Bishops promised never to have centralised autocracy of Mugabeism


The three bishops from Mutare who were trying to broker talks between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change said they would mobilise churches and other stakeholders to make sure that any constitutional reform would limit executive power and assure that the country would “never, never again” experience the centralised autocracy of Mugabeism.

The three- Trevor Manhanga of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, Patrick Mutume of the Catholic Church and Sebastian Bakare of the Anglican Church- said that they had been approached by ZANU-PF party chairman John Nkomo and information secretary Nathan Shamuyarira to articulate a proposal for bipartisan dialogue in parliament to support a new constitution.

After the senate elections and the opening of the MDC rift, the ZANU-PF “moderates” asked them to expand it beyond the parliament to a broader stakeholder “indaba” which would include strong government critics like Lovemore Madhuku’s National Constitutional Assembly.

United States ambassador Christopher Dell warned the bishops that ZANU-PF could manipulate such a diverse constitutional indaba to its own advantage.

The bishops said that while ZANU-PF had cynically sought the “churches’ vision” to exploit for its own purposes, the churches would exploit the offer to create their own momentum against the regime.


Full cable:



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Reference ID





2005-12-20 15:50


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 001715








E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010





Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d






1. (C) In separate meetings at the Embassy on December 19,

the Mutare “bishops troika” and recently elected MDC Chairman

for Manicaland Roy Bennett laid out for the Ambassador their

separate efforts to rejuvenate “people power” in Zimbabwe,

especially in Manicaland. The bishops said church leaders

were planning to meet early in 2006 to discuss ways to

energize the populace with an eye toward a possible

“indaba”-style gathering on a new constitution. For his

part, Bennett said the MDC provincial congresses underway

were stimulating a genuine resurgence of grassroots energy

that was loyal to neither MDC faction but that was setting

the stage for renewed anti-regime activity next year. The

message from both meetings was that Zimbabweans were eager to

stand up to the regime given the right opportunity. End



——————————————— ——-

Bishops: Possible “Indaba”; Need to Turn Out Numbers

——————————————— ——-


2. (C) The three Mutare bishops, Trevor Manhanga

(Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe) Patrick Mutume (Catholic

Church) and Sebastian Bakare (Anglican Church), stressed that

the new year would see a reinvigorated effort by the churches

to create momentum against the regime. A principal opening

in this regard was an approach to them before the Senate

elections by ZANU-PF Party Chairman John Nkomo and

Information Secretary Nathan Shamuyarira. According to the

bishops, Nkomo and Shamuyarira asked them to articulate a

proposal for bipartisan dialogue in the parliament to support

a new constitution. After the senate elections and the

opening of the MDC rift, the ZANU-PF “moderates” asked them

to expand it beyond the parliament to a broader stakeholder

“indaba”, including strong GOZ critics such as Lovemore

Madhuku’s National Constitutional Assembly (NCA). The

bishops were still deliberating on how to respond.


3. (C) The bishops acknowledged risks raised by the

Ambassador that ZANU-PF would be in a position to manipulate

such a diverse constitutional indaba to its own advantage.

Nonetheless, they maintained that while ZANU-PF had cynically

sought the “churches’ vision” to exploit for its own

purposes, the churches would exploit the offer to create

their own momentum against the regime. The bishops said they

intended next year to “get the people out in numbers” –

numbers that the regime would have to respect.


4. (C) The bishops said that they intended to start by

getting church leaders together in the new year to discuss a

common constitutional agenda that was likely to revolve

around social and economic issues at the center of

Zimbabweans’ concerns. They would consult with other

democratic forces. For now, the MDC was absorbed by

internecine struggles – the bishops said they consulted the

previous week with MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai, who said

the party would not be prepared for meaningful outside

engagement until after the Party Congress in February. The

bishops maintained that in any event, when the time came,

churches and all other stakeholders would be driven by the

imperative to limit executive power and assure that the

country would “never, never again” experience the centralized

autocracy of Mugabeism.



Transition Underway; Make Them Feel the Heat


5. (C) The bishops agreed with the Ambassador that a de

facto political transition was already underway as people

increasingly focused on the post-Mugabe era, and that the

nation’s economic implosion was a liability from which the

ruling party could not escape. Everybody knew ZANU-PF had no

plan; Zimbabweans – including many in the ruling party – were

suffering and angry. Sanctions were useful in that they

imposed “economic accountability” on those who otherwise

enjoyed impunity. Moreover, the churches and others had

lists of the perpetrators of abuses who would one day have to

be called to account – whether by a truth commission or any

other number of options that might “give expression to

people’s anger.” The malefactors had to be made to feel the

heat; if they left the country before the accounting it would

be a less satisfactory outcome but still better than having

them remain politically active.


——————————————— ———

Bennett: MDC Democracy Reinvigorating Party,s Grass Roots

——————————————— ———


6. (C) In a subsequent meeting, Roy Bennett – energized by

his election the previous weekend as MDC Chairman for

Manicaland – offered the Ambassador an account of unexpected

turns underway in the party’s provincial congresses.

According to Bennett, the party’s grassroots were rejecting

factionalism in the party and asserting themselves against

the machinations of each faction’s leaderships. In

Manicaland, for example, assuming that many in the province

were “pro-Senate”, the Tsvangirai faction had dispatched

National Chairman Isaac Matongo and “thugs” to browbeat and

intimidate the membership into installing Tsvangirai’s man.


7. (C) Bennett said the party membership had forcefully

rejected Tsvangirai’s candidate for provincial chair and

instead elected him, as well as a provincial council that was

loyal to neither MDC faction. Bennett said the membership in

Manicaland didn’t understand the senate debate and was

appalled by the “Top Six’s” inability to put party interests

above personal concerns. They were further alienated by the

machinations of each faction’s leadership to manipulate or

override the will of the masses to their advantage. Both

factions were paying a price as the membership was standing

up to each at party congresses. Bennett reported that

similar episodes of grassroots independence had taken place

at the Masvingo and Harare congresses, and he expected the

remaining provinces to proceed likewise.



New Leadership?



8. (C) The impact of the membership’s sense of “betrayal” on

the party’s future leadership was potentially profound,

according to Bennett. A core of party leaders was emerging

to give the party new direction behind the scenes. Among the

like-minded figures who were reflecting and tapping into

anti-factional sentiment, Bennett counted National Youth

Chair and Information Secretary Nelson Chamisa, Economic

Affairs Secretary Tendai Biti, Legal Affairs Secretary David

Coltart, Foreign Affairs Secretary Moses Mzila-Ndlovu, and MP

Abednigo Bhebhe.


9. (C) Bennett said most party luminaries recognized that

Tsvangirai was their only chance in the next presidential



elections and would have to remain atop the party for now.

He would likely be re-elected President at the Party Congress

for another five year term. Nonetheless, Biti was taking the

lead in redrafting the party constitution to clarify the

president’s subordination to an enhanced and enlarged

national executive. Bennett also noted quiet efforts by some

(himself included) to bring into the party hierarchy

respected civil society leaders, such as the Zimbabwe Lawyers

for Human Rights’ Arnold Tsunga and the Zimbabwe Election

Support Network’s Reginald Matchaba-Hove, which he maintained

would enhance the party’s capacity and stature. Bennett

affirmed that he would back Tsvangirai for now but criticized

him sharply for “listening to too many voices” and for

surrounding himself with bad advisors, including those

associated with violence.



Next Year the Year?



10. (C) Bennett emphasized how eager Zimbabweans were to

confront the regime; all they lacked was organization and

inspirational leadership. Bennett maintained that the party

did not lack people to effectively mobilize the masses; he

expected them to get to work soon after the party congress.

The party would forcefully renew its outreach to churches and

civil society. Bennett said his close contact with the

people convinced him that ZANU-PF had already lost most of

its traditional supporters; only those at the top of the

patronage system remained on board – more out of fear than

conviction. Importantly, the security forces were growing

increasingly disaffected and the MDC was engaged in a “tricky

and slow” process to reach out to key security elements.

Bennett concluded that the democratic forces’ mobilization of

grassroots, ZANU-PF’s loss of traditional constituencies, and

the alienation of key security elements were ingredients that

could topple Mugabe next year – via negotiation or otherwise.



11. (C) Bennett stressed the importance of continued

international pressure to convince regime principals of the

inevitability of change. He said he had worked quietly with

elements of the South African Security Service to arrange an

initial discreet bipartisan exchange at an international

event at Gore Island earlier this year. Dumiso Dabengwa had

shown up for ZANU-PF while MDC Deputy Secretary General Gift

Chimanikire had demurred at the last minute, evidencing his

secret agenda against the MDC, Bennett maintained. While few



if any ZANU-PF principals could be convinced to jump ship

given the party culture and history, many sensed the end of

days near and could be persuaded to come to the negotiating

table. Bennett said the key circle around Mugabe included

retired General Solomon Mujuru, retired General Vitalis

Zvinavashe, Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Armed Forces

Head Constatine Chiwenga, Police Commissioner Augustine

Chihuri, and Prisons Commissioner Paradzayi Zimonde – and

even some of them might be ready to talk. The key was to

keep the heat on them and leave them no other option. In

this regard, Bennett characterized the Ambassador’s Mutare

speech as an important example for regime critics that ruling

party bullies would stand down when stood up to.






12. (C) The Zimbabwean public has never been as

economically desperate as it is now and the regime has never

been as unpopular as it is now. Whether a constitutional

indaba or rejuvenated MDC will prove to be springboards to

meaningful change is uncertain, but the country’s continued

course into political and economic terra incognita promise to

make the status quo here ever shakier in 2006.




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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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