Coltart on the five lies ZANU-PF was trying to sell


Movement for Democratic Change Shadow Minister of Justice David Coltart said the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front was trying to sell five lies to the domestic and international audience ahead of the 2005 elections and its propaganda war seemed to be paying off.

He said the five lies were:

  1. the economy is getting better,
  2. land reform has been a success,
  3. ZANU-PF is combating corruption,
  4. ZANU-PF is invincible,
  5. and the MDC is dead.

 Coltart expressed concern that relentless official propaganda was beginning to exact a toll on domestic and international audiences.

 Growing engagement with the government by Canada and Nigeria, for example, signalled their conclusion that ZANU-PF was going to win the election regardless of international efforts.

Ed: ZANU-PF indeed won the elections with a two-thirds majority.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2004-09-24 08:08

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.


240808Z Sep 04

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001600






E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/23/2009





REF: (A) HARARE 1562 (B) HARARE 1157


Classified By: Ambassador Chris W. Dell under Section 1.5 b/d


1. (C) SUMMARY: In a September 20 discussion with the

Ambassador and USAID Director, MDC MP and Shadow Minister for

Justice, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs David Coltart urged

the USG to exert strong pressure on the international

community to engage the GOZ meaningfully on its election

administration. Dismissing GOZ electoral reforms as largely

superficial, Coltart maintained that the opposition was

strongly united in its support for an election boycott should

conditions not improve. He reaffirmed the opposition’s hope

that the boycott would yield international condemnation of

the GOZ’s sham election and force the ruling party to the

negotiating table. END SUMMARY.


Ruling Party’s Lies and Dishonesty



2. (C) Over dinner in his parliamentary district of

Bulawayo, Coltart excoriated the ruling party for “the five

lies” on which it tried to sell itself to domestic and

international audiences: (1) the economy is getting better,

(2) land reform has been a success, (3) ZANU-PF is combating

corruption, (4) ZANU-PF is invincible, and (5) the MDC is

dead. Coltart expressed concern that relentless official

propaganda was beginning to exact a toll on domestic and

international audiences. Growing engagement with the GOZ by

Canada and Nigeria, for example, signaled their conclusion

that ZANU-PF was going to win the election regardless of

international efforts. He urged the USG to coordinate with

others, including SADC, to keep the pressure on the GOZ and

not to re-engage. In the same vein, he urged the USG to use

the UN Security Council or UNGA to increase pressure on the

GOZ.   Coltart predicted that ZANU-PF would not relent in

repressive trends even after winning a rigged election.


3. (C) Central to the ruling party,s campaign to legitimize

its rule was the dishonesty of its “election reforms,” which

Coltart dismissed as superficial. He acknowledged that

reducing the voting period from two days to one day was a

potential boon to the MDC, but maintained that the partisan

alignment of the new electoral commission and the

delimitation commission were clear indications of the ruling

party,s disingenuousness. He expected the delimitation

commission to weight redrawn districts heavily in favor of

rural constituencies in contradiction of the clear urban

drift of the population. Recent high-level front-page

admonitions against violence targeted only intra-party

violence and were in no way meant to stem violence directed

against the MDC.   He maintained that the judiciary was

&completely compromised8 and he had little positive to say

about the MDC,s experience in running the majority of

Zimbabwe,s cities in the face of relentless ZANU-PF



Best Case Scenario: Forcing Negotiations

——————————————— —–


4. (C) According to Coltart, the best realistic scenario the

MDC could hope for under the circumstances was that a massive

stay-away by voters in March would delegitimize the elections

sufficiently to provoke resounding condemnation by the

international community, including regional players. This

would force Mugabe to come to the negotiating table. Coltart

stressed the likely difficulty of evaluating the fairness of

the upcoming elections if it were contested, especially in

view of the isolation and remoteness of many rural

constituencies. He urged donors to support local election

observation efforts with funds for cameras and video



5. (C) Coltart reported that, although he had initially had

doubts himself, he now joined in the remarkably united

consensus within the MDC backing the leadership,s decision

to boycott the elections. The decision further burnished the

party,s credibility with civil society. Nonetheless,

limited access to media constrained the party,s ability to

exploit the boycott and associated issues with the

electorate. Coltart predicted that publicized GOZ plans to

afford the MDC access to the media would stall or yield

insubstantial access.


Assistance Needed



6. (C) Responding to the Ambassador’s inquiry on how the USG

could be helpful, Coltart expressed gratitude for USG

generosity to democratic forces in Zimbabwe and lamented the

relative parsimony of others, including the UK. He urged the

USG to broaden its support for civil society, singling out

the Amani Trust, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the

Legal Resources Foundation, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, and

the Zimbabwe Election Support Network as particularly worthy

aid recipients.





7. (C) One of the MDC’s most intellectual and energetic

interlocutors, Coltart has been hardened by years of human

rights representation in the courts and bitter legislative

combat in the Parliament. He may overestimate the influence

of international pressure on the ruling party and probably

sells the judiciary and MDC municipal administration short.

His strict rejectionist line on GOZ electoral reforms mirrors

the MDC,s public posture but makes little allowance for the

potential opportunities or nuance recently articulated by

Tsvangirai aide, Gandhi Mudzingwa (ref A).   Indeed, the



GOZ,s mixed bag of projected electoral reforms – more

opposition access to official media, sharing of voter rolls,

one-day voting, high-level public speaking against partisan

violence – will continue to vex the MDC tactically and may

require additional adjustments in the party’s approach. For

now, the opposition leadership will feel obliged to

accentuate continuing shortcomings and abuses to fuel

international pressure on the GOZ, even as it tries to

exploit openings afforded by reforms to energize the

electorate. Within the leadership, Coltart’s role will

likely continue to revolve around efforts to stimulate

international pressure while others engage the ruling party

and press on the domestic front.





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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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