Eddie Cross, the Movement for Democratic Change’s policy coordinator, and Sam Nkomo, a parliamentarian, were sceptical about the party’s chances in the 2008 elections just two months before the poll.
They told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee that while the MDC was strong in Matebeleland, it lacked strong structures and sufficient personnel in Mashonaland.
It had no money and there was insufficient time to take advantage of an improvement in the political atmosphere that might emerge from the Southern African Development Community talks.
Nkomo argued that a coalition with Dumiso Dabengwa and Simba Makoni was unlikely. He believed Dabengwa had little support and it was doubtful Makoni would leave ZANU-PF.
Viewing cable 08HARARE45, AMBASSADOR TAKES POLITICAL PULSE IN BULAWAYO
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STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/23/2018
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR TAKES POLITICAL PULSE IN BULAWAYO
REF: HARARE 16
Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee. Reason: 1.4 (d)
¶1. (C) On his first trip to Bulawayo (Zimbabwe’s second
largest city), the Ambassador met with leading opposition
political figures and civil society leaders to gauge
attitudes toward upcoming elections. They uniformly told him
that an MDC victory in March was highly unlikely. Paul
Themba Nyathi and David Coltart of the MDC Mutambara faction
thought that a broad-based coalition that included Simba
Makoni and former Joshua Nkomo lieutenant Dumiso Dabengwa
could be a potent force, but they doubted Makoni would leave
ZANU-PF. Bulawayo Mayor Japhet Ndebede Ncube supported the
same broad-based coalition, but was skeptical there was
enough time to put it together. Eddie Cross and Sam Nkomo of
the MDC Tsvangirai faction were dismissive of the idea of a
third force. Civil society leaders, including church
representatives, expressed a lack of confidence in the MDC,
and said they were looking to the post-election to fill what
they believe will be a political void.
¶2. (U) The Ambassador visited Bulawayo from January
17-January 19. USAID Director, PAO, and Pol/Econ Chief
accompanied him. During the trip, the Ambassador
participated in a media roundtable where he articulated U.S.
policy toward Zimbabwe and U.S. principles for reengagement.
He also visited USAID humanitarian assistance projects, a
self-help project, attended a reception for International
Visitor alumnae, and attended a PAS-sponsored concert at a
local high school. END SUMMARY.
MDC Mutambara Faction Leaders Support Broad-based Coalition
¶3. (C) MDC Mutambara faction members Paul Themba Nyathi and
David Coltart told the Ambassador January 17 they were
confident the MDC would do well in the anticipated March
elections in Matabeleland. Coltart believed that Dumiso
Dabengwa, a former Joshua Nkomo lieutenant who joined ZANU-PF
as part of the 1987 Unity Accord and who is now a member of
its Politburo, would split off from ZANU-PF and help the MDC
win seats in Matabeleland and perhaps parts of Mashonaland
where Dabengwa has some following. If Dabengwa worked with
the MDC, a national parliamentary majority was possible.
¶4. (C) Neither Nyathi or Coltart was optimistic about MDC
presidential chances in the election. Coltart noted that the
MDC was weak in vote-rich Mashonaland, long a ZANU-PF
stronghold. Nyathi added that many people in these rural
areas were superstitious. They believed that their votes
were not secret, and that individuals who cast votes for the
MDC would be discovered by ZANU-PF officials who would then
retaliate against them.
¶5. (C) Coltart opined that a Simba
Makoni-Dabengwa-Tsvangirai coalition would be powerful and
capable of defeating Mugabe. But he doubted this would
occur. Makoni lacked courage to leave ZANU-PF, and Dabengwa
was still deciding his course of action.
¶6. (C) On a side note, Nyathi, who was imprisoned by the
Rhodesians and who later lost relatives in the Gukurahundi
massacres of the early 1980’s, insisted to the Ambassador
that Mugabe must be held accountable for his participation in
Gukurahundi. He said he and many other Ndebeles would not be
satisfied to let Mugabe step down and live out his life in
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¶7. (C) Bulawayo Mayor Ndebede Ncube (affiliated with the
Mutambara faction), during a courtesy call by the Ambassador
on January 18, bemoaned the economic situation in Bulawayo
and told the Ambassador that political change was imperative.
A possible solution, according to the mayor was an
anti-Mugabe coalition of Makoni, Solomon Mujuru, Dabengwa,
and Tsvangirai. These leaders would need to be brought
together; there was little time before the election.
MDC Tsvangirai Faction Leaders Weigh In
¶8. (C) Eddie Cross, the policy coordinator for the MDC
Tsvangirai faction, and Sam Nkomo, a Tsvangirai
parliamentarian and provincial chairman of Matabeleland
North, told the Ambassador on January 18 they were skeptical
of the MDC’s chances in the March presidential election.
While the MDC was strong in Matabeleland, it lacked strong
structures and sufficient personnel in Mashonaland. It had no
money. And there was insufficient time to take advantage of
an improvement in the political atmosphere that might emerge
from the SADC talks.
¶9. (C) Nkomo, who unlike fellow Ndebele Dabengwa refused to
join ZANU-PF in 1987, argued that a coalition with Dabengwa
and Makoni was unlikely. He believed Dabengwa had little
support, and it was doubtful Makoni would leave ZANU-PF.
Church and Civil Society Leaders Look to Future
¶10. (C) Church and civil society leaders from USAID
partners, in meetings with the Ambassador on January 18 and
January 19, expressed uniform lack of confidence in the MDC.
They felt deceived by the MDC, which had not kept them
informed about SADC negotiations and had provided them no
opportunity for input. They did not see what had been gained
from the negotiations. In general, they told the Ambassador,
people were apathetic. The MDC split had resulted in a
perception that the MDC was ineffective, and apart from the
MDC, there was a lack of faith in the integrity of the
¶11. (C) The leaders said they supported participation in the
upcoming election as an educational process. They also
thought monitoring was important in order to document ZANU-PF
fraud and retaliation against regime opponents after the
election. A number of the Ambassador’s interlocutors told
him they thought there would be a political void after the
MDC’s defeat which could be filled by a new party.
The Ambassador Meets the Press
¶12. (U) The Ambassador addressed and took questions from
about 20 local journalists on January 19 at a media
roundtable organized by PAS at the Bulawayo Club. He made,
inter alia, the following points:
–The U.S. supports free and fair elections that allow the
will of the Zimbabwean people to be heard;
–The U.S. continues to support the Zimbabwean people with
annual humanitarian assistance of over USD 170 million in
food assistance and USD 35 million in HIV/AIDS assistance;
–International reengagement is dependent on political
reform, including free and fair elections and restoration of
the rule of law, and economic reform;
HARARE 00000045 003 OF 003
–Land policy was unfair before Independence and has been a
failure post-Independence, with Zimbabwe now a net importer
of food vice a net exporter before land reform;
–He is ready to meet with the GOZ directly and explain our
positions, but the GOZ has chosen not to meet with him; and
–Sanctions are targeted against GOZ and ZANU-PF policy
makers and are not general.
Visits to U.S. Programs
¶13. (U) During his stay in Bulawayo, the Ambassador visited
the USAID-funded Joint Initiative Humanitarian Aid program
and Oxfam Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene program, a
USAID-funded HIV clinic, and an Embassy-funded self-help
project at a local orphanage. He also attended a
PAS-sponsored reception for American citizens and
International Visitor alumnae and a Harmony for Humanity
concert, featuring local musicians, at a local high school.
¶14. (C) Along with Simba Makoni, Dumiso Dabengwa has been
frequently mentioned recently as part of an opposition
coalition. While both Makoni and Tsvangirai are Shona,
Dabengwa is Ndebele and has impeccable liberation
credentials. He is also close to Solomon Mujuru. His
defection from ZANU-PF would be a significant blow to Mugabe.
Dabengwa, like Makoni, is reportedly considering his
options. Emissaries from Makoni, Mujuru, Dabengwa, and
Tsvangirai are undoubtedly meeting with each other, but we
have seen no evidence that the principals are planning to
meet. While a broad-based coalition comprised of these
individuals would have an excellent chance of defeating
Mugabe, we have also seen no evidence that such a coalition
is emerging. END COMMENT.