Ambassador said Madhuku overstates size of his events

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell, who National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku briefed regularly about his demonstrations, said the NCA leader generally overstated the size of his events.

Madhuku had just briefed the United States embassy on his latest demonstrations during which he said the NCA had tricked the police by staging two demonstrations in Harare, the first a smaller one of 150-200 people and then a larger one of 300-400 people.

Madhuku said this had caught the police by surprise and they had therefore only managed to arrest a few people.

Dell said Madhuku generally overstated the size of his events but the embassy had independent reports that the demonstration was larger than usual and that the police response was less forceful than usual.

He, however, said the NCA’s tactics, while clever, could be a less important part of the explanation for the police response.

The decline in police morale and efficiency brought on by the government’s financial difficulties would inevitably begin to erode their ability to suppress dissent, he said.


Full cable:



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Reference ID





2005-11-08 14:22


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 001527







E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2015







Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d






1. (C) On November 7, National Constitutional Assembly (NCA)

Chairperson, Lovemore Madhuku, told poloff that

demonstrations planned for November 4 (reftel) had gone well.

As a result of NCA tactics and their own declining morale,

police response to the demonstrations had been weak and fewer

demonstrators had been arrested than in the past. Madhuku

said the GOZ was accusing NCA members of bombing a police

post during the demonstrations, but the NCA believed security

forces had staged the bombing to discredit the mass action.

The NCA was planning to hold another demonstration next week.

In late breaking news, police arrested Madhuku on November 8

and he is being held without charges. End Summary.



NCA Calls Demonstrations a Success



2. (C) NCA Chair Lovemore Madhuku told poloff that NCA held

demonstrations in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo, and

Gweru on November 4 to protest the creation of the Senate and

to call for a new constitution. Madhuku said that in Harare

the protest had taken place at two times. First, a core

group of 150-200 people had participated in the morning, then

a larger group of 300-400 had demonstrated in the afternoon.

The idea was to mislead the police with the smaller

demonstration in the morning so that they would be slower to

react to the larger demonstration later in the day. The

demonstrations in other cities had attracted about 200-250

participants each.


3. (C) Madhuku said a total of 16 were arrested in Harare, 20

in Mutare, and one in Bulawayo – fewer than were normally

arrested. Many of those had already been released. Fourteen

remained in custody in Harare and six in Mutare. Madhuku

said the NCA,s tactics were responsible for the relatively

weak police response. The police had been surprised by the

second Harare demonstration and had been slow to react.


4. (C) Madhuku added that even though the NCA had made no

secret of the demonstration the police had not aggressively



followed NCA activists, in stark contrast to past practice,

and had therefore been relatively unprepared. In addition,

the police who had responded had been less confrontational

than in the recent past. Typically police would be present

in large numbers in the expected area and immediately begin

beating and arresting demonstrators. This time police did

not prevent the demonstration from beginning, and they only

began beating and arresting participants after they had

marched. Madhuku said this had led to fewer arrests because

the demonstrators, confident that they had achieved their

goal, had run when they saw the police.


5. (C) The government-sponsored press, including the Herald

and the Sunday Mail newspapers reported that NCA members

threw a gasoline bomb at a police post during the

demonstrations. Madhuku said that the bombing had occurred

after the demonstrations and after the police had already

arrested NCA demonstrators. He suspected security agents

were themselves responsible for the bombing in an attempt to

discredit the demonstration.



More Demonstrations Planned



6. (C) Madhuku said NCA was planning another demonstration

for sometime next week. NCA officials were waiting to see

the results of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions

demonstration scheduled for November 8 (septel). Madhuku was

particularly interested to see if the police reaction to the

ZCTU event was similarly weak or if the press reporting on

the bombing energized police. He said more violence would be

good because it would expose the police for the vicious

people they were.


Update: Madhuku Arrested


7. On November 8, the NCA released a statement saying that

late on November 7 police had unsuccessfully attempted to

arrest Madhuku, who had been out, at his home. They had

subsequently contacted him by phone and ordered Madhuku to

turn himself in to Harare Central Police Station. In a

follow-up phone conversation, an NCA spokesperson told poloff

that Madhuku had gone to the police station at 8 a.m., and

police had held him there since without charges, although the

NCA understood that the charges would be related to

Saturday,s demonstration. (N.B. The police are also

reported to have arrested ZCTU Chairman Wellington Chibebe

and 50 of his supporters on November 8 while they were

conducting a protest march of their own.)






8. (C) The NCA demonstration would seem to have been a

successful trial run for the series of mass actions planned

by the opposition MDC and its civil society allies (reftels).

Madhuku generally overstates the size of his events but we

had independent reports as well that it was larger than usual

and that the police response was less forceful than usual.

The NCA,s tactics, while clever, could be a less important

part of the explanation for the police response. The decline

in police morale and efficiency brought on by the GOZ,s

financial difficulties will inevitably begin to erode their

ability to suppress dissent and we may have seen the first

sign of this coming to pass. Far from squelching the

protests, Madhuku,s arrest along with that of Chibebe could

very well help spark further demonstrations. End Comment.





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