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.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1527, NCA MARCHES, MADHUKU ARRESTED
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
AF FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2015
SUBJECT: NCA MARCHES, MADHUKU ARRESTED
REF: A. HARARE 1512
¶B. HARARE 1509 AND PREVIOUS
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
¶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.