Coltart said ZANU-PF election platform was MDC is finished


Bulawayo legislator David Coltart told a visiting United States delegation that the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front had no intention of allowing the opposition to win more than a few seats token seats in the 2005 parliamentary elections.

Its election platform was therefore built on four central lies:

  • the economy was improving;
  • a bumper harvest was in;
  • the government was attacking corruption;
  • and the MDC was finished.

He claimed that much of the international community had bought into some or all of these lies.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2004-07-15 05:13

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.


150513Z Jul 04












E. O. 12958: N/A





REF: (A) HARARE 1110 (B) HARARE 1067


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Staffdel comprised of Majority

Professional Staffperson Joan Condon and Democratic Party

Professional Staffperson Pearl-Alice Marsh of the House

International Relations Committee and USAID Congressional

Liaison Susan Williams met with a host of interlocutors

during a June 29-July 5 visit to Zimbabwe. GOZ officials

charted parameters of recently proposed electoral reforms

but were vague on how such reforms might address difficult

issues such as politically motivated violence and access to

media. Opposition MDC leaders and representatives of civil

society generally recognized that the proposed reforms

offered some opportunity for positive change but were

pessimistic on prospects for adjusting fundamental flaws in

electoral environment and administration. ACTION REQUEST

follows in paragraph 32. END SUMMARY.



Election Commissioner: Unresolved Issues



2. (SBU) In a meeting in his office June 30, Electoral

Supervisory Commission (ESC) Chairman Sobuza Gula-Ndebele

told the staffdel that he had yet to see a formal draft of

the proposed electoral reforms reportedly approved by the

ZANU-PF Central Committee June 25 (reftel). However, he

said that he had been told that the approved version adopted

in most respects confidential recommendations made by the

ESC. The elements reported in the official press

substantiated this. He noted that his commission had

recommended the Chief Election Officer be appointed by an

independent body, not the president as reportedly designated

in the reported reform package. He predicted this would be

the source of additional debate, and asserted that in any

event the integrity of the appointment(s) could overcome the

manner of selection if tenure and resources were secure.


3. (SBU) Gula-Ndebele confirmed that the changes were

expected to be implemented in time for parliamentary

elections currently scheduled for March. Timing would

present a quandary, however – a constitutional amendment

would be required in order to establish a truly independent

commission with powers contemplated by the reported reforms.

Passing the law and effecting a constitutional amendment in

time to prepare for an election by March would be “a tall

order” regardless of political will. He was unaware of a

set date for implementation but had heard it would be in

August. Difficulties might require postponement of the

election by a few months, a delay to which the parties might

agree. He said study was being given to establishment of a

new commission under existing law, but such an approach

would be “untidy” and could yield a commission of inadequate

authority and compromised independence.


4. (SBU) The Chairman emphasized that sanction power

reportedly being accorded the new commission would

distinguish it positively from his ESC. He said that the

new commission could pursue complaints filed by any party or

pursue matters on its own initiative. The Chief Election

Officer would have administrative authority but could not

overturn any decision of the commission, which would report

to the Parliament, not the President. He expected that the

new commission would be able to draw from a range of

sanctions, including “deduction of votes” for violations by

a party. He said that announced electoral reforms did not

explicitly address “environmental” issues such as

suppression of political violence and access to media but

asserted that the new commission would have authority to act

on such issues. The Chairman said he favored as inclusive

an approach as possible with respect to international

observers, although he conceded that others in the GOZ

disagreed. He noted that deep ruling party suspicion of

donor-funded NGOs was driving efforts to consolidate voter

education efforts under supervision by the ESC or a new


5. (SBU) According to Gula-Ndebele, the new commission

would still have to rely on police to carry out some of its

enforcement orders. He expected that electoral courts

mentioned in media reports would likely not be standing

courts but would be composed of existing High Court and/or

Supreme Court judges and sit on an ad hoc basis. Commitment

of adequate resources to support operation of the

contemplated mechanisms would be a key test of the

government’s political will and central to their



6. (SBU) Gula-Ndebele lamented Zimbabwe’s highly polarized

political climate, for which he asserted each party bore its

share of blame. He expressed hope that the parties, civil

society and the international community would give the new

commission a fair chance to gain the confidence of all.


Mutasa: No American Observers (and an Aside on Food)

——————————————— ——-


7. (SBU) In a July 2 meeting in his office at ZANU-PF Party

Headquarters (where he is Party Secretary for External

Affairs) Minister for Anti-Corruption and Anti-Monopolies

Didymus Mutasa underscored the great attention being given

electoral reforms by the party leadership. He did not

elaborate on details of the reforms but advised that they

would be consistent with African standards.


8. (SBU) The Minister asserted that Zimbabwe was one of the

most democratic of African nations by any standard and

criticized the USG for applying a double standard against

Zimbabwe. He noted that the same day the USG condemned a

Zimbabwean parliamentary by-election (Zengeza) during which

one person was killed, it accepted the results of a Nigerian

election in which more than two hundred reportedly were

killed. Mutasa said that Zimbabwean voters had “wised up”

to the opposition’s ineffectualness and subservience to the

West and predicted a clean sweep for the ruling party in

free and fair elections in March.


9. (SBU) Mutasa reported that the GOZ no longer intended to

submit its elections to Western scrutiny and would not

include “British and Americans” among those invited to

observe its March elections. He proffered an article that

reported U.S. senators calling for regime change in Zimbabwe

as evidence of malign USG intentions. When pressed by Marsh

on the issue of American observers, he chuckled that he

would make an exception only for her.


10. (SBU) When questioned about Zimbabwe’s food security,

Mutasa said that the GOZ was confident it had enough

production to meet domestic demand for food. He conceded

that estimates could prove wrong, however, and urged that

the international community be prepared to respond quickly

should the country later find itself unable to meet its food



The Speaker: Give New Commission a Chance



10. (SBU) At a meeting July 5 in his office at ZANU-PF

Headquarters (where he is Party Secretary for

Administration), Speaker of the Parliament Emmerson

Mnangagwa opened with a long and familiar exposition on the

history of land reform and bilateral relations. He

acknowledged that “mistakes had been made” in the

implementation of land reform but that the GOZ was working

hard to redress injustices and maladministration identified

by the Utete Commission report. The country was not in the

process of consolidating gains and focusing on restoring

production levels through support to new farmers.


11. (SBU) Turning to elections, Mnangagwa emphasized that

Zimbabwe had always conducted its elections in timely manner

and accordance with the Constitution. He conceded that the

MDC had presented ZANU-PF with a serious challenge in the

last national parliamentary elections but that the ruling

party had responded well. After recovering four

parliamentary seats in by-elections since then, the party

was confident it would do better this time. Blair’s

statement on the floor of Parliament that exposed his

government’s collaboration with the MDC would hurt the

opposition’s prospects. Mnangagwa asserted that reversal of

the country’s economic decline would further boost the

ruling party’s prospects.


12. (SBU) The Speaker briefly described anticipated

electoral reforms that were consistent with the package

described by Gula-Ndebele. He said that the government had

adopted the proposals, which would be forwarded to the

appropriate parliamentary portfolio committee before being

considered by the full legislature. The committee would

conduct public hearings on the proposals, on which all

stakeholders would get an opportunity to offer input.


13. (SBU) Mnangagwa conceded that there had been security

problems in the conduct of some elections, particularly

since the rise of the opposition in the late 1990’s. Even

so, elections were much more peaceful than those in the

early days of independence. He expressed confidence that

electoral reforms would address such problems. The

independent election commission would deal with

environmental issues like media access and an election court

would thresh out disputes fairly and quickly. He urged that

the new system be given a chance. He observed that many

Zimbabwean families had members from both major parties and

predicted that Zimbabwe would eventually achieve a non-

polarized polity like America’s, given time.


Opposition: Borrowed Election Reforms Inadequate

——————————————— —


14. (SBU) In a July 1 meeting in the Ambassador’s office,

MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Secretary General

Gift Chimanikire briefed the staffdel on the opposition’s

situation and posture with respect to elections. Tsvangirai

judged that the election’s outcome was predetermined,

regardless of reforms. The imploding economy, a compromised

judiciary, inadequate access to media, and a government

defiant to national and international opinion stacked the

deck against the MDC.


15. (SBU) According to Tsvangirai, the government’s

announced electoral reforms were an admission that the

existing framework was unfair. He noted that many of the

reforms were taken from the MDC’s playbook. Nonetheless,

the proposals appeared not to address fully the five

conditions laid out in the MDC “RESTORE” election demand

document: rule of law (disbanding of militia, de-

politicization of police); independent election commission;

restoration of basic rights (repeal of AIPPA, POSA); popular

confidence in system (adjustments to voting process; and

integrity of voting secrecy. The party would continue to

mobilize domestic and international support for

implementation of SADC standards. Tsvangirai reiterated

that participating in elections without the MDC’s conditions

being met would be futile, and the party would reserve

decision on a potential boycott. In the meantime, it would

continue to collaborate on a platform with civil society,

whose support he considered crucial.


16. (SBU) Tsvangirai recognized the potentially important

role of churches in effecting change. He reported that the

Mutare bishops troika had informed the party of ruling party

plans on electoral reforms. The troika had acted as a

conduit in conveying to ZANU-PF the MDC’s election demands

as set out in RESTORE.


17. (SBU) Chimanikire reported on a meeting the previous

week in South Africa between MDC Secretary General Welshman

Ncube, Vice President Gibson Sibanda, himself, and South

African President Mbeki. The MDC delegation told Mbeki that

there had been no movement on talks with ZANU-PF. They

urged the need to have a joint parliamentary-presidential

election and for Mugabe to commit to step down. (Note: The

next presidential election is slated for 2008. End note.)

Mbeki had told them he expected the ZANU-PF politburo by the

end of June would authorize a negotiating delegation.


18. Tsvangirai asserted that Mbeki remained potentially

crucial but lamented that Mbeki never used the personal

channel established between them. He observed that Mbeki

tended to use indirect means to communicate and had made

misrepresentations in the past, leading to an “uneasiness”

between them. Tsvangirai noted that the party would

continue to reach out to other African leaders, and that

Sibanda was seeking meetings with the leaders of Senegal,

Ghana, Kenya, and the AU. He urged that the USG maintain

pressure on Mbeki and others in the region, particularly

with an eye to next month’s scheduled SADC Summit in



19. (SBU) In a July 3 meeting with the staffdel in his

home, MDC MP and Secretary for Legal Affairs David Coltart

elaborated further on election themes. Some of the proposed

election reforms would be helpful to the MDC but not

decisively so. The party was very cash-strapped and

handicapped by the ruling party’s exploitation of state

machinery for campaign purposes. Despite intimidation and

other challenges, the MDC was remarkably healthy, albeit

quiet for now. It was mobilizing for elections, and he

reported that he had received 100 percent support in a local

caucus to confirm his candidacy in the upcoming election.


20. (SBU) Coltart asserted that the ruling party had no

intention of allowing the opposition to win more than a few

token seats in March. According to Coltart, ruling party

fears of retribution over massacres during the 1980s and

vested interests accumulated during the past four years of

land reform squelched any hope that the party could reform

itself. He predicted that its pervasively oppressive

character would not change regardless of the outcome of

elections or the health of the opposition. Even government

institutions such as the legislature and judiciary would

remain incapable of exerting independent checks and

balances. Only decisive internal and external pressure

could force change.


21. (SBU) Coltart characterized ZANU-PF’s election platform

as built on four central lies: the economy was improving; a

bumper harvest was in; the GOZ was attacking corruption; and

the MDC was finished. He claimed that much of the

international community had bought into some or all of these

lies. He emphasized the importance of the international

community remaining resolute in the face of growing stasis.

Given the centrality of food manipulation to ruling party

control of the populace, it was essential that donors

planned an effective response to the inevitable GOZ plea for

food aid once the elections were concluded to the ruling

party’s satisfaction. In this vein, Coltart recognized that

the truly needy had to be supported but urged that donors

use their leverage to force the GOZ to open their books, de-

politicize food, and establish more effective and

transparent political and economic policies. He noted that

the generosity of countries like the United States had

allowed the regime to survive to date.


22. (SBU) In closing, Coltart urged the USG to use United

Nations organs to press the GOZ. He sought support for a

“responsibility to protect” doctrine advocated by the

Canadian Prime Minister at the most recent UNGA as a

foundation for responsible humanitarian intervention.


Civil Society: International Community Must Press

——————————————— —-


23. (SBU) At a lunch with the staffdel June 30 at USAID, a

group of prominent NGO representatives offered perspectives

on the upcoming elections. Many cast outside engagement as

potentially decisive in balancing the electoral playing

field and some credited South African pressure with ZANU-

PF’s proposed reforms. The upcoming SADC summit could prove

pivotal to the ruling party’s ability to sell its election

to domestic and international audiences; as such, it

offered the international community a point of leverage that

should be exploited. Specifically, the USG should press

individual SADC members to adopt meaningful standards in

Mauritius. Of central importance was going beyond election

administration to address environmental issues like media

access, freedom to campaign, and political violence.


24. (SBU) One participant cited growing tensions within the

party as contributing to some impetus for reform. Old

ideologues who were not genuine reformists were supporting

reforms for short-term political gain within the context of

internal personality-driven power struggles. While Mugabe’s

supremacy was unchallenged, internal party elections and

power shifts could have a tremendous impact on the conduct

of future elections and the health of civil society. That

said, the ruling party lacked any genuine constituents for

reform and the witch-hunt atmosphere prevailing under the

party’s counter-corruption efforts was chilling open

discussion and fueling counter-productive posturing.


25. (SBU) Echoing Gula-Ndebele, some noted potential

constitutional complications associated with the reform

proposals. Postponement of elections until June – permitted

by the Constitution and not without precedent – might be

advisable. Representatives recounted a familiar litany of

problems in the election environment: a climate of impunity

for violent ruling party supporters, opposition’s

inaccessibility to media outlets, contraction of the

independent media, Tsvangirai’s outstanding treason trial

verdict, and abuse of food. Placement of National Youth

Service graduates (“Green Bombers”) throughout the civil

service and economy to spy on and intimidate the general

populace was cited as a growing systemic problem. Domestic

politics in South Africa presented an additional

complication: the land issue’s continued importance there

and the fact that many South Africans regarded Mugabe as a

“messiah” had to weigh heavily in any South African

politician’s calculations on policy toward Zimbabwe.


Bishops: Still Engaged



26. At a dinner with the staffdel at the Ambassador’s

residence June 30, Bishops Trevor Manhanga and Patrick

Mutume (Bishop Bakare, the troika’s third pillar, was unable

to attend) described their views on elections and related

issues. They advised that ZANU-PF Party Chairman John Nkomo

outlined for them the previous week elements of planned

electoral reform essentially consistent with reported

versions. They also met at length with ZANU-PF Information

Secretary (and Mugabe confidant) Nathan Shamuyarira at



length. Nkomo had conceded the procedural and timing

difficulties presented by the apparent need for a

constitutional amendment in order to establish an

independent election commission. The bishops said any issue

implicating a schedule for Mugabe’s departure appeared



27. (SBU) The bishops concluded that the reforms were

“serious” but said that Nkomo was unable to offer specifics

on key issues, such as the commission’s actual independence.

“Chinamasa (Minister for Justice) is still working on them.”

The bishops were led to believe that current Registrar-

General Mudede and Minister for Home Affairs Mohadi would

have no meaningful role in implementing the reformed system.

28. (SBU) The bishops advised that they would seek to meet

with Mbeki and Tanzanian President Mkapa in an effort to

stimulate more pressure on Mugabe within the SADC community.

They characterized Mbeki as frustrated; he realized that

Mugabe did not view him as a peer. The bishops suggested

that on a personal level, Mozambican President Chissano and

Kenneth Kaunda would have better rapport with Mugabe. Mbeki

remained a potentially pivotal player, however, and had

suggested earlier that Mugabe agreed to move a Presidential

election up to 2005.


29. (SBU) The bishops explained that the ruling party’s

proposed electoral reforms were intended principally for

external consumption but could be complicated by succession

politics within the ruling party. ZANU-PF remained a united

party to the outside world but conflicting aspirations to

the presidency were fragmenting and paralyzing it within.


Other Meetings



30. (SBU) During their visit here, the staffdel also met

separately with Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono (ref A);

local directors of from World Food Program, World Vision,

CARE, and Catholic Relief Services; displaced farm workers;

representatives of Justice for Agriculture; members of the

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN); and a bipartisan

group of parliamentarians. They also visited a number of

USAID-funded projects, including business opportunity

centers, a center to support AIDS orphans, and a clinic that

promotes the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of






31. (SBU) The staffdel visit presented a timely opportunity

to canvass major players on proposed electoral reforms that

occupy center political stage here. The wide-ranging

discussions confirmed our assessment that the government

assembled its proposals without much formal input from the

outside but drew significantly from outside ideas – indeed,

the ESC, the MDC, and South Africa all appear to be in

position to take some credit. The opposition and civil

society appear prepared to engage seriously on the issues

but are not optimistic that the playing field will be



32. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: We share the view that the ruling

party’s efforts in this area are geared largely to a

regional audience. Treatment of election standards at the

August SADC Summit in Mauritius appears to be a diplomatic

priority for the GOZ and, as such, a potential point of

leverage. In that vein, we would urge renewed USG efforts

to engage SADC members to have SADC endorse the so-called

SADC-PF election norms and standards and, either

individually or as a group, to undertake efforts to press

the GOZ to address election environment issues (media

access, freedom to campaign, political violence) beyond the

proposed electoral reforms.


33. (U) The staffdel did not have the opportunity to clear

this message.





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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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