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.”
Viewing cable 05HARARE1357, TSVANGIRAI WALKS TO PROVE RELEVANCY, TEST WATERS
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
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2015
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
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
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.
¶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
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
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
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
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