Khupe predicted that MDC split would be end of Ncube and Sibanda


Makokoba legislator Thokozani Khupe who had been asked to moderate the dispute between the pro and anti-senate factions of the Movement for Democratic Change said that the failure by the two factions to reconcile spelt the end of the political careers of Welshman Ncube and Gibson Sibanda.

She told United States embassy officials that a poor showing at the senate elections, which the Tsvangirai faction had boycotted, would likely prompt Ncube to resign and seal Sibanda’s fate ahead of the party congress.

The shedding of his detractors would give Tsvangirai undisputed control of the party and a freer hand in adopting a more confrontational strategy toward the Robert Mugabe regime.

Ed: Khupe was right about Sibanda. He never recovered politically until his death. Ncube did not resign but he lost his parliamentary seat and is now leader of the smaller faction of the MDC.

Full cable:



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Reference ID






2005-11-17 14:12

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.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001578







E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/17/2015




REF: A. REF A: HARARE 001560

B. REF B: HARARE 001537


Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Eric T. Schultz under Section 1

.4 b/d






1. (C) MDC President Tsvangirai,s successful November 13

rally in Bulawayo – and the “pro-Senate” faction’s poor

showings in contrast – confirmed the ascendancy of the

Tsvangirai faction in Matabeleland, according to MDC and



civil society figures in Bulawayo. A former moderator in the

MDC dispute, MDC MP for Bulawayo Thokozani Khupe, reported

that talks were dead and that both sides were now waiting for

election day. Most Tsvangirai supporters expect the de facto

separation will lead to conclusive divorce by next year’s

scheduled Party Congress, leaving the party stronger and

better equipped to confront the regime. End Summary.



Dueling Rallies Leave Tsvangirai on Top



2. (C) Khupe told poloff on November 15 that several

thousand supporters attended Tsvangirai,s rally in Bulawayo

two days earlier, demonstrating his popularity in the

supposed heartland of pro-participation sentiment. (N.B. AFP

estimated the crowd at 8,000-10,000 people.) In a separate

meeting on November 16, MDC National Executive Council member

for Bulawayo Getrude Mtombeni told poloff, that unusual for

preelection rallies, many of the attendees were older people,

adding their socially significant voices to the anti-Senate



3. (C) In addition to the Sunday rally, Khupe said

Tsvangirai had walked through many parts of Bulawayo where he



was well-received by residents who have never seen local

politicians Ncube and Sibanda walking amongst them.

Suggesting that Tsvangirai,s popularity also stretches to

rural Matabeleland, a civil society leader in Lupane told

poloff on November 16 that impromptu roadside stops by the

MDC president attracted scores of well wishers.


4. (C) In contrast, Khupe ) probably the most prominent

Ndebele MP in Tsvangirai,s camp ) and Mtombeni reported

that rallies held by participation faction leaders Ncube and

Sibanda were being attending by only handfuls of people.

Khupe added that Sibanda was heckled at one rally in Bulawayo

and forced to cut his speech short. Ncube and Sibanda were

so embarrassed by the low turnout, according to Khupe, that

they were no longer campaigning. Instead, they had begun to

send only second string, pro-Senate MPs from Matabeleland,

such as Abednico Bhebhe and Milton Gwetu, to rallies.


5. (C) Khupe said the popularity of Tsvangirai,s boycott

call and poor turnout at pro-participation rallies had

prompted many would-be Senators to reconsider their

candidacy, but that the pro-Senate leadership was pressing

them to remain in the race. In addition, some MDC MPs, such

as Binga,s Joel Gabbuza, had directly pressured Senate

candidates in their districts to withdraw, according to

Khupe, fearing that a failed candidacy would undermine their

own support. Mtombeni added that the MDC candidates might

have to withdraw by default, since they might not be able to

find enough supporters to act as polling agents.



Toward a Leaner, Meaner MDC?



6. (C) Khupe reported that efforts to mediate the crisis

failed when Ncube, Gift Chimanikire, and Fletcher Dulini

Ncube refused to meet with her and three other MDC notables

deployed by the National Council to moderate the crisis (ref

B). Instead, both sides were now waiting for the results of

the Senate election. Khupe anticipated that none of the MDC

Senatorial candidates would win in Matabeleland, solidifying

Tsvangirai,s standing within the party. Even



pro-participation MP Bhebhe conceded to poloff on November 14

that none of the candidates in Bulawayo were likely to win

and that support in the rural areas was thin. Civil society

leaders attending a November 15 and 16 conference hosted by

NGO Bulawayo Agenda agreed that boycott calls and voter

apathy would result in a low turnout among the Ndebele,

although some predicted as many seven of Matabeleland’s 15

opposition candidates could still win.


7. (C) A poor showing on election day would likely prompt

Ncube to resign and seal Sibanda,s fate ahead of the party

Congress, according to Khupe. The shedding of his detractors

would give Tsvangirai undisputed control of the party and a

freer hand in adopting a more confrontational strategy toward

the Mugabe regime. According to Khupe, the success of recent

protests by the National Constitutional Assembly and the

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ref A) had demonstrated

the people,s desire to confront the regime. Echoing others

in the ascendant camp, Khupe emphasized that the MDC would

now be more attuned to the grassroots and more eager to

confront the government; she proclaimed &the enthusiasm of

1999 has returned.8






8. (C) Despite the presence of many prominent Ndebele in the

pro-Senate camp, grassroots support for participation in

Matabeleland appears to be lacking. Accordingly, the

argument advanced by the Ncube faction has changed from one

of participation in the name of defending MDC strongholds, to

one of attacking Tsvangirai for violations of the party

constitution, a technical argument that appears not to

resonate with the party,s base and of which they are

themselves likely guilty. Unfortunately, this tactical

change coincides with increasingly personal attacks by

leadership on both sides, but especially by the Ncube

faction, which makes a &divorce8 all but inevitable and

likely messy. In that regard, we have already seen rising

intra-party violence, such as a brawl the night before

Tsvangirai,s Bulawayo rally that resulted in one pro-boycott



youth losing his eye. Tsvangirai supporters have reiterated

to emboffs that the door was open for a return of the

pro-Senate figures, albeit in diminished status, but none

were expected to return, suggesting to us that Ncube and

company will be relegated to the political sidelines.




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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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