Demonstrations by the National Constitutional Assembly to pressure the government for a more democratic constitution increased after the 2002 presidential elections but one political analyst said they had little impact because they were not properly coordinated.
NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku said the demonstrations that had been organised in five cities had attracted on average 250-300 people at each gathering with Harare alone having six such demonstration centres.
According to the United States embassy the NCA was an umbrella organisation of 104 civic organisations comprising members from all over the country working for constitutional reform.
The United States provided some funding to the NCA.
Brian Raftopoulos, who was coordinator of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition at the time, said although the NCA was able to increase the numbers for these demonstrations, alone they were unlikely to have much effect.
He said “the people” had not yet taken ownership of the NCA’s demonstrations.
Viewing cable 02HARARE2782, DEMONSTRATIONS INCREASE – NOT CRITICAL MASS YET
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 HARARE 002782
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2012
SUBJECT: DEMONSTRATIONS INCREASE – NOT CRITICAL MASS YET
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (U) On November 30 the National Constitutional Assembly
(NCA) staged demonstrations in five cities to pressure the
GOZ for a more democratic constitution. Police arrested NCA
staff members and demonstrators, seized demonstration
materials and denied permission for the march in a sixth
city. A well-respected political analyst said these
bi-weekly demonstrations are unlikely to be effective unless
they are coordinated with other civic organizations and
initiatives, and we would agree. End Summary.
¶2. (U) On November 30 the National Constitutional Assembly
(NCA), an umbrella organization of 104 civic organizations
comprising members from all over the country working for
constitutional reform, staged 3-hour demonstration marches in
Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, and Gweru to pressure the GOZ for a
more democratic constitution. According to an NCA spokesman,
a demonstration was also planned for Masvingo, but police
refused to permit that march.
¶3. (U) One day before the event, armed with a search warrant,
police raided NCA offices in Harare and arrested seventeen
NCA staff members including acting National Coordinator,
Ernest Mudzenge, and acting Information Officer, Tsitsi
Mutongi. During the raid, police confiscated lists of NCA
committee members with phone numbers, financial records,
banners, t-shirts, pamphlets and other march materials. Five
people were also arrested during the march in Bulawayo. Riot
police dispersed demonstrators in Mabvuku and Mbare West in
Harare, and also at the demonstrations in Bulawayo and
Mutare, but in other places the marches proceeded without
¶4. (U) According to NCA Chairman Lovemore Madhuku, 250 – 300
people attended each of the demonstrations in Highfield,
Zengeza, Kuwadzana, Glen Norah, Mabvuku and Mbare (all
suburbs of Harare), and Bulawayo, Mutare and Gweru. NCA has
been holding bi-weekly demonstrations in selected areas for
the past year generally involving about 150 – 200 people, and
plans to continue to organize them. (Note: One NCA estimate
puts the number of participants at 8000 nationwide for this
latest march, but 2500 is a more likely estimate. End Note.)
Need to Coordinate Efforts
¶5. (U) According to Brian Raftopoulos, Coordinator of the
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and a well-respected political
analyst, although NCA was able to increase the numbers for
these demonstrations, alone they are unlikely to have much
effect. He said “the people” have not yet taken ownership of
NCA’s demonstrations, and the effort is too narrow.
Raftopoulos, whose Crisis group is sponsoring a major
conference with churches and civic groups in Bulawayo on
December 14 to discuss land reform, governance, human rights,
justice, HIV, and regional solidarity, recommended that NCA
coordinate its demonstrations with the efforts and issues of
other civic groups to support a broader approach to problems
in Zimbabwe. He said this was the only way to be effective.
¶6. (C) Although NCA’s demonstrations may have involved a
total of 2-3000 people, we are inclined to agree with
Raftopoulos’ assessment that “the people” have not taken
ownership of them yet. Other civic leaders have suggested
that public confrontations with government are forthcoming,
but our sense is that the anger of most Zimbabweans at their
government is currently outweighed by the day-to-day need to
put food on the table, coupled with the fear of retribution.
The success of a national stayaway planned for December 10 by
the NCA and other civic groups, in conjunction with the MDC,
will be a revealing test of whether Zimbabweans have
concluded that confrontation with the GOZ and its security
forces is the only means of changing their lives for the
better. End Comment.