ANC consultants helped revamp MDC


Three senior members of the African National Congress held an organisational strengthening workshop for the leadership of the Movement for Democratic Change in April 2004 to revamp the party after organisational conflicts had surfaced following the failed final push.

The three were identified as Dren Nupen, Mandhla Mutungu and Alan Bruce. They had reportedly worked on organisational strengthening with the ANC for several years.

They presented a strategy and programme to assess the talents of MDC leadership and staff to position them appropriately within the organisation.

The party’s top six participated but only three, party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, secretary general Welshman Ncube and his deputy Gift Chimanikire did well.

The programme and the consultants were funded by the Swedes and Norwegians.


Full cable:


Viewing cable 04HARARE752, WHITHER THE MDC

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Reference ID






2004-05-05 11:46

2011-08-30 01:44


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 05 HARARE 000752











E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2014








E. 2003 HARARE 2412

F. 2003 HARARE 1359


Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d


1. (C) SUMMARY: The fledgling opposition MDC is suffering

from some basic but critical problems: infighting within the

higher ranks, insufficient communication and consultation

with the broader membership, despondency, and increasing

criticism from within the party. These factors coupled with

ZANU-PF’s increasingly aggressive posture and upper hand in

all aspects of political life in Zimbabwe are reducing public

confidence in the MDC’s ability to bring about political

change. END SUMMARY.


Institution Building



2. (C) On April 4 – 5 the MDC leadership participated in an

organizational strengthening workshop in which consultants

presented a strategy and program to assess the talents of MDC

leadership and staff to position them appropriately within

the organization. The MDC President, Vice-President,

Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, National



Chairman and Treasurer, the so-called “top six”, participated

in the exercise which included a personality assessment. MDC

MP Roy Bennett, who helped organize the workshop, said that

the talents and leadership positions of President Morgan

Tsvangirai, the Secretary General Welshman Ncube, and the



Deputy Secretary General Gift Chimanikire were confirmed.

The others did less well, but it was unclear what immediate

impact the exercise would have on their positions. Bennett

said most officials would undergo the assessment in a major

reorganization of the party to occur in the coming months.


3. (C) The party is being reorganized with a focus on

contesting the March 2005 general Parliamentary elections.

The “top six” will focus on strategy, and an elections

coordinator will oversee all of the party’s operations. The

coordinator will head up an elections directorate, which is

to be organizationally located within the President’s office.

During the April 4 – 5 meeting, it was decided that MDC

staffer and CEO of First Mutual (a local insurance company),

Ian Makoni, would be the elections coordinator. Bennett said

Makoni’s role in that position was decided by the MDC

leadership, rather than by personality assessment.


4. (C) The consultants, Dren Nupen, Mandlha Mutungu and Alan

Bruce, are senior members of the South Africa’s ruling

African National Congress (ANC), who have reportedly worked

on organizational strengthening with the ANC for several

years. Bennett said that the initiative for the consultants

and reorganization came from within the MDC, and funding for

the consultants came from the Swedes and Norwegians. The

initiative to bring in outside consultants to help the MDC

reorganize itself came out of organizational conflicts that

surfaced most notably after the June 2003 failed “final push”

(Ref F). The results of the workshop and way forward with

restructuring were presented to the 37-member MDC national

executive on April 10 – 11. The consultants will reportedly

continue to work with the MDC for the foreseeable future.


Elections Playing Field



5. (C) In an April 29 briefing to Harare-based diplomats, MDC

President Morgan Tsvangirai reiterated the party’s five

demands for leveling the elections playing field: end

political violence, repeal repressive legislation, establish

an independent elections commission, open the voters’ roll

early and hold voting on a single day, and restore ballot

secrecy. Although he said these reforms were essential,

Tsvangirai did not explain how the party was going to press



for them. Tsvangirai said the party was focused on preparing

for the March 2005 elections, but was still considering a

boycott and would decide later whether to participate.


Planning Mass Action


6. (C) MDC staff members said that during the April 4 – 5

workshop, the leadership approved plans for mass action, but

groundwork to carry out that effort was still in its infancy.

Dennis Murira, personal assistant to the Party Chairman and

mass action coordinator said that the primary purpose of the

planned demonstrations would be to influence the government

to acquiesce to the MDC’s elections demands.


7. (C) MDC Director of Presidential Affairs, Gandi Mudzingwa,

said it would take considerable time to organize for mass

action. The strategy envisioned three phases: strengthen

grassroots support at the village level (April to May),

consolidate, test and review party structures (June to July),

and stage mass action in about August. Mudzingwa

acknowledged that party morale was at a low point, but he

compared the party’s present low-morale to the low point

before the successful March 2003 stayaway, after which the

party had a major rebound.


8. (C) Mudzingwa and Murira said that mass action would be

carried out with a broad alliance of civic groups: the

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the Zimbabwe

Liberators’ Platform (ZLP), the National Constitutional

Assembly (NCA), and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

(Crisis). Each organization would be expected to mobilize

its memberships to participate. The MDC would invite other

NGOs to participate. The MDC hoped that ZLP with its

connections to the security forces would be able to

discourage the police and army from responding violently.

The officials said that previous stayaways (work stoppages)

did not effectively influence the government and that protest

marches were required.


9. (C) Murira said protests would take place in high-density

suburbs nationwide as church-led events in which MDC members

would march from a church to a city hall or a police station

where they would deliver petitions, cards or flowers urging

non-violence. Murira said there would be “rolling” mass

actions for as long as the MDC could sustain them, until and

unless the government acquiesced to any of the opposition’s



Organizational Conflicts



10. (C) MDC Mayors, MPs, provincial chairpersons, councilors,

and street-level activists have described organizational

weaknesses that afflict the party. Frequent complaints were

that one or more leaders is leaking information to ZANU-PF,

that the leadership imposes decisions on the membership

without consultation, that public statements have not been

cleared properly, that candidates were not selected properly,

that MDC MPs have fought with MDC staff members over party

responsibilities, and that general communication has broken

down between the leadership and provincial structures and

between the leadership and the membership. Officials who

distrust and or despise each other uniformly agreed that the

early April series of meetings and workshops to address

organizational issues was a good idea and they would accept

the outcome of that process.


11. (C) Mudzingwa suggested in advance of the workshop that

the solution to the rift problem between MDC staffers and MPs

was to “ignore” the MPs because getting them involved in mass

action and other planning was “stupid” — presumably

logistically cumbersome and prone to leaks. Mudzingwa said

there was a need to make the party more command oriented,

rather than overly consultative.


12. (C) Just two months ago, party leaders maintained

publicly and privately that there were only “perceived

divisions” within the MDC, not actual ones. As the local

media, including the independent press, has exposed

internecine rifts, they have become more candid.


Membership Despondent



13. (C) MDC Mayors, MPs, provincial chairpersons, councilors,

and street-level activists have commented that the MDC

membership is despondent, frustrated, disillusioned and

depressed. Morale was low after the March 27 – 28 defeat in

the Harare suburb of Zengeza and people were confused about

threats to boycott the March 2005 polls. Having fought hard,

they did not understand why the party might not contest the

elections. The officials said that members in both urban and

rural areas felt ignored because they have received no

communication from the leadership in many months, angry

because they felt the leadership had abandoned the membership

and the party’s principles in favor of fancy cars and nice

houses in Harare, and suspicious because Tsvangirai wanted to

talk to Mugabe — a move that many members thought smacked of

selling-out, a la ZAPU.


Adventurist Inclinations



14. (C) Several MDC interlocutors including Tsvangirai have

suggested that rogue MDC elements were inclined to mount

armed resistance to the GOZ. Some MDC officials have

commented that they spent significant time trying to dissuade

rogue and youthful elements within the party from such

inclinations. Officials have suggested that despite their

discouragement, youths either from within Zimbabwe or from

the thousands of young MDC members in South Africa, could

strike out on their own, outside the command and control of

the party leadership. Two different officials even suggested

that an army mutiny was possible. There are rumors that

unnamed ex-Zimbabwean farmers residing in Zambia were willing

to fund an armed struggle against Mugabe.


Talks Ongoing?



15. (C) There has been no recent indication that ZANU-PF

would engage in formal dialogue with the MDC. Nevertheless

MDC officials, notably Welshman Ncube, have suggested

dialogue is still possible. Reporting on conversations the

ANC consultants had had with members of Mbeki’s cabinet, on

April 27 Bennett said that Ncube had visited Mbeki numerous

times over the past several months and had presented Mbeki

with a draft constitution that was reportedly approved by

both Ncube and Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa.

Bennett was optimistic that once South African elections were

behind him, Mbeki wanted to deliver progress on the Zimbabwe

crisis. (Ncube himself paints a much more limited picture of

the status of his discussions with Mbeki and Chinamasa.)


16. (C) Welshman Ncube has suggested privately that there was

consensus within SADC countries that Mugabe must talk.

(Note: Conversations with Botswanan (Ref C) and Zambian (Ref

D) diplomats here revealed sympathies for the need for

reform, but no indication that SADC countries would be

willing to publicly encourage Mugabe to talk or resolve the

political crisis. End note.) Ncube predicted in March that

the rules for formal dialogue would be laid down and formal

talks would restart in the near future. He said the MDC did

not want to engage the ruling party on substantive issues

before formal talks began for fear that that engagement could

be construed as “talks” – further delaying the start of real



17. (C) Lower-level MDC officials or those outside Harare

expressed deep skepticism about talks. They could not

understand the purpose of talks with Mugabe except as an

opportunity for MDC President Tsvangirai to sell-out the

membership and join ZANU-PF.


Criticism from Within



18. (SBU) While there was no real public or private debate on

Tsvangirai’s leadership of the MDC, critics of the MDC



President from within the party have in recent weeks been

more bold in attacking Tsvangirai in the press. On March 24,

maverick MDC MP for St. Mary’s Job Sikhala lashed out at

Tsvangirai during a Zengeza campaign rally held by Harare



North MP Trudy Stevenson. Sikhala said the MDC’s threat to

boycott the March 2005 polls was dangerous, self-defeating,

and gave ammunition to the party’s enemies (Ref A). He

asserted that Tsvangirai lacked a strategy to rule, and that

the MDC leadership had a tendency to pre-empt positions

without taking stock of the consequences.


19. (U) In early April a group calling itself “MDC Supporters

for Democracy” (MSD) wrote a letter to Tsvangirai, sending a

copy to the government-controlled weekly the Sunday Mail,

criticizing the imposition of Makore as the MDC candidate in

Zengeza. The leader of the group, Kurauone Chihwayi, was a

frequent and controversial letter-writer to the Sunday Mail.

Chihwayi called for Tsvangirai and Matongo to resign, and

said MSD would continue to guard against abuse and

dictatorship within the MDC.


20. (SBU) In Johannesburg on April 19, Zimbabwean MDC youths

residing in South Africa reportedly criticized Tsvangirai

repeatedly for lack of a strategy at an MDC public meeting.


Financial Crisis



21. (C) Compounding nearly all of the party’s myriad problems

is the collapse of its financial base. The mainstay of its

revenue source, the commercial farm sector, has all but

evaporated. The GOZ’s recent take-over of Bennett’s

Charleswood estate was just the latest manifestation of the

ruling party’s priority of choking off MDC revenue. Even

outside the agricultural sector, businesses are pressed to

contribute to or conduct business on favorable terms with the

ruling party — and are punished if perceived to be

opposition sympathizers. As a result, the party is unable to

sustain meaningful operations in many parts of the country —

in part from intimidation and in part from lack of resources.

The Mashonaland West Provincial Chairman told Poloff in

April, for example, that the party had totaled its only car

dedicated to the province and had no means to purchase a

replacement. MDC officials have complained that legal fees

from the Tsvangirai treason trial, the elections challenge

and other cases are the biggest drain on the MDC’s scarce

resources. MDC officials have repeatedly made requests to

Poloff for funds, saying that their lack is a prime

constraint to party activities.





22. (C) The MDC is suffering from a myriad of organizational

problems, and is operating within a repressive political

environment. These are major challenges for a young

opposition party, but the deterioration of the economy and

widespread anger against ZANU-PF provide a giant unifying and

motivating force in its favor. The party as a whole seems to

be lacking in its ability to coordinate its members and

galvanize public frustration toward political change.

Confidence in the party at many levels appears to be at an

all-time low. Getting substantial numbers of Zimbabweans

into the streets to demonstrate may prove an insurmountable



23. (C) Continued: Threatening to boycott the March 2005

polls might publicize the gross unevenness in the electoral

playing field, but boycotting the 2005 polls would shut the

MDC out of parliament, its most visible public presence.

While ZANU-PF appears to have some concern for its electoral

legitimacy, such concerns do not make ZANU-PF inclined to run

a fair election or to share power with the MDC. All

indications are that ZANU-PF would be happy if the MDC

disappeared in the next election.


24. (C) Continued: The conflict between MPs and technocrats,

the lack of effective communication and consultation with the

membership, and general feelings of despondency are serious

problems that the party would need to resolve in order to

achieve any programs requiring massive coordination.

Mudzingwa’s suggestion to ignore MPs because what they asked

for was stupid was a startlingly naive suggestion on dealing

with the problem. The benefits of restructuring based on

advice from the ANC consultants may not be fully realized for

some time.


25. (C) Continued: An armed “adventurist” resistance to the

GOZ by a rag-tag group of youths would be doomed to failure

at the hands of government security forces. Such resistance

would likely result in violent retribution against MDC

leaders and members. Notwithstanding the suggestion of

adventurism by various MDC leaders, we have no evidence that

the risk is real or that any actual preparations are

underway. The real question is who might command such

activities — it wouldn’t be the MDC.



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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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