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ZCTU leader said don’t underestimate Mugabe

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions leader Wellington Chibebe told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that people should not underestimate President Robert Mugabe because he was not likely to leave office, even in 2008.

Chibebe said way back in September 2004 that Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front had long term plans and had successfully kept the opposition on the defensive by, among other things, taking the opposition’s ideas and implementing them as their own.

In contrast, the opposition lacked a long-term strategy and instead was constantly reacting to ZANU-PF initiatives.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 04HARARE1624, AMB DELL MEETS TOP LABOR LEADER

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE1624

2004-09-28 14:17

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

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 HARARE 001624

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR BNEULING

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVELLE, D. TEITELBAUM

USDOC FOR AMANDA HILLIGAS, TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW,

PASS USTR FOR FLORIZELLE LISER, STATE PASS USAID FOR

MARJORIE COPSON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2009

TAGS: ELAB ECON PGOV EAID ZI ZCTU

SUBJECT: AMB DELL MEETS TOP LABOR LEADER

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell for reason 1.5 d

 

——-

Summary

——-

1. (C) During a September 15 meeting with the Ambassador,

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, (ZCTU) Secretary General

Wellington Chibebe said President Mugabe was unlikely to

leave office, even in 2008 and that the political opposition

would likely lose the parliamentary elections badly, largely

because of ZANU-PF,s control of rural areas. ZCTU and other

civil society groups therefore needed to adopt a different,

longer-term approach to democracy. For its part, ZCTU was

attempting to organize agricultural workers as a first step

in weakening the ruling party,s hold over the countryside.

End Summary.

 

—————————

A Long-Term Approach Needed

—————————

 

2. (C) Chibebe said President Mugabe would be unlikely to

leave office, even in 2008 and that the ZCTU and other civil

society organizations therefore had to also plan long-term,

not just post-2008 but post-Mugabe. He added that Mugabe,s

political acumen should not be underestimated. ZANU-PF has a

long-term plan and had successfully kept the opposition on

the defensive by, among other things, taking the

opposition,s ideas and implementing them as their own. In

contrast, the opposition lacked a long-term strategy and

instead was constantly reacting to ZANU-PF initiatives.

 

3. (C) Chibebe said that as a key part of their long-term

strategy, the ZCTU was starting to organize farm workers in

the traditionally ZANU-PF countryside. He claimed early

success in reaching farm workers and asserted that his

organization,s efforts would eventually loosen ZANU-PF,s

grip on rural areas. He claimed ZCTU,s recruiting efforts

had the support of local chiefs, despite their traditional

ties to the ruling party. The ZCTU was nonetheless proceeding

cautiously with its rural efforts to avoid detection and

reprisal. In that regard, Chibebe said the GOZ clearly saw

the ZCTU as an opponent and was determined to weaken it.

Government tactics included infiltrating the union with

informers, creating the rival Zimbabwe Federation of Trade

Unions (ZFTU), breaking up labor rallies, and police

harassment of labor activists. That said, the GOZ had to

tread more lightly on labor leaders than other perceived

opponents because of the International Labor Organization,s

(ILO) close scrutiny.

 

4. (C) Chibebe said that another component of the ZCTU,s

plan for the future was to concentrate on raising its

membership. The ZCTU currently contained 36 unions with a

total of 250,000 to 300,000 workers, which represented 25-30

percent of the total formal Zimbabwean work force and workers

in parastatal firms still formed the ZCTU,s backbone.

However, the union was in the process of organizing some 1.2

million workers in the informal sector, mostly in rural

areas. The Ambassador raised the issue of land reform,

questioning why no one had challenged ZANU-PF on the failure

of its land reform policy. Chibebe agreed the opposition

should be more outspoken, noting that ZANU-PF should not be

allowed to claim as a success a policy that had hurt four

times as many Zimbabweans as it had helped.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

5. (C) Chibebe was confident, articulate and thoughtful. His

strategic vision is particularly impressive and it is

encouraging that under Chibebe,s leadership the ZCTU is

already thinking of ways to counter a likely ZANU-PF victory

in the March elections, even as it struggles with the

shorter-term political situation. One can,t help but think

that, like Morgan Tsvangirai before him, the future leader of

the political opposition might well come from the ZCTU.

 

Dell

 

(8 VIEWS)

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