National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku asked Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai what was the purpose of contesting elections: to stay in parliament or to win power?
He asked this nearly 10 years ago as the party debated whether to contest or boycott the 2005 elections.
Madhuku said that the MDC would not win power because of the prevailing election environment and even a democratic outcome from the 2005 elections would not change the whole political scenario.
The MDC contested the elections and lost 16 seats giving the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front a two-thirds majority.
Seven months later the party split.
Viewing cable 04HARARE649, MDC RESTRUCTURING ITSELF FOR ELECTIONS
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
161023Z Apr 04
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000649
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2014
SUBJECT: MDC RESTRUCTURING ITSELF FOR ELECTIONS
REF: HARARE 633 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: On April 15, MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai
reported to the Ambassador that the party was radically
restructuring itself with a focus on contesting elections,
despite the fact that the party had not made a final decision
to contest the March 2005 polls. Tsvangirai asserted that
Mugabe’s concern for legitimacy constituted an opening for
the MDC in Zimbabwe’s political future. This analysis misses
the mark; Mugabe is concerned about legitimacy but also
appears bent on emasculating the opposition. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) In a discussion at the Residence Tsvangirai opened by
commenting that in the fallout of the loss in Zengeza (Ref)
the party was united on the priority of a level playing field
for future elections. Tsvangirai thanked the USG for its
statement condemning the Zengeza poll as unfair, citing a
similar EU statement issued on April 15 (e-mailed to AF/S).
He said the party did think Minister Without Portfolio
Elliott Manyika shot MDC youth Francis Chinozvinya (Ref).
Focus on Elections
¶3. (C) Tsvangirai reported to the Ambassador that in an April
3 – 4 retreat with the thirty-seven member MDC National
Executive, the party leadership had resolved to reorganize
the party with a strategy to prepare for upcoming elections.
Tsvangirai said the re-organization was intended to maintain
the party’s vertical command structure, while also allowing
for horizontal consultation among party structures and
avoiding exclusion of any segment of the membership. He said
the party would endeavor to be more proactive rather than
reactive, less functionally driven and more program driven.
While the leadership itself would be focused on strategic
decisions, authority for operations would be delegated to
directors of different departments.
¶4. (C) Tsvangirai said the defining feature of the
re-organization would be an elections directorate within the
President’s office led by Ian Makoni, MDC advisor and CEO of
the Zimbabwean financial services company First Mutual.
Tsvangirai said all other program areas would fall under this
elections directorate, including departments focused on
constituencies such as civil society, women, youth, labor,
and one on contacts with the diplomatic community.
Tsvangirai said the party would attempt to encourage these
partners to play a greater role in party activities. He said
the party would sometimes hold direct primaries to select
candidates – to strengthen grassroots connections – as
opposed to the past practice of selection by party structures.
¶5. (C) Tsvangirai said the new organization and new
appointments would be finalized by about April 19 before
presentation to the broader party staff and membership.
Boycott or Not?
¶6. (C) Tsvangirai said that notwithstanding the party’s
refocus on elections, they had not made a final decision
whether to boycott the March 2005 general parliamentary
elections. Tsvangirai said that at the retreat Dr. Lovemore
Madhuku, Chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly
(NCA), asked what the purpose of contesting elections would
be: to stay in Parliament or to win power? Madhuku noted
that the MDC could not win power given the prevailing
elections environment, and even a democratic outcome from the
2005 polls would not change the whole political scenario.
Mugabe and His Legacy
¶7. (C) Tsvangirai commented that he thought Mugabe was trying
to spruce up his image and rescue his legacy before retiring.
He said that legitimacy was one of Mugabe’s top concerns as
evidenced by the anti-corruption campaign and pursuit of
electoral victories. Tsvangirai said it was important for
the MDC to send signals to Mugabe that he could retire with
dignity. He said that some within ZANU-PF viewed Mugabe as a
spent force and no longer depended on his political
patronage. Tsvangirai said that Mugabe’s anti-corruption
campaign had hit an internal wall within ZANU-PF, i.e. senior
officials like Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa and
Finance Minister Christopher Kuruneri were unlikely to be
Talks on Elections
¶8. (C) Turning to the Ncube-Chinamasa talks, Tsvangirai
reported that Chinamasa had recently said they could talk
about elections and the playing field, but not about the
presidency. Tsvangirai interpreted this to mean that
political co-habitation was not presently on the table.
Tsvangirai emphasized that the MDC was still insisting on the
need to discuss political legitimacy and to hold presidential
elections concurrent with parliamentary ones.
Likely Maize Shortfall
¶9. (C) Tsvangirai discussed food assistance to Zimbabwe and
noted that Minister of Agriculture Joseph Made has predicted
that Zimbabwe will harvest 1.8 million metric tons of maize
this year, sufficient for the country’s needs. Tsvangirai
said Shadow Minister of Agriculture Renson Gasela predicted
Zimbabwe would harvest 6 – 800,000 metric tons, leaving a
shortfall of about or over a million metric tons.
¶10. (C) COMMENT: In the context of conflicting press
reports, Tsvangirai put to rest (for now) questions about
whether the party had decided to boycott the 2005
parliamentary elections. It appears they have not made a
final decision, and furthermore are focusing the whole party
toward contesting elections. Other MDC leaders have
projected this message publicly. The discussion at the
retreat about contesting the 2005 polls points to the
difficult position the party is in. Even a favorable outcome
to the 2005 polls would not decisively alter the overall
political landscape because ZANU-PF would still control the
presidency. The anti-corruption campaign appears more a
consolidation of power within ZANU-PF and a public relations
tactic rather than a reflection of Mugabe’s concern for
legitimacy and his legacy. It remains Tsvangirai’s and the
MDC’s hope that Mugabe’s concern for legitimacy represents an
opening for the MDC in Zimbabwe’s political life. We would
agree the concept of legitimacy is important to Mugabe, but
we see the ruling party manufacturing its own definition of
that, rather than accepting international opinion, or a real
role for the MDC in Zimbabwe’s political future.