign of civil
resistance. The MDC was reaching out to civil society NGOs
to create an alliance to pursue this approach. He hoped to
mobilize this alliance in particular to oppose Mugabe’s
expected constitutional reforms proposals.
¶2. (C) Tsvangirai said the model for the campaign would be
the recent events in Gokwe South, where MDC activists had
stood up to ZANU-PF thugs and the police, forcing them to
back down. The MDC would need to train activists down to
the village level to make this work. The party also had to
improve its communications, to spread the word about
successful acts of resistance. It also had to do a much
better job of getting its supporters, especially young
people, to register and vote. The Ambassador said this was
an area with which we could help through NGOs. Externally,
Tsvangirai said the MDC needed to broaden its support in
Africa and that he was also considering a trip to Ukraine
to highlight the similarities between Zimbabwe today and
Ukraine a year ago. End Summary.
(Re) Building an Alliance
¶2. (C) The Ambassador told Tsvangirai that he was traveling
back to Washington for consultations on U.S. policy toward
Zimbabwe following the March 31 parliamentary elections.
In that regard, he had wanted to hear first hand what
progress the MDC had made in firming up its post-election
plans. Tsvangirai said the party’s plan was to confront
Mugabe at every turn. Mugabe was not a democrat and he
would never give up power through an election. He would
have to be driven from office. Critical to the success of
this approach was to strengthen the MDC alliance with civil
society, including the labor union, ZCTU. The party and
its allies had to be seen to be doing something or apathy
and cynicism would grow among the populace.
¶3. (C) The Ambassador noted that many in civil society had
expressed unhappiness with the MDC for not having reached
out and listened to them. Tsvangirai acknowledged the
problem and said the party would work to be more inclusive.
The democratic opposition needed to work together in
harmony, with no dissenting voices, for their common
objective. The broad alliance would mobilize in particular
around the question of constitutional reform, and would
seek to recreate the National Constitutional Assembly’s
earlier success in stoking public opposition to Mugabe’s
proposed changes. Tsvangirai added that several of the
civil society leaders had political ambitions themselves,
and the MDC would work to give those ambitions space.
¶4. (C) The Ambassador asked about ZCTU’s role. Tsvangirai
said it was the urban base of the party and that the MDC
needed to reach out to them more effectively. He dismissed
government attempts to remove the current leadership,
noting they had tried before without success.
Planning Civil Resistance
¶5. (C) Tsvangirai said in the next six months the party and
its allies would focus on building momentum. The first
step was that all of the party’s candidates would return to
their home constituencies to hold rallies to thank their
supporters. The message of these rallies would be that the
MDC had won but that Mugabe and ZANU-PF has stolen a third
election. The party was also planning actions around the
April 18 Independence Day celebrations and May Day. For
the former, Tsvangirai said MDC activists would infiltrate
the crowd at the national sports stadium and seek to
embarrass Mugabe, possibly by walking out en masse while
flashing their party’s open-palmed symbol or by chanting
“change” in Shona. The Ambassador observed that
publicizing such actions was critical to their success.
Tsvangirai agreed and said the MDC had plans to videotape
¶6. (C) Tsvangirai said the party also recognized the need
to do more to overcome rural fear and intimidation. He
acknowledged that they had not done enough to protect their
rural adherents during the election. In many rural
constituencies, traditional leaders (i.e. tribal chiefs)
had called their villages together the night before the
election and had pressured people to vote ZANU-PF. One of
the regime’s most effective tactics had been threatening to
deny food assistance to MDC supporters. The MDC had to
break the back of this intimidation and would do so at its
nexus with the population – food distribution centers.
¶7. (C) Tsvangirai said the model for this approach would be
what had happened this week in Gokwe South, a constituency
in the Midlands province that the MDC believed had been
stolen. There had been great anger among the local
population at the theft. ZANU-PF had reverted to form and
sought to impose its will by punishing MDC supporters. The
night after the election the home of a prominent MDC
activist had been burned down. 2000 MDC activists gathered
at the site to prevent further attacks. Three truckloads
of riot police arrived to disperse the crowd. However, the
activists refused to disperse and faced down the police.
The next day, 200 of the activists appeared at the food
distribution center and refused to let the agents of the
Grain Marketing Board discriminate against MDC supporters.
They had told the agents either everyone gets food or the
“birds will get it.” The GMB agents had also backed down.
¶8. (C) Tsvangirai said the MDC planned to do the same
throughout the country. He acknowledged that the GOZ would
eventually get wise to these tactics and would try to crack
down hard somewhere. In that event, the party had to be
prepared to have activists spring up at other locations
around the country and force the regime to spread itself
too thin for effective repression. They were assisted in
that regard by the fact that the food shortages were
countrywide. One of the keys to the success of this plan
would be to train activists through out the country and
build the party structure down to the village level.
Another was to spread the word of successful civil
resistance actions through word of mouth, as it was doing
now with respect to the events in Gokwe South, and to
encourage that they be emulated elsewhere. In that regard,
he acknowledged that the party’s communications department
had failed abysmally after the election and needed dramatic
¶9. (C) Tsvangirai acknowledged that the party had a lot of
work to do to correct weaknesses in advance of future
elections. In addition to building party structures down
to the village level and training cadre, another key was
voter registration. The MDC had not done nearly enough to
register its core supporters, especially young voters.
More than twenty percent of young voters had not bothered
to register. That needed to be addressed before rural
council elections in 2006 and urban council elections in
¶2007. Tsvangirai noted that women over forty formed one of
ZANU-PF’s most loyal sources of support. The MDC had to
try to reach out to them but more importantly it had to
reach out to women under the age of forty, who should be
their supporters, and get them to register and vote.
¶10. (C) Tsvangirai said the MDC was also planning a series
of external steps to increase the pressure on the regime.
The party needed to do more to establish its independence
from the U.S. and the UK. To that end, the main thrust had
to be in Africa, where the party needed to build opposition
to Mugabe and his policies. However, Tsvangirai said he
was also thinking of making a trip to Ukraine to meet
President Yushchenko to stress the point that Zimbabwe was
in the same place Ukraine had been before the Orange
¶11. (C) Throughout the meeting, Tsvangirai referred to a
written memo he had brought with him. The MDC’s leadership
has clearly been thinking a lot about next steps and it is
heartening that their ideas are taking concrete shape.
Moreover, we would agree that what happened in Gokwe South
is the right model to follow. While it would be nice to
see them make a splash at the national stadium on Monday,
it is really in the rural areas that the MDC needs to take
action and make progress. In that regard, while we had
heard bits and pieces about what had occurred in Gokwe
South, we had no idea the extent of MDC activism, nor we
suspect did anyone else. The MDC’s inability to get its
message out remains a debilitating weakness, one that it
has to overcome almost immediately if its civil resistance
campaign is to catch fire and spread nationally.
¶12. (C) The visit to Kiev strikes us a very creative idea
and one we enthusiastically endorse. It could be
particularly useful to have President Yuschenko and
Georgian President Sakashvili meet with Tsvangirai.