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ZCTU leaders relate their ordeal to US ambassador

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions leaders described to the United States ambassador Christopher Dell how they were arrested and brutally beaten after police broke their attempted demonstration.

The labour leaders believed that the people who beat them up were not police officers but probably members of the Central Intelligence Organisation.

Former ZCTU leader and president of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, told Dell that he had learned that the government had created a special taskforce to carry out the operation, drawing on the presidential guard unit, police, ZANU-PF youth militia and party cadres.

Tsvangirai said about 450 youths were brought in from Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West for the operation.

The labour leaders were treated at the expense of the United States government through the Amani Trust, a move that the embassy described as an outstanding example of US government-funded programmes making an important *and possibly*life saving difference.

Dell, however, confused the titles of the labour leaders calling Lovemore Matombo the secretary general and Wellington Chibebe the president. It was vice versa.

 

Full cable:

Viewing cable 06HARARE1163, ZCTU MEMBERS RECOUNT TO AMBASSADOR POLICE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

06HARARE1163

2006-09-21 14:36

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO6037

PP RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #1163/01 2641436

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 211436Z SEP 06

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0618

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1317

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1167

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1321

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0078

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0582

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 0947

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1375

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3749

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1144

RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1792

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC//DHO-7//

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1538

RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK//DOOC/ECMO/CC/DAO/DOB/DOI//

RUEPGBA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE//ECJ23-CH/ECJ5M//

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 001163

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE

USAID FOR M. COPSON AND E. LOKEN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2011

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ELAB ZI

SUBJECT: ZCTU MEMBERS RECOUNT TO AMBASSADOR POLICE

BRUTALITY AND INCOMPETENCE

 

REF: HARARE 1143

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) ZCTU leaders described to the Ambassador their arrest

and brutal beatings by Zimbabwe police following their

attempted demonstration on September 13 (Ref). They noted

that the police van in which they were to be transported to

the police station was on empty. At the notorious Matapi

station, the Union members reported being systematically and

brutally beaten with medical attention initially withheld.

Based on conversations overheard, they did not believe their

assailants to have been regular police. MDC leader Morgan

Tsvangirai told the press and diplomats September 21 that

 

SIPDIS

Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) was responsible.

Undaunted, the ZCTU leaders vowed to continue the struggle.

The U.S. can take pride in the role we played, through our

local partner Amani Trust, in providing for the medical needs

of the victims. End Summary.

 

————————————–

Ambassador Visits ZCTU Protest Victims

————————————–

 

2. (U) In the aftermath of the brutal police crackdown on

ZCTU leadership and members on September 13 (Ref),

Ambassador, accompanied by UK Ambassador to Zimbabwe Pocack,

visited ZCTU Secretary General Lovemore Matombo in the

private Dandaro clinic where he and about 10 of his

colleagues were receiving medical treatment. They provided

the ambassadors a detailed description of their arrests and

beatings. (Note: ZCTU president Wellington Chibebe was

still hospitalized at the Avenues Clinic awaiting surgery.

End Note.)

 

3. (U) Matombo and most of his colleagues sported bandages

and plaster cast on broken and hurt arms and wrists; some

complained of bruises and internal injuries. One was

connected to an IV drip. One victim said he had a deep

puncture wound on his leg. Several of the unionists said

they had seen police swinging scythes or sickles.

 

——————

Feckless Brutality

——————

 

4. (C) The ZCTU members said that as they gathered to begin

their protest, police approached and ordered them to sit down

in the middle of the street. Police hit them with batons and

then loaded them into a single police truck for transport to

the notorious Matapi police station. (Note: A Zimbabwe judge

had previously ordered the station closed due to its inhumane

conditions. )

 

5. (C) The ZCTU members told us this was the only police

vehicle deployed for the demonstration. Lucy Matibenga, the

ZCTU Vice President, who was placed in the cab separate from

the men, said the vehicle’s gas gauge was nearly on empty

when they were loaded into it. The police subsequently

flagged down a passing police pick-up truck to provide more

transport, but the driver said he only had enough fuel to go

to Harare Central and couldn’t help take the prisoners to the

more distant Matapi station.

 

HARARE 00001163 002 OF 003

 

 

 

6. (C) At Matapi, according to the union members, groups of

five police beat them in pairs for about 20 minutes. Chibebe

was apparently subjected to a particularly vicious beating as

others could hear his screams. The beatings were so severe

that three batons were splintered during the course of them.

Matibenga said she and a colleague who have been trained in

passive resistance techniques made a point of staring into

the eyes of their assailants. They responded by pulling

their caps over their eyes to prevent identification. Other

ZCTU members, most of whom were too busy trying to protect

themselves from blows to view their assailants, stated they

were unable to make any identifications. They believed,

however, from conversations they overheard that their

assailants were not real police.

 

7. (C) Matibenga told the Ambassador that she heard friends

and lawyers come to the station to inquire about them.

Police denied they were there. Matibenga eventually called

out to her friends. Police ultimately transferred them to

Harare Central jail where they finally received medical

attention for the first time, hours after the beatings.

 

———————-

Resolve to Continue On

———————-

 

8. (C) Matombo and the ZCTU members told the Ambassador they

were more resolved than ever to continue their struggle and

that they needed to act soon to maintain momentum. They also

proudly claimed, in the face of criticism, that they had

answered the question &where’s the leadership?,8 and

intended to respond to critics by asking &where are our

followers?8 Matembo also commented that the opposition

needed to adopt &struggle8 tactics and think in terms of a

prolonged fight.

 

——————–

Tsvingirai weighs in

 

SIPDIS

——————–

 

9. (U) At a public meeting with press and diplomats,

attended by the Ambassador, to discuss the Trudy Stevenson

Commission report (Septel), MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai

said the government over-reaction had been orchestrated by

the CIO and demonstrated its fear of the opposition. He

added that ZCTU had been led to believe by the government,

responding to International Labour Organization pressure,

that it would allow more space for protests and

demonstrations.

 

10. (C) Tsvingirai told the Ambassador on September 21 that

he had learned that the government had created a special task

force to carry out the operation, drawing on the presidential

guard unit, police, ZANU-PF youth militia and party cadres.

According to Tsvingirai, about 450 youth were brought in from

Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West for the operation.

Buttressing Tsvingirai’s observations that this was a

well-planned and orchestrated response, one of our civil

society contacts told us he had seen film of security forces

beating sitting demonstrators, and superiors of the security

forces looking on to ensure the beatings were carried out.

 

———

U.S. Role

———

 

 

HARARE 00001163 003 OF 003

 

 

11. (C) Amani Trust, one of our DG partners, arranged for the

hospital care for the victims, drawing down on USAID DG funds

to cover the cost. Reginald Matcha-Hove of the Zimbabwe

Election Support Network (ZESN), who is a medical doctor,

provided initial medical assistance. (Comment: This is an

outstanding example of USG-funded programs making an

important*and possibly*life saving difference. End

Comment.)

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

12. (C) By their extreme reaction, the regime hoped to nip

further demonstrations in the bud. They have already failed.

The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) launched a

demonstration September 20 in Zimbabwe’s third city, Mutare,

which was also violently broken up (septel). The opposition

seems to be gathering momentum at a time when the government

is literally running on empty with respect to resources. The

image of the police van’s gas gauge on empty is a perfect

metaphor for the current state of play in Zimbabwe. For

their part, Matombo and Chibebe, who were being criticized by

their own people for unassertive and ineffective leadership,

have now been turned into martyrs, surely not what the GOZ

had had in mind. End Comment

DELL

(5 VIEWS)

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