Bennett said hard-line elements in ZANU-PF can be very unpredictable


Roy Bennett, who was Member of Parliament for Chimanimani at the time, told United States embassy officials said that although the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front strategy was intimidation rather than elimination, certain hard-line elements within the party could be very unpredictable.

He was talking about his safety following a spate of arrests and intimidation of Movement for Democratic Change activists following the 2002 presidential elections which President Robert Mugabe had won but the MDC claimed he had stolen.

Fellow MP David Coltart said that although he had received threats, he did not think that he was in any clear danger; instead, he viewed the ZANU-PF threats as mind games.


Full cable:



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Reference ID





2002-05-22 14:43


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 03 HARARE 001237







E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2007





Classified By: DCM REWhitehead due to 1.5 (b) and (d).


1. (c) Summary: Ambassador and DCM met with MDC MP and

shadow justice minister David Coltart over breakfast on May

22. Coltart addressed his personal security and his upcoming

trip abroad, then described developments in the MDC’s legal

challenge of the results of the March 2002 presidential

election. Coltart also described his recent meetings with

commercial farmers and a dawning GOZ awareness of the

ramifications of its wayward agricultural policies. He noted

that certain, more radical elements of the MDC favor mass

action, but he expressed his belief that this would not

succeed and that attempts to impose quick fixes are

unrealistic. Coltart concluded with comments on outstanding

legal cases that pit the MDC against ZANU-PF. End Summary.



Security Concerns



2. (c) The Ambassador recounted to Coltart his recent

conversation with Congressman Royce in which the latter had

described credible death threats against Coltart relayed to

Royce by Orange County constituents of Zimbabwean origin.

The Ambassador observed that Royce felt that Coltart’s best

option was to leave Zimbabwe. Coltart replied that he did

not think that he was in any clear danger; instead, he viewed

the ZANU-PF threats as mind games. The Ambassador asked

Coltart about the whereabouts of his family and whether

threats had been directed toward them. Coltart responded

that they were at home in Bulawayo, and that there had been

only “indirect” threats.



Plans to Travel Abroad



3. (c) Coltart continued that while he had no intention to

“go hide overseas,” he did intend to leave on May 26 for a

month-long trip to the UK, USA, and Canada. He planned to be

in Washington between June 10 and 14 and hoped to meet with

Assistant Secretary Kansteiner, PDAS Bellamy, various human

rights groups, the American Bar Association, and the

International Bar Association. His goal was to recruit

outside observers to attend the upcoming MDC challenge before

the High Court of ZANU-PF’s victory in the March 2002

Presidential Election.


4. (c) He readily admitted that the MDC expected the GOZ to

steer the case to a High Court judge sympathetic to ZANU-PF

in order to shield the Supreme Court and Mugabe-appointed

Chief Justice Chidyausiku from dealing with the case. What

MDC sought was high-level international attention to the case

that would bring pressure to bear on the Zimbabwean

judiciary. To this end, the MDC was in contact with an

eminent South African lawyer named Gauntlet who had been

recommended to Coltart by the ANC. Coltart said that the

Rhodesian born Gauntlet had left Rhodesia as a young man

because of his father’s rejection of Ian Smith’s UDI regime.

A Rhodes scholar with offices in both Johannesburg and

London, Gauntlet was widely viewed in Southern Africa as one

of the finest trial lawyers on the scene. Coltart said that

he would meet with Gauntlet later in the day to discuss the

possibility of “Operation Gauntlet,” an MDC initiative to

turn the legal challenge into a media event that would

embarrass ZANU-PF and maintain an international focus on

Zimbabwe. He cautioned that scant MDC resources could be the

limiting factor in what looked to be an eight-week long trial,


5. (c) Coltart said that abundant evidence was pouring in,

so much that it would be necessary to do a legal triage to

avoid the abundance of facts from obscuring the central

themes. The MDC planned to forward constitutional arguments,

especially on Mugabe’s unconstitutional use of statutory

instruments. They would supplement this with irrefutable

technical arguments, such as the Registrar General’s failure

to produce the voters’ rolls. The MDC legal team would steer

clear of basing their case on pre-electoral violence, since

this could only produce a series of witnesses pitting one’s

word against the other’s.



The Food Crisis



6. (c) The Ambassador noted that Zimbabwe’s looming food

crisis would once again focus international attention on

Zimbabwe; should Coltart engage the press while abroad, he

should stress the rich contribution of errant GOZ

agricultural policies to the crisis, both in Zimbabwe and

regionally. Coltart said that it appeared that the enormity

of the crisis had finally begun to dawn on GOZ leadership.

In Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West Governor Chinetsa recently met

with war vets and police and instructed them to let

commercial farmers return to farming. Last weekend, Mugabe

and several of his ministers had toured farming areas and met

with several commercial farmers. Mugabe had urged them to

put in the winter wheat crop and — according to another

source — expressed surprise and then chastised his entourage

when a farmer informed him that he could not undertake

farming activities because he had received a Section Eight

acquisition notice and because all of his irrigation pipes

had been stolen.


7. (c) Coltart observed that the apparent ZANU-PF change of

heart was too late — the final date for putting in winter

wheat had already passed. In addition, necessary inputs are

not available. The government had approached the leading

irrigation equipment dealer from Bulawayo with open

pocketbook only to learn it would take him a minimum of two

months to import enough material to put irrigated commercial

agriculture back on its feet. Coltart said that his own

recent tour of the farming heartland around Gweru and Kwekwe

had revealed the low morale of the commercial farmers, many

of whom are planning to leave. He added that it was

difficult to say exactly how many farmers remained

countrywide on their farms. In Matebeleland South, only five

farmers had been evicted. In Marondera, 23 or 24 farmers had



8. (c) Coltart charged that the Commercial Farmers’ Union

had not provided strong leadership. The MDC has sought to

champion the farmers’ cause by drafting a contract that sets

three basic pre-conditions: an all or nothing approach that

exempts all commercial farmers from harassment; the

unhindered access of farmers to their fields, and a

concomitant return to rural rule of law; and the removal of

Section Eight provisions. Coltart said that at this juncture

few farmers are willing to risk a Section Eight provision

that mandates two-years’ imprisonment for any farmer who

attempts to till his land after a Section Eight has been

served. He added that this amendment rammed through by

Justice Minister Chinamasa in the most recent rump session of

Parliament was doomed to be stricken down by the courts,

since once again Chinamasa had suspended procedural rules and

rammed the amendment through absent the legally constituted

Legal Committee of three that must review the law.



Prospects for Mass Action



9. (c) The Ambassador cited newspaper reports on calls for

mass action and asked Coltart if he thought this constituted

a viable option. Coltart replied that he did not believe

that it could work and that, in fact, it would probably play

to Mugabe’s strength. He mused that perhaps a two-day

stay-away might prove the point that the population is

unhappy. Coltart said that based on their most recent

conversation, Morgan Tsvangirai shared this view. However,

there is a minority of MDC hawks who favor muscular action

now. Coltart noted that almost all of these were Shona,

mostly from Harare. He felt that it was possible that some

of these might be agent provocateurs planted by ZANU-PF. The

Ambassador said that we are concerned about Tsvangirai’s

ability to control violent outbreaks that the GOZ could use

as a pretext to move against the MDC. Coltart responded that

there is no quick fix solution to Zimbabwe’s woes. However,

it is essential to hold out some minimal hope. This was one

reason why the MDC continued to pursue its legal challenge to

Mugabe’s election “victory.”



Legal Skirmishes



10. (c) Coltart described the ongoing legal tit for tat

between ZANU-PF and MDC. He observed that the GOZ has shown

no enthusiasm for pressing forward on the treason case

against Tsvangirai. The GOZ also continues to harass Coltart

and other Bulawayo based MDC leaders charged with either

weapons violations or the 2001 murder of ZANU-PF activist

Cain Nkala, but they have brought none of these cases to

trial. Coltart said that this may be partly due to the fact

that the courts have not yet acted on the disapperance case

of Coltart’s polling agent Patrick Nabanyama, who was

abducted by three men in front of his family in June 2000 and

then turned over to other ZANU-PF supporters who allegedly

murdered him. The body has never been found, and now the

prosecution has released the alleged killers and charged the

four kidnappers with murder, but not kidnapping. In the

absence of the body or any corroborating evidence, Coltart

said, the three men cannot be convicted, and everyone will go

free. Once the prosecutors have disposed of this case,

predicted Coltart, they will set their sights on the MDC

supporters accused of murdering Nkala.






11. (c) Coltart was surprisingly upbeat about the reigning

situation. He seems prepared to take a peaceful, tactical

approach that will prolong ZANU-PF’s international isolation

and wait for the inevitable results of GOZ policy

mismanagement, including the food crisis, to further weaken

ZANU-PF’s base of support. Coltart clearly appreciates that

failed mass action risks undermining the credibility of the

MDC, and fracturing its disparate base of support. On his

own safety, Coltart still believes that intimidation and not

elimination is the ZANU-PF strategy. Fellow MDC MP Roy

Bennett expressed the same views during a separate meeting

with DCM and Poloff on May 22, although he admitted that

certain hard-line elements of ZANU-PF can be very






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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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