The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front had become anti-democratic after the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change reversing the internal democratic processes it had started.
This was the view of MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube when he and party leader Morgan Tsvangirai briefed United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan on their treason trial, talks with ZANU-PF and intra-party violence.
Ncube said he did not expect any progress in the talks with ZANU-PF until the party had resolved the succession of President Robert Mugabe.
He said he did not expect any major changes at the party’s annual conference in December arguing that the intra-party process underway now was quite different from the one in 2000 that yielded John Nkomo’s surprise victory over Emmerson Mnangagwa in the race for party chairmanship.
He said that at that time the party was relatively unchallenged and consciously was trying to develop internal democratic processes. Soon afterward, the party had reversed course and regressed back into a rigid, centrally directed command structure.
The pressure wrought by economic collapse and political crisis only reinforced an unhealthy anti-democratic posture. Honest debate within the party was virtually impossible.
Ncube said ZANU-PF’s strategy would likely continue to be to hurt the MDC on a sustained basis in an effort to force the party to accept whatever ZANU-PF was willing to put on the table, that is, a junior role in a government of national unity.
Ncube told the ambassador that he was having secret talks with Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa but they had yielded very little.
Though Mugabe was the final decider, he gave sway to an increasingly isolated minority that included Chinamasa, Information Minister Jonathon Moyo, and Minister For National Security Nicholas Goche.
Viewing cable 03HARARE2123, MDC LEADERSHIP ON COURT CASES, TALKS, VIOLENCE
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 03 HARARE 002123
AF/S FOR S. DELISI AND M. RAYNOR
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/24/2013
SUBJECT: MDC LEADERSHIP ON COURT CASES, TALKS, VIOLENCE
REF: (A) HARARE 2105 (B) HARARE 2094
Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5(b)(d)
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai and
Secretary General Welshman Ncube on October 23 confirmed to
the Ambassador that court consideration of the party’s
election petition would commence November 3 and that
Tsvangirai’s treason trial would be postponed until next
year. The parties had not made any progress toward talks and
Ncube’s secret constitutional discussions with Justice
Minister Chinamasa were deadlocked on key transitional
issues. The South African High Commissioner had indicated to
Tsvangirai that President Mbeki was interested in visiting
Harare within the next two weeks in hopes of stimulating
movement by ZANU-PF. The MDC intended to maintain the
party’s non-violent approach but strong local party chapters
could respond to ZANU-PF-instigated violence with force
themselves instead of turning to ineffective police. The
leadership’s comments on MDC problems in the administration
of Harare’s city council are reported septel. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) At a lunch at the Residence October 23, Tsvangirai
and Ncube advised Ambassador Sullivan that Tsvangirai would
accede to the High Court’s request that the treason trial’s
commencement once again be delayed, this time until next
year. Its latest starting date had been October 27, and it
remais possible that the Court could dispose of the
prosecution’s application to amend its pleadings (a technical
motion unlikely to affect the case’s outcome) before the
Court adjourned for the year in November.
¶3. (C) Tsvangirai confirmed that the MDC’s challenge of the
presidential election results was slated to begin November 3.
A first phase would address legal issues revolving around
the constitutionality of the Electoral Act and the Election
Supervisory Commission. If the court found for the MDC on
the first phase, a new election would have to be held. If
not, proceedings would move to a second phase in which the
court would examine alleged abuses associated with the
election, and rule whether they fatally flawed the election
result. A finding for the MDC on the second phase would
require a new election. The first phase was expected to last
a week but it was unclear how quickly the court would rule on
it or, if it found against the MDC, how long the second phase
¶4. (C) Ncube reported that the three MDC youths shot in the
Harvest House episode October 18 (ref B) had been transferred
from the hospital to the jail, where they faced potential
unspecified charges. (NOTE: A press report had a police
sources earlier indicating they could face attempted murder
charges. END NOTE) However, police officials told Ncube
recently that senior police levels had ordered a full
investigation of the Harvest House incident, complete with
forensic tests on Chihota’s confiscated weapon, and they
expected to arrest Chihota within the next few days.
Elaborating on Chihota, Ncube said his lease in Harvest House
predated the MDC’s acquisition (through an affiliate) of the
building. He claimed to be a lawyer but Ncube had never seen
evidence of such status. The only time he remembered meeting
Chihota when Chihota approached him at a Harare hotel six
weeks ago and acted like they knew each other. He speculated
that Chihota was mentally disturbed but said nothing about
his possible affiliation with security officials, as alleged
by MDC Harare Chairman Morgan Femai.
No Progress on Talks
¶5. (C) Tsvangirai indicated that the parties were no closer
to recommencing talks. Contacts were being made only “on the
periphery,” and ZANU-PF had not responded to overtures from
Tsvangirai and the bishops to engineer a face-to-face meeting
between Tsvangirai and Mugabe. He noted that the ZANU-PF had
raised the possibility of a national consultative forum that
would bring all political parties and broad elements from
civil society to address a full range of political, economic,
and social problems comprehensively (an idea ZANU-PF Chairman
John Nkomo earlier floated by the Ambassador). This was
unacceptable to the MDC because it avoided critical
ZANU-PF/MDC engagement on resolving the political crisis.
¶6. (C) Ncube reported that his secret consititional talks
with Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa continued but seemed
at a deadlock over key transitional issues. At their most
recent meeting on October 16, little meaningful agreement was
reached on four key issues. On election timing under the
instrument’s transitional provisions, MDC had tried to bridge
differences with a proposal to conduct the election between
September 2004 and July 2005, at date to be determined by the
Independent Electoral Commission. ZANU-PF’s response —
elections in 2006 — represented a regression. Regarding MDC
demands for the reopening of The Daily News, ZANU-PF doggedly
insisted that the paper’s status was not a political issue
for discussion and was appropriately left to the courts,
which Ncube affirmed it was not, since the ZANU-PF-controlled
Government intended to use every means to keep The Daily News
shut. As for MDC’s call for the disbanding of the National
Service/militias, ZANU-PF urged that the parties instead
discuss reforming the system by revising curriculum, assuring
more open enrollment, etc. The parties had reached tentative
agreement on the need to revise POSA and AIPPA. Ncube would
draft essential amendments for ZANU-PF consideration but
feared that meaningful agreement may yet prove elusive.
Ncube was scheduled to meet Chinamasa again on October 28.
¶7. (C) Tsvangirai and Ncube elaborated on the continuing
impact of ZANU-PF’s succession crisis as a constraint on
talks. A majority within ZANU-PF, even among the highest
levels, supported inter-party talks. Nonetheless, Mugabe’s
posture continued to be decisive, and he gave sway to an
increasingly isolated minority that included Chinamasa,
Information Minister Jonathon Moyo, and Minister For National
Security Nicholas Goche. This minority lacked a base in the
party. The factions were completely absorbed in trying to
checkmate each other’s influence and battling over credit in
the public’s eye and, most significantly, the boss’s. Such
dynamics prevented the party from reaching a decision to move
forward on talks. Indeed, Presidency Minister John Nkomo
some weeks ago had prepared a Mugabe-Tsvangirai meeting that
fell away because of internal ZANU-PF opposition.
¶8. (C) They said they did not expect the situation to change
until ZANU-PF resolved the Mugabe succession issue. They
dismissed prospects that intra-party elections and the
December Party Conference would likely clear obstacles to
dialogue. Ncube observed that the intra-party process
underway now was quite different from the one in 2000 that
yielded John Nkomo’s surprise victory over Emmerson Mnangagwa
in the race for party chairmanship. At that time the party
was relatively unchallenged and consciously was trying to
develop internal democratic processes. Soon afterward, the
party had reversed course and regressed back into a rigid,
centrally directed command structure; the pressure wrought by
economic collapse and political crisis only reinforced an
unhealthy anti-democratic posture. Honest debate within the
party now, much less with the outside, was virtually
impossible. As an institution, the party remained unequipped
to deal with the challenges of democracy. ZANU-PF’s strategy
would likely continue to be to hurt the MDC on a sustained
basis in an effort to force the MDC to accept whatever
ZANU-PF was willing to put on the table, i.e. a junior role
in a government of national unity.
¶9. (C) Tsvangirai reported that South African High
Commissioner Ndou advised him that President Mbeki was
interested in coming to Zimbabwe within the next two weeks in
an effort to shake things loose. He observed that Mbeki was
“learning the hard way” how far one can trust Mugabe. Ncube
contrasted Mbeki’s success with the Congo and Burundi with
his ineffectiveness on Zimbabwe. He attributed Mbeki’s
successes outside to an impartial, even-handed and principled
approach he claimed was lacking in his posture toward
Zimbabwe. Faced with Mugabe’s lies and double-crosses, Mbeki
continued to exercise absolutely none of the potential
leverage he held.
¶10. (C) Tsvangirai was unaware of the recent violence in
Redcliff (ref A) but appeared to be upset by it. He
reiterated the party’s non-violent posture and expressed
concern that MDC-initiated violence would only play into the
hands of ZANU-PF’s superior force. He assured that violence
would not be permitted to get out of hand.
¶11. (C) Ncube was familiar with the Redcliff events and
defended the MDC’s actions there. Confirming the account
related by MDC MP Malinga (ref A), Ncube said MDC youths had
retaliated against ZANU-PF officials seen as responsible for
attacks on MDC homes the night before and previously. The
party organization in Redcliff was strong and judged that it
was time to send a message to ZANU-PF that they would not
take aggression lying down, as they had in the past by simply
reporting attacks to ineffectual police. This would
hopefully make pivotal local ZANU-PF officials more reticent
to instigate violence in the future. He indicated that
strong party structures in areas like Redcliff may responsd
to force with force again in the future.
¶12. (C) Tsvangirai’s and Ncube’s comments on the MDC’s
struggles in Harare’s fractious politics are related septel.
¶13. (C) The MDC leadership’s status report reflects a
restive political stalemate that is likely to continue into
next year. ZANU-PF remains unwilling to move forward on
talks and we see little evidence that either the December
Party Conference or a visit from Mbeki, if it transpires,
would likely shake things loose. The public’s absorption
with the increasing challenges of everyday life and the
security forces’ capacity to nip nascent demonstrations in
the bud make civil unrest an unlikely prospect at this time.
For its part, the MDC has not sought to exploit the
ever-deteriorating economic situation and provocations like
The Daily New closing and ZCTU and NCA crackdowns beyond
critical press statements. For now, the MDC must content
itself with a largely reactive posture, although it is
responding to the challenging media environment by actively
refurbishing its grassroots organization. Tsvangirai spent
the last two weeks meeting with local leaders and addressing
rallies in Masvingo, Beitbridge, Gwanda, and Mutare, the last
of which reportedly attracted 25,000.