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US not allowed to help MDC set up office in Washington

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan told Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai that the United States government could not help the party to set up an office in Washington because it was prohibited from supporting lobbying operations in the capital.

Tsvangirai had told the ambassador that his party was interested in opening an office in Washington and wanted United States government support in that regard.

Sullivan explained that the United States government was prohibited from supporting lobbying operations in Washington but he added that “the Department could be helpful in facilitating access and in other ways”.


Full cable:


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Reference ID






2003-09-11 14:33

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

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 001792









E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/10/2013







Classified By: Political officer Win Dayton; reason — Section 1.5 (B)



1. (C) SUMMARY: In a September 10 meeting with Ambassador

Sullivan, MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai voiced continued

frustration with ZANU-PF’s lack of urgency on resuming talks

and recounted efforts by MDC principals to engage with

regional SADC leaders in that regard. He sought USG support

for the opening of an MDC office in Washington and reported

that he and MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube planned to

testify at Tsvangirai’s treason trial due to get underway

September 15. END SUMMARY.


2. (C) On his own initiative, Tsvangirai came to the

Residence to review recent developments with the Ambassador.

At the outset, he described ongoing approaches by MDC

principals with SADC heads of state. Malawian President

Muluzi had been especially receptive in welcoming a

delegation that included Secretary General Welshman Ncube and

Chairman Isaac Matongo. Muluzi also had arranged a call by

the delegation on Tanzanian President Mkapa and offered to

facilitate other meetings. The delegation was to visit

Mozambique after meeting with Mkapa on September 9.

Tsvangirai identified Botswana, Angola, and Namibia as other



possible MDC diplomatic whistle stops. (NOTE: We understand

that a meeting in Mozambique is being rescheduled for the

coming weeks and that the Angolans, while aware of MDC

interest in a meeting, were waiting for further word from the



3. (C) According to Tsvangirai, Muluzi was skeptical of

South African reassurances that “things were moving forward”

in Zimbabwe. Muluzi had reported that Mugabe’s 45 minute

ramble on land reform and neocolonialism at the SADC summit

had left other leaders frustrated and sensing that he lacked

a meaningful plan to address Zimbabwe’s multi-dimensional

crisis. Tsvangirai observed that the South African High

Commissioner was becoming especially frustrated over GOZ

inaction. At the same time, he voiced doubt about the

intensity of South African pressure on Zimbabwe, and noted

that the MDC delegation had heard “nothing new” from the ANC

Secretary General when they passed through South Africa on



their way home from Malawi.


4. (C) Tsvangirai advised that very discreet interparty

discussions on the constitution had gone well, suggesting to

him that Justice Minister Chinamasa recognized the

inevitability of a framework to support new elections. He

took recently announced internal ZANU-PF provincial elections

as an indication that the party was preparing for a

transition, although whether they had implications beyond an

internal transition remained unclear. He concluded that the

bishops’ initiative had “fallen through” and claimed that

there were no other interparty channels in use. Publicly

reported channels involving ZANU-PF Chairman John Nkomo and

party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira were only associated with

the defunct church initiative. Curiously, intermediaries for

the Italian order Santo Egidio had approached him the day

before to inquire if MDC would object to the order playing a

role in mediation/reconciliation efforts. Tsvangirai said he

told them that he had no formal objection but that the

multiplicity of potential channels and mediation efforts only

contributed to confusion and unhelpful delays. He said he

did not believe that ZANU-PF had given Santo Egidio any green

light to facilitate talks.


5. (C) Tsvangirai expressed concern about the potential

impact of speculation within the government-controlled press

on divisions within the MDC leadership, particularly between

himself and Ncube. His own rank and file were likely to know

better but diplomats might believe the reports. He confirmed

our own analysis that there were no rifts within the MDC

leadership and said that he felt “completely unchallenged.”

In addition, unlike ZANU-PF, which was rife with potential

ethnic, sub-ethnic, geographic and historical divisions, MDC

was unified across ethnic and geographic lines. The

Ambassador assured him that we had not given any credence to

the reports, and had shared this assessment with diplomats

who sought our opinion on the matter.


6. (C) Referencing local media reports on A/S Boucher’s

September 2 statement on Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai sought

clarification of Washington’s assessment of the August 30-31

elections. He voiced concern that positive appraisals of the

elections could play into the government’s hands. The

Ambassador explained that the statement had recognized some

degree of improvement over past elections but highlighted

continuing concerns about levels of violence and

intimidation, economic duress on voters, and non-transparency

associated with voter rolls. Tsvangirai conceded he had not

seen the full statement and agreed that objectivity and a

balanced assessment were important to USG credibility with



7. (C) Tsvangirai reported that the MDC was interested in

opening an office in Washington and sought USG support in

that regard. Beyond Washington, he asserted that the MDC

already had adequate coverage of the EU but would pursue

additional offices in Nairobi and West Africa. The party was

in the process of getting higher level coverage of South

Africa, perhaps on a rotating, part-time basis. The

Ambassador explained that the USG was prohibited from

supporting lobbying operations in Washington but that the

Department could be helpful in facilitating access and in

other ways.


8. (C) Turning to his treason trial, which is due to get

underway on September 15, Tsvangirai reported that he was

planning to testify in his own defense. Former co-defendants

Party Secretary General Welshman Ncube and Shadow Agriculture

Minister Ransen Gasela also would testify in person.

Tsvangirai predicted that the trial would stretch out at



least until the end of the year.


9. (C) COMMENT: The MDC leadership’s efforts to stimulate

regional pressure on the GOZ reflect frustration over the

GOZ’s continuing lack of urgency to come to the table.

SADC’s public inaction on Zimbabwe at the recent summit in

Dar Es Salaam and MDC suspicions about SAG ambivalence

further impel the leadership’s foreign relations initiative.

Although it is unclear the extent to which SADC member

leaders would be willing to engage the GOZ constructively at

the MDC’s behest, for now the MDC leadership appears

encouraged by the recognition they have received. Our own

feedback from SADC diplomats here is that they are

encouraging meetings between MDC and their governments as a

means to press ZANU-PF to resolve Zimbabwe’s political

crisis. (The Mozambican High Commissioner — who comes from

a military background — expressed frustration to us that

Zimbabwe expected African solidarity with Zimbabwe vis-a-vis

relations with the EU, while the absence of interaction was

hurting all of Africa.) Beyond the party’s overseas

outreach, Tsvangirai’s preoccupation with media

misinformation, treason trials and the like suggests that

ZANU-PF harassment continues to absorb MDC leadership

attention, with attendant opportunity cost to organizational

and substantive concerns.



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