War veterans who stormed the five-star Meikles Hotel during the two-day stay-away organised by the Movement for Democratic Change yelled at an American citizen and his six colleagues: “White animals, don’t you look at us; get out of Zimbabwe; we don’t want you here.”
According to a cable released by Wikileaks, security guards and a concierge who had come to assist, “froze in their tracks,” when they realised that the assailants were war veterans.
The stay-away was largely successful with between 80 to 95 percent of businesses in the capital closed.
The MDC claimed that three people were shot in Highfield but retreated later. The government insisted that there were no casualties.
The United States embassies said about 275 people, mostly MDC supporters, were arrested.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1122, STAYAWAY HOLDING TENUOUSLY, NO DEMONSTRATIONS –
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 001122
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
BANGKOK FOR WIN DAYTON
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013
SUBJECT: STAYAWAY HOLDING TENUOUSLY, NO DEMONSTRATIONS –
MDC MASS ACTION DAY TWO
REF: A. HARARE 1101
¶B. HARARE 1097
¶C. HARARE 1081
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) In television and radio broadcasts, as well as by
telephoning and visiting business owners directly, GOZ
officials exhorted businesses to open on June 3. In the face
of this pressure between 50 – 90 percent of businesses
remained closed on June 3 nationwide. The police, though
present, were less visible on the street in downtown Harare
on June 3. It appears that ordinary Zimbabweans have not
heeded the call to take to the streets in the numbers and
with the defiance the MDC was hoping for. End Summary.
GOZ Exhorts Businesses to Open
¶2. (U) In a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation television
broadcast on June 2, Minister of Industry and International
Trade S. Mumbengegwi exhorted workers to show up for work,
and businesses to open on risk losing their licenses and
permits. According to MDC Presidential Advisor, Gandi
Mudzingwa, GOZ officials were calling the directors of large
companies in Harare and threatening them with license
revocation if they did not open.
¶3. (C) According to PAO a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation
reporter personally exhorted a Time Bank office in downtown
Harare to open. Virginia Pinto, an independent Mutare city
councilwoman, said police went door to door to small
businesses and shops in downtown Mutare on June 2 – 3
demanding that they open or risk license revocation. For the
past several workdays in Mutare police visited banks and took
down the names and addresses of managers and workers,
threatening to force them to work if the bank did not open.
Mudzingwa said that there were no planned demonstrations or
marches on June 3, and that the MDC leadership was instead
focused on maintaining the stayaway in the face of mounting
GOZ pressure on businesses to open.
MDC Officials Arrested
¶4. (U) On June 2, MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai was
arrested for non-compliance with a May 31 court order
prohibiting the MDC planned mass action. He was released on
the same day after signing a warned and cautioned statement.
According to the MDC, Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Tendai
Biti; Job Sikhala, the MDC MP for St. Mary’s (in the Harare
area); Japhet Ndabeni Ncube, the MDC Mayor of Bulawayo;
Milton Gwetu, an MDC MP in Bulawayo; Silas Mangono, an MDC MP
from Masvingo; Jobert Mudzumwe a member of the MDC National
Executive; Charlton Hwende, a member of the MDC National
Youth wing; and several MDC officials in other parts of the
country were arrested on June 2 and still in custody on June
Total Numbers Arrested
¶5. (U) Reports of the total number of people arrested
nationwide in connection with the mass action varied; the
total number was likely about 275 by June 3. This includes
121 arrested in Harare, 56 in Chitungwiza (a high density
suburb of Harare), 21 in Bulawayo, 25 in Masvingo, 3 in
Victoria Falls, and unconfirmed numbers in Mutare, Gweru, and
Kwekwe. Most of those arrested on June 2, were released by
June 3. By June 3 police had not allowed MDC officials
access to the arrestees in Masvingo, nor had they allowed
food to be brought in.
¶6. (SBU) An American citizen reported that he and his party
of 6 were sitting in the lobby of Harare’s five star Meikles
hotel yesterday when a group of half a dozen war vets came
into the hotel shouting and pushing security guards. When
they spotted the Americans, they stood about 3 feet away and
started yelling, “White animals, don’t you look at us; get
out of Zimbabwe; we don’t want you here.” The guards and
concierge came to assist , but when they realized that the
assailants were war vets, they “froze in their tracks,”
according to the American. The war vets left shortly
thereafter. The Americans were frightened by their ordeal
and plan to leave Zimbabwe today, as previously scheduled.
¶7. (SBU) Embassy has been unable to confirm any reports of
casualties. The MDC, which yesterday reported that 3 people
were shot in Highfield (near Harare), today retreated from
that position. The GOZ has said there were no casualties,
except for an unidentified person, which the government-owned
Herald reported was stoned to death by MDC supporters.
Stayaway Successful – But Losing Ground
¶8. (U) Driving around Harare on June 3, Poloff observed that
about 80 percent of shops in downtown Harare remained closed,
and 90 percent of businesses in the light industrial areas of
Harare were closed.
¶9. (SBU) Police were visible in groups of 2 – 4 in downtown
areas, some were armed with automatic rifles, but for the
most part they assumed very relaxed postures.
¶10. (C) According to Sheba Dube, head of the Bulawayo chapter
of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) about 75 percent of
businesses in downtown Bulawayo were closed on June 3.
According to Pinto, about 50 percent of businesses in Mutare
remained closed on June 3.
¶11. (C) Having quelled prospective demonstrations on June 2,
and arrested a few hundred MDC officials and activists,
police and security forces were less visible on the street on
June 3. The GOZ strategy to counter the mass action on June
3 focused instead on exhorting businesses to ignore the
stayaway, though most of them remained closed anyway. The
momentum has clearly shifted in the GOZ’s favor and it is
possible the MDC bit off more than it could chew by calling
for street demonstrations and a “final push”. It appears
that ordinary Zimbabweans have not heeded the call in the
numbers and with the defiance the MDC was hoping for. End