Biti asked: Why should Tsvangirai be held to a higher standard?


Tendai Biti, who was the Movement for Democratic Change’s Shadow Minister for Economics, told United States embassy officials that though he had always been critical of party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s acting outside the constitution, he came to recognise that everybody, especially secretary general Welshman Ncube, was ignoring the party constitution willy-nilly. He, therefore, asked why should Tsvangirai be held to a higher standard?

Biti made these comments when the party split over its participation in the 2005 senate elections with one faction led by Ncube arguing that the party should participate while that loyal to Tsvangirai called for a boycott of the elections.

Biti said he was torn apart as both sides wanted to lure him together with youth chairman Nelson Chamisa and former MP Roy Bennett to their side. He tried to play a mediating role but came to the conclusion that the Ncube faction had an agenda that precluded reconciliation.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2005-11-10 12:03

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.


101203Z Nov 05

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 001537








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




REF: (A) HARARE 1534 (B) HARARE 1527 (C) HARARE 1512




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






1. (C) At a meeting with diplomats at party headquarters

November 10, MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai confirmed the

party’s planned boycott of scheduled November 26 senate

elections but left the door open for reconciliation with the

Ncube faction that had supported participation. However,

despite key swing players within the party lining up behind

Tsvangirai, the Ncube faction continues to show little



inclination to reconcile. Party leaders also confided that

the party has been heavily involved in the NCA and ZCTU

demonstration (refs A and B) and said internal tensions would

not keep the party from increasing its public opposition to

the regime. End Summary.



Tsvangirai Sustained on Boycott





2. (U) At his November 10 briefing, Tsvangirai confirmed the

results of the party’s National Council meeting on November 5

(N.B. Attended by 54 out of 66 NEC members but not by the

four party leaders who have favored participation in the

Senate elections). The Council had passed four resolutions

by consensus: (1) it approved a party boycott of the senate

elections, thus rescinding its vote of October 12, (2) the

party would remain united in democratic principles in

opposition to the “real enemy”, ZANU-PF, (3) the party would

engage civil society to partner on next steps, and (4) the

party would conduct its National Congress before the end of

February 2006.


3. (U) Tsvangirai added that individuals purporting to stand

as senate candidates for the MDC had seven days within which

to withdraw their nominations or they would be

“auto-expelled” from the party because of their status as

independents. He explained that the initial vote to

participate had not been within the competence of the

National Council, since it had no authority to change party

policy, and the MDC’s policy was to support comprehensive

rather than piecemeal consitutional reforms. The vote to

participate was therefore null and void. Tsvangirai noted

that a committee of four had been deployed to meet with Ncube

faction representatives on November 11 in a continuing effort

to heal internal divisions.


4. (SBU) Queried by the Ambassador, Tsvangirai noted that

the Ncube faction had no attractive options other than

returning to the fold; collaboration with ZANU-PF or Moyo’s

United Peoples Movement or going it alone offered little

prospect of meaningful influence and he expected the

rebellious faction would return to the fold after the

November 26 elections. Responding to other inquiries,

Tsvangirai reported that he had told South African President



Mbeki that he was open to dialogue with other party elements

but did not see any point to burdening Mbeki himself with

involvement in internal party matters. He also asserted the

party had not received any foreign funding.



Polarization Deepening



5. (C) MDC MP and Shadow Minister for Economics Tendai Biti

on November 9 told poloff that party divisions were deepening

but that the MDC,s center of gravity had shifted decisively

behind Tsvangirai. Noting that he had long been in the

middle and suspected by each camp of leaning toward the

other, Biti said he had endeavored to play a mediating role

until he came to the conclusion that the Ncube faction had an

agenda that precluded reconciliation. He noted that

Tsvangirai had earlier agreed to a compromise along the lines



proposed by mediator Brian Raftopolous (ref D), but that

Ncube’s group had then refused to meet to discuss it.


6. (C) Citing the Ncube faction’s absence from the

constitutional vote in parliament, its opposition to a

popularly supported Senate election boycott, its “lies and

manipulations” with South African President Mbeki, and its

refusal to meet with Tsvangirai on key occasions, Biti said

he feared that some or all of the faction must have made some

accommodation with the ruling party that revolved around

isolating Tsvangirai. He said the Ncube faction had made

strong pitches to draw in himself, MP and Secretary for Youth

Affairs Nelson Chamisa and ex-MP Roy Bennett, but their

duplicity and intransigence had only alienated all three.


7. (C) Biti said he had always been critical of Tsvangirai’s

acting outside the constitution but came to recognize that

“everybody” – especially Secretary-General Ncube – was

ignoring the party constitution willy-nilly, so why should

Tsvangirai be held to a higher standard? In spite of the



real procedural grievances, the situation now required a

political rather than a legalistic solution, and Tsvangirai

held the commanding political position.


8. (C) Over breakfast November 10, Chamisa essentially

corroborated Biti’s account to poloff. He added that Job

Sikhala had told him in confidence that Ncube had advised him

to file the lawsuit against Tsvangirai over his suspension

grievance. Chamisa concluded that opening the party up to

disruption and manipulation by the GOZ-controlled courts was

political lunacy and further evidenced Ncube’s malign agenda.




Fallout in Matabeleland



9. (C) Chamisa maintained further that the party could

afford to slough off the three Ndebele in the “Top Six”

because there were other prominent Ndebele who would then

rise to MDC leadership roles. Tsvangirai’s ongoing rallies

in Matabeleland (next one scheduled in Bulawayo on November

13) would be key to substantiating his appeal to the masses

there and to further isolating the Ncube faction. Chamisa

anticipated that Ncube faction might try to boycott or

disrupt the National Congress and acknowledged that assuring

provincial structures did not follow the faction was a




Civil Action



10. (C) Chamisa and Biti predicted that street protests

opposing the regime, with the MDC playing a leading role,

would grow significantly within the next two months. Chamisa

maintained that Tsvangirai had long been held back by Ncube’s

influence and could not “follow his heart.” He asserted that

the party had been responsible for getting at least 75

percent of the ZCTU street presence out on November 8 and was

heavily involved in the NCA rallies on November 5. Party

planners had yet to decide whether the party should have an

overt street presence before or after the November 26 Senate

elections. However, Biti added that internal tensions would

not distract the party leadership from increasing its public

opposition to the regime.






11. (C) The latest developments appear to be leading the MDC

further down the path to catharsis and renewal. Biti and

Chamisa are among the few MDC luminaries who reinforced their

credibility with strong responses to Operation Restore Order.

Their lining up behind Tsvangirai dealt a significant blow

to the Ncube faction, which is desperate for more ethnic

diversity and for more support within the party.

Tsvangirai’s growing confidence, buoyed by his success in



winning the intra-party struggle over the Senate elections,

is a potentially important positive trend as the MDC steps up

its opposition activities and renews its credibility with

ordinary Zimbabweans.



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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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