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Tsvangirai walked to work

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai walked to work for at least two weeks during the fuel crisis in 2005 to show his solidarity with the suffering people.

He had been unable to secure fuel for a month and had resorted to asking for fuel from friends and party supporters.

Some of his colleagues such as Trudy Stevenson and Tendai Biti had on occasions joined him on the one-and-half hour, 16 km walk.

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell said Tsvangirai’s walks were a step forward in the opposition’s ability to garner public attention and capitalise on Zimbabwe’s pressing lack of fuel.

He, however, felt that the walks were a little too late because Zimbabweans had virtually been without fuel for months.

“The impact of Tsvangirai’s recent walks from his middle-class neighbourhood appear to be lost on the vast majority of Harare’s poorer residents who live in high-density suburbs and have faced long queues, periodic gas shortages, commuter bus fares hikes, and long walks for the past several years,“ Dell said.

“Tsvangirai’s walks also highlight the MDC’s failure to launch an effective media campaign; coverage in the independent media has been largely confined to photographs with brief captions.”

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 05HARARE1357, TSVANGIRAI WALKS TO PROVE RELEVANCY, TEST WATERS

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

05HARARE1357

2005-09-30 10:55

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.

 

301055Z Sep 05

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001357

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. NEULING

SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2015

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ZI MDC

SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI WALKS TO PROVE RELEVANCY, TEST WATERS

 

REF: A. REF A: HARARE 1356

 

B. REF B: HARARE 1181

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

1. (C) Summary. For the past two weeks MDC leader Morgan

Tsvangirai has walked the 16-kilometer roundtrip journey to

 

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and from work as a means to highlight the failure of the

GOZ,s economic policies and to demonstrate solidarity with

average Zimbabweans struggling to cope with the pressing fuel

shortage (ref A). Tsvangarai,s walks have garnered moderate

amounts of popular support and media attention, and have

prompted some MDC MPs to lead similar, periodic walks in

their constituencies. The challenge for the MDC, however,

will be to disburse this form of protest outside of

Tsvangarai,s middle-class neighborhood and to have it take

 

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root in Harare,s high-density suburbs and other parts of

Zimbabwe. End Summary.

 

——————————–

These Boots Are Made For Walkin,

——————————–

 

2. (C) Tsvangirai on September 16 began walking the

16-kilometer roundtrip distance from his suburban home to his

office in downtown Harare, saying that he ) like many of

Harare,s other residents ) was unable to find fuel for the

daily commute. An MDC press release issued September 15 said

that Tsvangirai had been unable to secure fuel for the past

month and had resorted to asking friends and supporters for

gasoline. MDC Communications Director Mazwell Zimuto told

poloff on September 27 that Tsvangirai instigated the walks

as a way to show solidarity with Zimbabweans suffering from

the GOZ,s economic mismanagement. On the first day of his

walk, Tsvangirai told reporters that the hour and 15 minute

walk was a &nasty experience8 and questioned how people

coped with the situation.

 

3. (C) The walks have garnered modest amounts of public

support with Zimuto reporting that more than 100 followers

accompanied Tsvangirai on September 23. Numbers, however,

vary daily and at differing points along the route; MDC

Director for Presidential Affairs Gandi Mudzingwa told poloff

on September 28 that approximately 50 MDC officials

accompanied Tsvangirai on Tuesday morning and that about 20

joined on Wednesday morning. Several MDC MPs, including

Trudy Stevenson and Tendai Biti, have also joined Tsvangirai

on various days of the walk. Mudzingwa said the MDC had

decided not to invite the public to participate and to have

only its leaders march as a way to set the example.

 

4. (C) Other opposition MPs have staged walks in their own

constituencies to highlight the fuel shortages and show

solidarity with average Zimbabweans. According to Zimuto,

the MPs for Harare Central, Mabvuku-Tafara, and Mufakose )

all in Harare Province – last week walked their daily

commute. Mudzingwa said that the MP for Highfield walked on

September 28 with about 13 followers. Mudzingwa and Zimuto

both reported that other MDC politicians were expected to

take up periodic walks.

 

5. (C) The GOZ,s response to the walks has been fairly

muted. Predictably, GOZ officials and state-controlled media

have discounted the walks as a &cheap publicity stunt8 and

even claimed that Tsvangirai actually drove most of the way

in a gas-guzzling truck. Meanwhile, Mudzingwa said that the

police have not interfered with Tsvangarai,s walks, although

officers have been periodically present along the route.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

6. (C) Coming on the heels of three no profile

demonstrations against constitutional reform (ref B),

Tsvangarai,s walks are a step forward in the opposition,s

 

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ability to garner public attention and capitalize on a key

wedge issue ) Zimbabwe,s pressing lack of fuel.

Tsvangarai,s walks are a significant sign of life from the

 

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party that has been on the defensive since the March

Parliamentary election. Nonetheless, these walks are

probably too little too late. Zimbabwe has been virtually

without fuel for anyone without access to foreign exchange

for several months, forcing many people to walk great

distances from their residences to their jobs. The impact of

Tsvangarai,s recent walks from his middle-class neighborhood

 

SIPDIS

appear to be lost on the vast majority of Harare,s poorer

residents who live in high-density suburbs and have faced

long queues, periodic gas shortages, commuter bus fares

hikes, and long walks for the past several years.

Tsvangirai,s walks also highlight the MDC,s failure to

 

SIPDIS

launch an effective media campaign; coverage in the

independent media has been largely confined to photographs

with brief captions.

 

7. (C) Tsvangarai, however, treads a fine line on these

walks. The MDC has gone to great lengths not to call these

events demonstrations and to reduce public participation in

the walks for fear of a government backlash and Tsvangarai’s

possible arrest for failure to obtain permission for holding

“public meetings.” The GOZ, for its part, appears ready to

tolerate favor the status quo of relatively modest numbers

and limited media attention. Were the MDC able to

significantly expand the profile of these walks, the GOZ

would be forced to decide between allowing the protests to

continue, and thus gain strength, or clamp down and

consequently bring more media and international attention to

the MDC.

DELL

(6 VIEWS)

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