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Urban voters voted with their stomachs

Urban voters voted with their stomachs when they overwhelmingly voted for the Movement for Democratic Change in the urban council elections of 2003 in which the MDC beat the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

This was the view of the government-owned Herald. The privately-owned Daily News viewed the outcome as confirmation that the people of Zimbabwe wanted change.

“We view their failure to vote for the ruling party as protest against economic hardships that include cash shortages, rising prices of basic commodities, shrinking salaries and fuel shortage,” the Herald said.

“However, while there can be no denying that these problems are there and urban dwellers are bearing the brunt, we feel that there is still need to get people to appreciate the real cause of our problems.

“The economy has been on a steady decline for the past four years. . .but that decline accelerated when the MDC called on the West to impose sanctions on the government and, by extension, the people of Zimbabwe.”

In contrast, the Daily News reported: “The results of the weekend urban council elections have once again confirmed the importance to national politics of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the MDC.

“Apart from emphasising that the MDC enjoys significant support from Zimbabweans across racial, tribal and regional lines, the outcome of the polls aptly demonstrated that the people of this country want change in the way they are being governed. The outcome of these elections should help the ruling ZANU-PF gauge the mood of the nation.”

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE1736, MEDIA REACTION COUNCIL ELECTIONS IN ZIM; HARARE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1736

2003-09-03 08:51

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001736

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR AF/PDPA FOR DALTON, MITCHELL AND SIMS

NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER

LONDON FOR GURNEY

PARIS FOR NEARY

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PREL KPAO KMDR ZI

SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION COUNCIL ELECTIONS IN ZIM; HARARE

 

1.   While an editorial in the September 3 edition of the

independent daily “The Daily News” saw the outcome

of the weekend urban council elections, in which the

opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)

narrowly defeated the ruling ZANU PF party, as a

demonstration that Zimbabweans want change, the

September 3 edition of the government-controlled

daily “The Herald” blamed the overwhelming urban

support for the MDC on the travel restrictions

imposed on Robert Mugabe and senior members of his

government by the United States and the European

Union (EU). Excerpts follow:

 

2.   Under headline “Gauging the nation’s mood” the “Daily

News” (09/03), comments:

 

“The results of the weekend urban council elections

have once again confirmed the importance to national

politics of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the

MDC. Apart from emphasizing that the MDC enjoys

significant support from Zimbabweans across racial,

tribal and regional lines, the outcome of the polls

aptly demonstrated that the people of this country

want change in the way they are being governed. The

outcome of these elections should help the ruling

ZANU PF gauge the mood of the nation. . .The MDC’s

overwhelming victory, although largely expected, can

only be viewed as a vote of no confidence in the

ruling party by the people who are most affected by

Zimbabwe’s worst economic crisis since independence

in 1980. . .It must be clear by now, even to the

government, that blaming the MDC and `racist

imperialistic forces’ for all of our problems will

simply not wash with the people of Zimbabwe.

Clearly no one is falling for this line anymore.

Zimbabweans want their problems to be addressed now

so that they can move on with the business of living

and building a prosperous nation. The government

cannot continue to ignore or engage in a tug-of-war

with the MDC. . .The outcome of the weekend

elections has shown that Zimbabwe is virtually a

divided nation, with ZANU PF controlling its

traditional rural stronghold while the MDC holds

sway over the urban electorate. . .It is important,

now more than ever, that Zimbabwe’s main political

parties begin to make some headway in resolving this

unhealthy situation by sitting down to come up with

a negotiated political settlement. . . .”

 

3.   Under headline “Punishing the innocent, setting

Barabbas free?” the “Herald” (09/03) comments:

 

“. . .Once again urban voters voted with their

stomachs. We view their failure to vote for the

ruling party as protest against economic hardships

that include cash shortages, rising prices of basic

commodities, shrinking salaries and fuel shortage.

However, while there can be no denying that these

problems are there and urban dwellers are bearing

the brunt, we feel that there is still need to get

people to appreciate the real cause of our problems.

The economy has been on a steady decline for the

past four years. . .but that decline accelerated

when the MDC called on the West to impose sanctions

on the government and, by extension, the people of

Zimbabwe. Those calls were headed and in December

2001 U. S. leader George Bush signed the so-called

Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Bill into

an Act. The Act prompted American agents and

organizations the world over not to vote for any

financial aid and assistance to Zimbabwe in entities

to which they are affiliated. It also authorized

Bush to fund a so-called free media in Zimbabwe,

which is but a euphemism for media that is anti-

government. Over and above this, on February 18

last year, the EU declared sanctions on Zimbabwe,

which imposed travel bans on senior government

officials. All these steps have aggravated the

hardships faced by Zimbabweans. It is in this light

that we view the tendency by urban voters to vote

and protest against the ZANU PF government while

inadvertently placing the MDC in positions of

authority as being tantamount to punishing the

innocent while letting Barabbas go free. . .While we

chide the ruling party for failing to mobilize all

its supporters to go and vote, the apathy on the

part of MDC supporters cannot escape our attention.

In our view, it dramatizes the disillusionment of

the urban voters with the MDC’s failure to deliver

since it started making inroads into Zimbabwe’s

political arena. . . .”

 

SULLIVAN

(2 VIEWS)

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