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.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1578, TSVANGIRAI EMERGING ON TOP IN MATABELELAND
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
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/17/2015
SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI EMERGING ON TOP IN MATABELELAND
REF: A. REF A: HARARE 001560
¶B. REF B: HARARE 001537
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Eric T. Schultz under Section 1
¶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.