The secretary-general of the Morgan Tsvangirai faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, Tendai Biti, who was regarded as Tsvangirai’s de facto number two, told United States embassy officials that his party had no chance of winning the 2008 elections because it did not have any money to campaign.
It did not even have the fuel to travel, he said.
He said the MDC was not just contesting an election against a political party but against the state with all its resources.
Viewing cable 07HARARE781, TENDAI BITI ON SADC NEGOTIATIONS, ELECTIONS
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C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (TEXT)
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/09/2012
SUBJECT: TENDAI BITI ON SADC NEGOTIATIONS, ELECTIONS
Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Glenn Warren under 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C) Tendai Biti, MDC anti-Senate secretary-general,
believes substantial progress has been made in SADC-sponsored
negotiations toward a new constitution. Agreement on the
constitution, electoral reform, and repeal of repressive
legislation, however, is unlikely before March elections.
Any agreements reached now with ZANU-PF are viewed by the MDC
as stepping stones on the road to an eventual legitimate
¶2. (C) According to Biti, the MDC split has been
“devastating” for the opposition. He and pro-Senate
secretary-general Welshman Ncube have agreed to meet with
Brian Raftopolous in another effort to establish a coalition.
Biti expects the elections to be rigged and Mugabe to win.
While the MDC will campaign hard, it is hampered by lack of
cash to organize and campaign, particularly in the rural
areas. End Summary.
¶3. (SBU) Charge and polecon chief had meetings with Biti on
August 30 and August 31 respectively.
¶4. (C) Biti said he and fellow MDC negotiator Welshman Ncube
had had numerous meetings with ZANU-PF negotiators Patrick
Chinimasa and Nicholas Goche, since the ZANU-PF team was a
no-show in South Africa in June. He praised the South
Africans, who he thought had pressured Chinimasa and Goche to
take the negotiations seriously.
¶5. (C) The subject of the negotiations until now, according
to Biti, had been a new constitution. They were using the
2003-2004 constitution, negotiated by Chinimasa and Ncube
(but rejected by their parties) as a basis for talks.
Agreement had been reached on a bill of rights, which Biti
deemed excellent; restricted powers of the executive;
separation of powers; provincial governance. Other agenda
items such as electoral reform, AIPPA and POSA, and the
climate of violence had not yet been addressed.
¶6. (C) An area of continuing disagreement, Biti said, was
proportional representation in parliamentary elections which
the MDC strongly supports as a way of diluting ZANU-PF
electoral strength and intimidation. (Note: With
proportional representation in Zimbabwe, voters could vote
anywhere in the province and would not be subject to pressure
from their local political leaders. Candidates would be
elected according to their percentage of votes in the
province rather than elected from a specific constiuency.
End Note.) He noted ironically that in opposing proportional
representation, Chinimasa and Goche had pointed to the U.S.
as having a well-functioning system that does not have
¶7. (C) We posited that an agreement on constitutional and
¶8. (C) As negotiations continued, ZANU-PF had asked the MDC
negotiators to co-sponsor a revised Amendment 18 that would
have provisions agreeable to had a number of provisions
anathema to the MDC. Knowing that Amendment 18 would be
passed, however, with or without MDC support, Biti said the
MDC might not actively oppose it. The Amendment did have a
couple of good provisions, including transferring authority
to delimit parliamentary districts from the widely-detested
Registrar of Voters to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC) which, although not presently independent, was not as
biased as the Registrar.
What’s in it for the MDC
¶9. (C) Biti said he was “priviledged” to be negotiating a
new constitution and democratic reform and called it an
“historic” moment. He doubted the task would be accomplished
before the March elections, but said this was part of a
process. After elections, which he assumed would be rigged
and would result in Mugabe’s reelection, the MDC would
continue to negotiate for a new constitution, and for legal
and electoral reforms. The goal would be a free and fair
election, as soon as possible, under the new constitution.
To the extent the government resisted, the opposition would
have to consider how to apply pressure, including a return to
On the MDC Split and Elections
¶10. (C) Biti termed the failure of the two MDC factions to
agree on a coaltion “devastating.” Some supporters had begun
to view the MDC cynically, and lack of electoral unity would
hurt the MDC in Matabeleland. The relationship between Biti
and Ncube, although they continued to negotiate together, had
become strained. There was a ray of hope–Biti and Ncube had
agreed to meet in South Africa with Brian Raftopoulos to once
again explore an electoral coaltion. (Note. Raftopolous, a
former University of Zimbabwe professor and long-time MDC
advisor, is now with Solidarity Peace Trust in South Africa.
He has made previous efforts to negotiate an end to the MDC
split. End Note.)
¶11. (C) Apart from the MDC split, Biti was pessimistic about
the MDC’s electoral chances. He acknowledged the importance
of the rural areas, traditionally won in elections by
ZANU-PF. He said the MDC had insufficient resources to
organize and campaign in rural Zimbabwe–at a basic level it
didn’t even have the fuel to travel. He emphasized that the
MDC was contesting the election not just against a political
party, but against the State with all its resources.
¶12. (C) With a demonstrably unlevel electoral playing field,
and with continued government repression, the MDC had
considered, according to Biti, boycotting the elections.
Most Members of Parliament were not agreeable as it would
have meant losing the emoluments of their offices. But by
participating in the SADC process and contesting the
election, the MDC runs the risk of SADC, and perhaps the
wider international community, declaring a ZANU-PF win
legitimate. Given that the MDC is going to take this risk,
it is important the party go all out in organizing and
campaigning in order to expose the unfairness of the
electoral process in the likely event of a loss.