Chinotimba accuses US embassy officials of being terrorists


War veterans leader Joseph Chinotimba who was the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic front candidate in the Highfield by-election accused United States embassy officials of being terrorists and said they had no right to be at the polling station in his constituency.

There were two by-elections in the capital, one in Highfield and the other in Kuwadzana, and ZANU-PF lost both to the Movement for Democratic Change despite widespread violence that was blamed on ZANU-PF.

United States embassy officials said they observed ZANU-PF youths, possibly National Youth Service members in plain clothes, roving around polling stations in the two constituencies on foot and in large flat bed trucks and small pickups.

The youths threatened voters and embassy officials verbally at the entrances to many polling stations.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2003-03-31 16:02

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.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000648









E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2013






Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d





1. (C) The opposition MDC won by-elections in the Harare

high-density suburbs of Highfield and Kuwadzana by

significant margins, despite an electoral process tilted

heavily in favor of ZANU-PF. The March 29-30 voting process

itself was peaceful and orderly, if at times slow. The

environment in the vicinity of many polling stations,

however, was very tense as roving bands of ZANU-PF youths and

supporters threatened and harassed voters and diplomatic

observers. We would expect the GOZ to claim victory a

Pyrrhic in that it increased the percentage of its urban

support, and to respond with a violent crackdown on MDC

supporters in the two constituencies. End Summary.


2. (C) According to state radio, MDC officials and the

Director of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a

coalition of NGOs interested in maintaining the integrity of

elections, the MDC won Highfield with 8,759 votes, against

only 4,844 for ZANU-PF. In Kuwadzana, the MDC received

12,548 votes to ZANU-PF’s 5,002. These numbers represent a

fifty percent increase in votes cast for ZANU-PF in

Highfield, and a eleven percent increase in votes cast for

ZANU-PF in Kuwadzana since the 2000 parliamentary elections.

In contrast, these numbers represent a forty percent decrease

in votes cast for the MDC in Highfield, and a twenty percent

decrease in votes cast for the MDC in Kuwadzana as compared

to the 2000 parliamentary elections. The MDC’s victories

were announced on government-controlled radio broadcasts late

in the day on March 31.


Diplomatic Access to Polling Stations Problematic

——————————————— —-


3. (C) Six Emboffs along with about twenty diplomats from

other Western and African countries observed voting in

by-elections in the Harare high-density suburbs of Kuwadzana

and Highfield March 29-30. Even though interested foreign

missions in Harare had received and were carrying letters

from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicating that

accreditation for diplomats was not necessary, some polling

station officials denied some diplomats access on March 29.

The government-appointed Electoral Supervisory Commission

issued a letter to polling station presiding officers by

March 30 and diplomats then gained full access. Emboffs

observed that voting proceeded peacefully and in good order,

if at times slowly. Emboffs observed lines of 100-350

prospective voters at most of the nineteen polling stations

on March 29, but, consistent with expectations, lines of only

10-20 voters on March 30. The historical pattern in

Zimbabwean elections is that most people vote on the first

day. By the afternoon of March 30 a few polling stations had

logged about 1600 total votes each. Emboffs observed and

party polling agents confirmed less than ten percent of

prospective voters were turned away.





4. (C) There were more incidents of violence than is typical

on the voting days, which historically have been peaceful.

According to a representative of the prominent human rights

organization, the Amani Trust, the Avenues Medical Clinic

treated ten people on March 30 for beating wounds reportedly

inflicted by ruling party supporters in Kuwadzana and

Highfield. In one case, ZANU-PF youths beat an MDC member

assigned to bring food to MDC polling agents, who by law

cannot leave their polling stations. The MDC member suffered

a large head wound and bruises over his entire body when

Poloff saw him at the Avenues Medical Clinic on March 30.

According to another MDC member assigned with the victim to

deliver food, ZANU-PF supporters chased the MDC members,

including a Highfield MDC polling agent. They drove to the

Highfield police station seeking protection but police were

unresponsive. Later, the youths blocked the car in which the

MDC members were traveling. Others escaped on foot, but the

youths beat the victim severely.


5. (C) On March 29 in Highfield, Emboff observed ZANU-PF

youths beating one man while other ZANU-PF youths were

handing out bread from the back of a flatbed truck.


6. (C) ZESN reported that on March 30 ZANU-PF supporters

abducted two of their independent observers from polling

stations in Kuwadzana and beat them severely. Another was

beaten at a polling station in Highfield.





7. (C) Emboffs observed ZANU-PF youths, possibly National

Youth Service members in plain clothes, roving around polling

stations in the two constituencies on foot and in large flat

bed trucks and small pickups. These youths threatened voters

and Emboffs verbally at the entrances to many polling

stations, and Emboffs observed large numbers of voters

leaving voting lines without having voted. Riot police were

heavily deployed in both constituencies in large

military-style vehicles, but they did little to control

illegal campaigning by ZANU-PF youths.


8. (C) On March 29, at a supermarket shopping plaza near a

Kuwadzana polling station ZANU-PF supporters were drumming

and chanting “don’t vote, go home or we will attack you”

while, ironically, holding a campaign banner for the ZANU-PF

candidate–in clear violation of Zimbabwe’s electoral laws.

The Deputy South African High Commissioner attempted to

reason with the mob, but they surrounded him and shouted at

him to “go back to South Africa.”


9. (C) In an encounter on March 29 in Highfield, the ZANU-PF

candidate, Joseph Chinotimba accused Emboffs of being

terrorists and said they had no right to be at the polling



Irregularities and Electoral Law Violations



10. (C) On March 29-30 diplomats saw Elliott Manyika,

ZANU-PF’s National Political Commissar and Cabinet Minister,

visiting polling stations throughout both constituencies. On

March 30 he addressed a ZANU-PF rally near the Kuwadzana

District Office polling station –clearly illegal under

Zimbabwean election law and certainly intimidating to MDC

voters standing in line–encouraging support for the ruling



11. (C) On March 29 and 30 diplomats saw a police officer in

one case, and ZANU-PF officials in other cases, checking

names off some sort of registry as people approached and

“checked in” at tables set up near polling stations in

Highfield. The registrants were then ferried to nearby

polling stations in pickup trucks to vote. The diplomats

questioned the officials involved and confirmed that they

were members of ZANU-PF. The officials warned the diplomats

to leave. We presume that the registry was for ruling party

voters who had cast ballots for the ZANU-PF candidate or

intended to do so, and would comprise the beneficiary list

for rewards such as scarce mealie meal.


12. (C) At one polling station in Highfield on March 29,

Emboffs observed ZANU-PF youths entering and exiting without

the required official identification badges. The MDC polling

agent there reported that they had harassed him and had

broken his vehicle windshield while the polling agent was

inside the polling station.





13. (C) ZANU-PF employed its usual tactics of violence and

intimidation and flaunted electoral and other laws willy

nilly in the process. The significant decrease in the number

of votes cast for the MDC, in the face of widespread popular

dissatisfaction with this regime, is a testament to the

effectiveness of the GOZ intimidation machine. Having been

thrashed at the polls, we still expect the GOZ to claim

victories in having increased its share of the votes cast in

both constituencies. And while 200 people spontaneously

celebrated on the street in front of MDC’s headquarters in

downtown Harare when the results were announced on March 31,

we would expect this jovial mood to give way very shortly to

fear in the face of government retribution against MDC

supporters in these two steadfast opposition constituencies.


14. (C) Comment continued. Cheating in an urban environment

is more difficult, but how ZANU-PF let these elections slip

away remains unanswered. It is possible / probable that some

phantom ballots were cast for ZANU-PF, but clearly not

enough. Prior to the elections, the MDC claimed voter roll

rigging of 11,000 in Highfield and 8,000 in Kuwadzana, nearly

equal to the total votes the MDC received. ZANU-PF clearly

did not pull out all the stops, and as a result the magic

number of parliamentary seats they must obtain to reach the

absolute two-thirds majority they seek remains at this time,

still tantalizingly out of reach. End Comment.



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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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