An apology by Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai for overruling the party’s national council over its decision to participate in the Senate elections of 2005 could have saved the party from splitting.
The break-away faction that was loyal to secretary-general Welshman Ncube, a lawyer, was still loyal to Tsvangirai according to mediator Brian Raftopoulos, but was highly suspicious of the clique around Tsvangirai which they viewed as unelected, self-serving individuals who exerted undemocratic influences on the party.
The clique included Ian Makone, Dennis Murira and Gandhi Mudzingwa.
Raftopoulos said although the Ncube faction realised that Tsvangirai had popular support on his side, they were upset over Tsvangirai’s breach of party procedures and constitution in overriding the National Council’s decision to participate in the elections.
This “rule of law” issue was especially important to Ncube, a lawyer.
Raftopoulos said he was convinced that Ncube had absolutely no pretensions to national political leadership or to replace Tsvangirai atop the party, but needed some accommodation on process concerns.
Tsvangirai on the other hand had the support of civil society which supported a boycott. He had been meeting periodically with the National Constitutional Assembly’s Lovemore Madhuku and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union’s Wellington Chibebe and Lovemore Matombo to reinvigorate plans for a way forward.
Raftopolous said the ZCTU was weak and unprepared to contribute meaningfully to a confrontation with the regime. But the MDC and NCA, joined by resident associations and others in civil society, had enough wherewithal to do something.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1508, MDC TALKS INCONCLUSIVE; SPLIT LOOMING?
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 001508
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010
SUBJECT: MDC TALKS INCONCLUSIVE; SPLIT LOOMING?
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C) Brian Raftopolous, mediator in the opposition MDC’s
efforts to bridge the schism in the party over the Senate
elections, told poloff on November 2 Party President Morgan
Tsvangirai had won the battle for popular support for an
election boycott but that his opponents in the party
leadership wanted an apology from him for ignoring party
procedures and wanted him to discipline his &kitchen
cabinet8 before agreeing to the boycott. Raftopolous said
he had proposed such a compromise at the end of the
leadership,s October 27 meeting. However, both factions had
hardened their positions prior to the October 31 meeting and
he was no longer optimistic that the compromise would be
agreed upon. A reconvened National Council meeting scheduled
for November 5 would attempt to resolve critical differences
but could instead result in a &separation8 that could lead
to a later divorce. Raftopolous added that civil society
leaders strongly backed Tsvangirai and were working with him
on a strategy to ramp up confrontation with the regime. End
Ncube Faction’s “Rule of Law” Concerns
¶2. (C) In a meeting at his University of Zimbabwe office, the
UZ political science professor (who is also associated with
the Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition and Transparency International)
updated poloff on MDC talks he had been mediating over the
last two weeks. Raftopolous said the party,s Ndebele
leadership could not stomach yielding elected seats to
ZANU-PF and wanted to reinforce their political power in
Matabeleland. That said, they now realized that Tsvangirai
had popular support on his side. However, the Ncube faction
was upset over Tsvangirai’s breach of party procedures and
constitution in overriding the National Council’s decision to
participate in the elections. This “rule of law” issue was
especially important to Ncube, a lawyer. Raftopolous said he
was convinced that Ncube had absolutely no pretensions to
national political leadership or to replace Tsvangirai atop
the party, but needed some accommodation on process concerns.
¶3. (C) According to Raftopolous, most in the Ncube faction
were still loyal to Tsvangirai but viewed the clique around
him as unelected, self-serving individuals who exerted
“undemocratic” influences on the party and sought to counter
established party structures, especially the authority of the
National Executive or “Top Six” (Tsvangirai,
Secretary-General Ncube, VP Gibson Sibanda, Deputy Sec-Gen
Gift Chimanikire, Chairman Isaac Matongo, and Treasurer
Fletcher Dhulini-Ncube). Tsvangirai allies most
objectionable to the Ncube faction in this regard were Ian
Makoni, Dennis Murira and Gandhi Mudzingwa. Raftopolous said
he had seen internal party files documenting allegations of
intra-party intimidation and violence although he could not
evaluate their veracity. He said the documents evinced a
possible plan by Tsvangirai supporters to oust Ncube,
Sibanda, and Dhulini-Ncube ahead of the Party Congress.
Tsvangirai Impelled by Conviction, Leadership Imperative
¶4. (C) Raftopolous said that for his part Tsvangirai was
convinced of the wisdom of an election boycott and had been
taken aback by what he saw as a challenge to his leadership.
He had been unprepared for the National Council vote against
the boycott and perceived it as an affront to his authority.
Intra-party criticism of “his” people and the recent meeting
between Top Six principals and South African President Mbeki
only fueled Tsvangirai’s suspicions. Raftopolous expressed
concern that Tsvangirai was being advised especially poorly
by his kitchen cabinet, who feared for their future in an
accommodation and seemed hell-bent on ousting the Ncube
¶5. (C) Raftopolous said that he personally agreed with
Tsvangirai on the participation issue as did the vast
majority of the party,s rank and file. However, a victory
on that issue could prove to be Pyrrhic if not achieved
properly. Addressing “democracy/rule of law” issues
meaningfully was essential – in part to keep the Ncube
faction on board but, more importantly, such issues would
continue to hamstring the party significantly if not
corrected. Raftopolous said he had privately pressed
Tsvangirai on the matter and had been hopeful that Tsvangirai
would be prepared to acknowledge some fault in the interest
of keeping crucial disaffected constituencies on board and
assuring the party’s long term effectiveness.
Prospective Compromise Yielding to Re-Polarization
¶6. (C) In the October 27 meeting, Raftopolous said he had
proposed a compromise: guided by the Top Six’s
recommendations, the National Council would rescind its
earlier vote and approve a boycott, and the President would
acknowledge mistakes in previously bypassing party
procedures. All would agree to rationalize party structures
and lines of authority in accordance with the constitution
and party elections. Raftopolous said Tsvangirai and Ncube
had appeared to want a reconciliation and each side initially
seemed inclined to accept the compromise.
¶7. (C) However, Raftopolous said when the leadership
reconvened on October 31, each side appeared to have hardened
its position and no longer appeared prepared to compromise.
As a result, he said he had ceased mediation efforts for now.
There was now a real possibility that the National Council
meeting scheduled for November 5 could result in a
&separation8 followed by a more formal “divorce” at the
National Congress later in the year.
MDC-Civil Society Collaboration Continues
¶8. (C) Raftopolous said most of civil society had sided with
Tsvangirai in his intra-party travails, supported a boycott,
and was willing to overlook procedural improprieties in favor
of moving forward with more public action. Tsvangirai had
been meeting periodically with the National Constitutional
Assembly’s Lovemore Madhuku and the Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Union’s Wellington Chibebe and Lovemore Matombo to
reinvigorate plans for a way forward. Buoyed by his
intra-party scrap and engagement with civil society,
Tsvangirai seemed to be gaining energy to confront the regime
more forcefully again.
¶9. (C) Raftopolous said ZCTU was weak and unprepared to
contribute meaningfully to a confrontation with the regime.
However, the MDC and NCA, joined by resident associations and
others in civil society, had enough wherewithal to do
something. He reported that the NCA had made substantial
progress in connecting with rural populations but that urban
centers still provided the optimal venues for public action,
provided action was sufficiently diffuse. Raftopolous
concluded that the regime was increasingly concerned about a
resurgence of public opposition.
¶10. (C) While there is considerable risk that personal hubris
could lead to a real split in the MDC even though the
principal cause of disagreement has been resolved in
Tsvangirai’s favor, we still believe that the party is going
through a necessary catharsis as it struggles to define
itself. While there has been much hand-wringing about a
possible MDC split being “tragic,” it should be remembered
that catharsis and the resolution of impossible tensions was
the very point of the ancient tragedies.