Five questions that ZANU-PF wanted MDC to answer


Leaders of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front were not willing to offer anything in writing for an agenda on the proposed talks about talks that were being negotiated by bishops from Manicaland but instead wanted the Movement for Democratic Change to answer five questions.

MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube said ZANU-PF wanted answers to these questions:

  1. Does MDC accept the legitimacy of the last national election. 
  2. Will MDC drop its call for sanctions?
  3. Will the MDC become a “national party” free of foreign domination?
  4. Will the MDC drop its election petition
  5. What is the view of a government of national unity?

 The ZANU-PF interlocutors refused the bishops’ request that the questions be presented in writing.

In response, the MDC leadership told the bishops they would not answer the questions in advance of talks, but would agree to have the questions included an agenda for formal talks.


Ed: The same questions seem to have been raised five years later in the Global Political Agreement.

Full cable:



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Reference ID






2003-09-17 15:14

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.


171514Z Sep 03

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001892









E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2013







Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton, under Sections 1.5(b)(d)


1. (C) SUMMARY: MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube on

September 16 reported to Ambassador Sullivan on meetings with

selected SADC heads of state. He advised that the bishops

troika remained active as an informal intermediary between

MDC and ZANU-PF but that the ruling party continued to stall.

Ncube said he planned to join MDC colleagues in a discreet

negotiation workshop with Harvard Professor Roger Fisher

September 29 – October 1. Ncube was critical of The Daily

News management’s strategy in battling the GOZ and concluded

that, despite legal support for its continued operation, the

paper may be fighting a losing battle. END SUMMARY.


SADC Outreach Continues



2. (C) In a September 16 meeting in his law office, MDC

Secretary-General Welshman Ncube confirmed to Ambassador



Sullivan Morgan Tsvangirai’s report on Ncube’s two and a half

hour meeting on September 4 with Malawian President Muluzi

(reftel). He stressed the Malawian leader’s recognition of

economic costs imposed on Malawi by Zimbabwe’s crisis and of

the difficulty of building regional momentum for pressure on

the GOZ. Ncube went on to recount details of his meeting

with Tanzanian President Mkapa. Unlike Muluzi, Mkapa did not

have his Foreign Minister present for the meeting. Mkapa

“listened more, spoke less” during the meeting, in which

Ncube and Party Chairman Isaac Matongo essentially repeated

their message to Muluzi. They did not begrudge SADC its

stance on sanctions, but objected to the members’ inattention

to Zimbabwe’s real problems. They urged Mkapa and his SADC

colleagues to do more to encourage dialogue. Mkapa pledged

to consult with SADC colleagues, including Mugabe, further

based on the MDC presentation. Ncube advised that they were

scheduled to meet with Mozambican President Chissano on

September 18, with a trip to Botswana possibly to follow at

some point.


Bishops’ Initiative Continues



3. (C) Turning to the bishops’ efforts to rejuvenate

interparty talks, Ncube advised that the bishops had reported

to MDC leaders last week on their meeting with ZANU-PF

Chairman John Nkomo and party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira.

ZANU-PF interlocutors continued to refuse to offer in writing

their input for an agenda, and instead requested that the

bishops obtain from the MDC their answers to five questions:

(1) Does MDC accept the legitimacy of the last national

election? (2) Will MDC drop its call for sanctions? (3) Will

the MDC become a “national party” free of foreign domination?

(4) Will the MDC drop its election petition? (5) What is

the view of a government of national unity? The ZANU-PF

interlocutors refused the bishops’ request that the questions

be presented in writing. In response, the MDC leadership

told the bishops they would not answer the questions in

advance of talks, but would agree to have the questions

included an agenda for formal talks.


4. (C) The bishops called on Nkomo again on September 15 at

Nkomo’s behest. They conveyed the MDC response to Nkomo, who

belatedly had reduced the five questions to writing for the

meeting. Nkomo told them that he had to consult further with

ZANU-PF principals and would meet them again on September 22.

Ncube concluded that such developments indicated that

ZANU-PF remained sensitive to public appearances and did not

want to be seen to scuttle efforts on talks, but that the

party had yet to show seriousness about getting talks

underway. He was aware of a ZANU-PF politburo resolution

authorizing talks so he was confident that the separate Nkomo

and Chinamasa channels represented a coordinated effort, not

independent strands.


Harvard Workshop



5. (C) Ncube said he intended to join MDC colleagues on at

an IRI-sponsored negotiating workshop being scheduled for

September 29 – October 1 at a regional venue to be

determined. The workshop would be run by a team headed by

the group functioning under Harvard Professor Roger Fisher.

According to Ncube, MDC hoped the workshop would enhance the

cohesiveness and tactical awareness of the putative MDC

negotiating team. He said MDC representatives had conveyed

background on the local context to Fisher’s group in a 45

minute phone conversation. Topics covered included inner

party workings, likely negotiating issues, strategic

objectives of each side.


The Daily News



6. (C) Putting on his lawyer’s hat, Ncube briefly shared

observations on The Daily News (TDN) shut-down. He attacked

the judgment of TDN management in ignoring repeated legal

advice to register the paper provisionally even as it

attacked the registration requirement’s constitutionality.

The paper also seemed unprepared to register even when the

Supreme Court decision September 10 made registration, on

which its constitutional claim hinged, imperative. He noted

that the reported Supreme Court decision did not state any

legal consequences of the paper’s failure to register other

than its disqualification from pursuing its constitutional

claim. It did not address whether the paper could operate

and, by its terms, left open the possibility of examining the

constitutional claim as soon as the paper registered.


7. (C) Ncube corroborated reports that South Africa’s Vice

President had called Mugabe to express concern on the matter.

Mugabe professed to have been kept in the dark on plans to

raid the paper and implied that the paper would be permitted

to resume publication. In any event, existing law supported

quick resumption of the paper’s operation even as its legal

battles continued, according to Ncube. Based on unequivocal

GOZ statements and the police’s seizure of publishing

equipment, however, Ncube concluded that the GOZ intended to

extinguish the paper’s voice forever.





8. (C) The bishops’ activity of late seems to have avoided

publicity that impeded their earlier efforts. Of course,

with the threatened demise of TDN, publicity over potentially

meaningful political developments here is less likely to be a

factor in anything. Indeed, the fate of TDN will speak

volumes on the ruling party’s obsession to stifle dissent

notwithstanding its innumerable other crises and can be

expected to cast a pall over prospects for meaningful talks.




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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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