Movement for Democratic Change youth chairman Nelson Chamisa told United States embassy officials that party secretary general Welshman Ncube was bent on destroying the party and added that opening up the party to disruption and manipulation by the government-controlled courts was political lunacy.
He said the MDC 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.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s ongoing rallies in Matabeleland 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 priority.
He said 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”.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1537, TSVANGIRAI ASCENDANT AS MDC STRUGGLES CONTINUE
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
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
AFR/SA FOR E. LOKEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010
SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI ASCENDANT AS MDC STRUGGLES CONTINUE
REF: (A) HARARE 1534 (B) HARARE 1527 (C) HARARE 1512
(D) HARARE 1508 AND PREVIOUS
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
¶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.
¶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
¶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