Matibenga issue divided MDC


The case of Lucia Matibenga had continued to divide the main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change as the country prepared for national elections in 2008 because the damage caused had not been healed according to the United States embassy.

To make matters worse, the embassy said, the MDC was broke.

Matibenga was removed as chair of the Women’s league and was replaced by Theresa Makone who was said to be in party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s kitchen cabinet.

Tsvangirai had told the United States embassy that his party needed US$10 million to run a country-wide campaign but the money was not forthcoming.


Full cable:


Viewing cable 08HARARE16, 2008 ELECTIONS: STATE OF PLAY

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Reference ID





2008-01-11 10:19


Embassy Harare



DE RUEHSB #0016/01 0111019


R 111019Z JAN 08

















C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 HARARE 000016












E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2013





Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Glenn Warren. Reason: 1.4 (d)






1. (C) SADC talks are deadlocked over ZANU-PF’s insistence

on a March election date and refusal to implement a new

constitution before elections. With internal divisions, an

uneven electoral playing field, and inadequate time to

prepare for elections, the MDC is faced with a Hobson’s

choice: participate in elections which most party officials

believe it will lose, in the process (at least partly)

legitimizing a Mugabe victory; or boycott the elections which

will result in a Mubabe victory, the absence of an MDC

presence in Parliament, and perhaps the end of the MDC as a

viable party.


2. (C) ZANU-PF is rife with divisions, and discussions

continue regarding formation of a ZANU-PF splinter group to

be led by ZANU-PF businessman and Politburo member Simba

Makoni, or creation of a popular front, to be led by Makoni,

that would combine elements of ZANU-PF (primarily the Mujuru

faction) and the MDC. (An alternative scenario involves

opposition from a splinter group within the party, but this

appears unrealistic.) A coalition could present formidable

opposition to Mugabe, but it is unclear that Makoni is

willing to participate, that the Mujuru faction will break

with ZANU-PF, and that an accommodation could be reached with

the MDC, and in particular with Morgan Tsvangirai. Absent

such a united opposition, it is almost certain Mugabe will be

reelected, and the focus will shift to a Mugabe-orchrestated

succession. End Summary



SADC Stalemate



3. (C) According to MDC negotiators Tendai Biti and Welshman

Ncube, the SADC talks are deadlocked over ZANU-PF’s

insistence that elections occur in March and that

implementation of an agreed-upon draft constitution take

place after the elections. Biti and Ncube were to have

traveled to South Africa this week to meet with their ZANU-PF

counterparts and President Thabo Mbeki in a last ditch effort

to salvage the talks, but, according to Biti, ZANU-PF is

“playing games” and opted out of the trip. Biti told us an

effort would be made to reschedule.


4. (C) Ncube stated that ZANU-PF negotiators Chinimasa and

Goche had appeared willing to compromise on the issues of the

constitution and election date, but had subsequently hardened

in their position. He speculated that Mugabe had insisted on

hewing to the March election date because he believed the MDC

was now weak and additional time might result in a stronger

MDC and/or opposition coalition including disaffected ZANU-PF

members. A new constitution would present the opportunity

for (from Mugabe’s point of view) undesirable electoral



5. (C) Ncube said that Mbeki and SADC had promised a level

electoral playing field. To attain this it was crucial that

elections be postponed to at least June and that the draft

constitution, transferring voter registration from the

current partisan registrar and providing for an independent

media commission, be implemented. He averred that the MDC

would ask Mbeki to request the intervention of the SADC Organ

on Defense, Politics, and Security to break the deadlock and,

if unsuccessful, to seek a SADC summit.


6. (C) Comment. The MDC entered into the SADC negotiations

because it thought it had no alternative. SADC mandated the


HARARE 00000016 002 OF 005



GOZ to participate and the MDC thought it had an opportunity

to negotiate–for the first time–directly with ZANU-PF on

crucial issues such as a new constitution, repressive

legislation, electoral reform, and an improved political

environment. As part of the process, and in anticipation of

ZANU-PF concessions, the MDC supported Amendment 18 which

enlarges the size of Parliament and provides for presidential

succession; both of these provisions benefit ZANU-PF and

Mugabe. In return, ZANU-PF agreed to minor changes to AIPPA,

POSA, the electoral law, and the Broadcasting Act.

Significantly, political violence and intimidation have

continued. Unless SADC succeeds in a breakthrough on the

outstanding issues, the SADC talks will be seen to have

advantaged Mugabe and his party while failing in almost every

way to achieve the objective of a level playing field. End




State of the MDC and Election Challenges



7. (C) The MDC has been split since October 2005. While

Tsvangirai is well known and remains a popular figure in many



areas of the country, the party’s failure to reunite or form

an electoral coalition, combined with its failure until

recently to actively campaign, have resulted in decreased

support and apathy among potential voters. To be fair,

government repression, exemplified by the events of March 11

and the subsequent trashing of MDC offices, has made

organization and election preparation difficult. Yet until

recently, the MDC had no policy positions and proposals to

tell Zimbabweans how an MDC government would be different.

The Tsvangirai faction’s dissolution of its Women’s Assembly

in October, resulting in the sidelining of its head, Lucia

Matibenga, resulted in divisions within the faction that have

not yet healed. And with the apparent breakdown of the SADC

talks, many party members and officials are critical of

Tsvangirai and his advisors for entering into the talks.




8. (C) Both factions have told us they intend–at long

last–to form an electoral coalition which would field one

candidate for president, and one candidate for parliamentary

and local council seats. In fact, presidents Tsvangirai and

Arthur Mutambara and secretary generals Welshman Ncube and

Tendai Biti met together this week, and further discussions

are scheduled by party standing committees next week in South

Africa. Ncube made the point to us, however, that with the

increase in the size of Parliament, the MDC would now have to

select candidates to run for 210 seats in the House of

Assembly (up from 120) and for 60 Senate seats (up from 50).

Additionally, there are several thousand seats in local

councils. Ncube believed the selection of candidates, given

a March election date, would be a difficult, if not

impossible, task.


9. (C) Finances continue to be a problem. In a diplomatic

briefing several weeks ago, the MDC stated it would need

US$10 million to run a country-wide campaigning. Money has

not been forthcoming. Tsvangirai told the Ambassador last

week that the MDC is broke. While the MDC has begun to hold

some rallies, additional resources are necessary to campaign,

particularly in Mashonaland which has always been the base of

ZANU-PF support.


10. (C) The new electoral act provides for independent

examination of the voters’ roll, which the Zimbabwe Electoral

Support Network (ZESN) believes contains numerous

inaccuracies. We’re not aware of anybody as of yet

undertaking a comprehensive examination which would obviously

take some time. (Note: ZESN has plans to do a partial audit

with USAID support. End Note.) Voter registration, which

the new draft constitution transfers to the Zimbabwe


HARARE 00000016 003 OF 005



Electoral Commission (ZEC), remains in the hands of the

partisan and corrupt Registrar. Ncube told us that this will

result in the disenfranchisement of numerous voters,

especially among the young. Additionally, the current ZEC,

widely thought to be biased in favor of the GOZ, is

conducting delimitation to draw up new constituencies in

light of the increase in the size of Parliament. The

delimitation exercise, not yet completed and made public, is

expected to combine a number of urban constituencies with

newly-created rural constituencies to dilute constituencies

now held by the MDC.


11. (C) The MDC has told us that the level of political

violence instigated by ZANU-PF has lessened, although

political intimidation continues. The MDC and civil society

have not tested the political environment by attempting to

hold rallies in ZANU-PF areas. To get a sense of

pre-election political space, or lack thereof, monitors will

be necessary well in advance of the election. The GOZ has

taken the position that monitors must be invited by the MFA,

and Mugabe has stated that only “friendly” monitors will be

invited. The draft SADC agreement contains a provision for

international monitors, but assuming there is no overall

agreement, this provision will not come into play. At this

point, it appears there will be regional monitors for the

election itself, but no monitors for the crucial period

beginning now and including the immediate run-up to the



——————————————— —

To Contest or Not to Contest–A Hobson’s Choice

——————————————— —


12. (C) Given the state of the MDC, the electoral

environment, and, importantly, the short period to March

elections, most MDC officials with whom we have spoken do not

believe the MDC can win the presidential election.

Discussion is taking place as to whether to boycott the



13. (C) Ncube told us that the executive council of his

faction has voted to participate in the election. Supporters

of this position, according to Ncube, believe that a boycott

could result in a dying-off of the party and a void that

would be filled by others. Parliamentarians would lose their

offices and attendant perquisites, including remuneration,

vehicles, and fuel. Ncube said he himself supports a

boycott. With little chance to win, participation would

serve primarily to legitimize a Mugabe victory.


14. (C) Officials in the Tsvangirai faction told us that a

decision has not yet been taken. Spokesman Nelson Chamisa

told us that many of Tsvangirai’s advisors are leaning toward

a boycott, but that parliamentarians in the faction, who

represent an important base, are in favor of participation.


15. (C) Comment. The MDC at this moment has two bad

choices. Participation runs the risk of legitimizing Mugabe;

a boycott would result in a one-party state and a diminution

of relevance of the MDC.


16 (C) Comment Continued. We strongly suspect the MDC will

ultimately decide to participate in elections. Threat of a

boycott is intended to exert pressure on SADC to wring

concessions from ZANU-PF on an election date. In the event

of an actual boycott, it would be more difficult to allege an

unfair election than if the MDC campaigned and could point to

specific examples of ZANU-PF conduct resulting in an unlevel

electoral playing field. Mugabe would claim that ZANU-PF

participated in negotiations in good faith, that his party

compromised on such issues as AIPPA and POSA, and that the

MDC had declined to participate because it realized it could


HARARE 00000016 004 OF 005



not win. As noted, a boycott would also allow Mugabe to

realize his long-sought goal of a one-party state while at

the same time the MDC diminished in importance. MDC

participation runs the risk of legitimizing a ZANU-PF win,

but parliamentarians would keep their jobs and the MDC would

maintain a platform in Parliament. End Comment.



A Third Way



17. (C) Ibbo Mandaza (a longtime ZANU-PF member who is a

former minister and a former adviser to Mugabe) and Jonathan

Moyo (a former ZANU-PF member, who is also a former minister

and former adviser to Mugabe) are both involved in efforts to

recruit Simba Makoni to establish a “third way” movement.


18. (C) Mandaza told us two weeks ago that his plan was to

have Makoni head a splinter ZANU-PF faction to challenge

Mugabe. He hoped to win provincial party support, primarily

from the Mujuru faction with which he and Makoni are

affiliated, to demonstrate to Mugabe that there was

substantial opposition to him within the party and convince

him to stand down for the elections. Failing that, he would

hope to have the splinter group contest the election against

ZANU-PF, perhaps as part of a broader coalition. Mandaza,

who has been one of the only ZANU-PF members in Zimbabwe

openly critical of Mugabe, told us he wants to get rid of

Mugabe but keep ZANU-PF and its structures in tact.


19. (C) Moyo, who has been in contact with Mugabe, related

to us that his idea was a broad-based coalition, comprised of

break-off elements of ZANU-PF (presumably the Mujuru faction)

and the MDC. Makoni would lead this coalition. Moyo is

trying to cast a wider net than Mandaza; he has strategized

with Nkosana Moyo (no relation), a well-respected former

international trade minister who is now a London businessman.

Jonathan Moyo, who is the only independent member of

Parliament, has talked with numerous ZANU-PF and MDC



20. (C) Consideration of a “third way” is not a secret. The

Financial Gazette carried a front-page article on Jan 3. On

Saturday, George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesperson who writes

under the name of Nathaniel Manheru, belittled Mandaza and

his plans to challenge Mugabe in his regular column. As a

result, according to Moyo, a number of potential supporters

of a third way are getting cold feet. However, on January

11, the Independent reported that Mandaza and Makoni will

publicly roll out their plan and and announce formation of

the splinter ZANU-PF party next week. Moyo told us that he,

Mandaza, Nkosana Moyo, and possibly Makon planned to meet in

South African January 12.


21. (C) Comment: There are several keys to a “third way”

challenge. First is the participation of Makoni. Makoni, is

a member of the ZANU-PF politburo, is well-respected

throughout Zimbabwe, is considered relatively clean, and has

good ties with the international community. Affiliated with

the Mujuru faction, he has criticized ZANU-PF from within and

non-publicly. But he has until now declined to exercise a

leadership role to oppose Mugabe. Mandaza claimed to us that

within the last several weeks, Makoni has said he would

consider leading opposition to Mugabe; at the moment he is

“consulting” and considering his options.


22. (C) Comment continued: The second key is the support of

the Mujuru faction. Makoni has no constituency of his own

and he probably could not be effective, particularly in an

intraparty struggle, without the Mujuru faction. For their

part, the Mujurus failed in December to stop Mugabe from

obtaining the ZANU-PF nomination, and it is unclear they


HARARE 00000016 005 OF 005



would be willing to challenge Mugabe openly in a battle they

might not win, in the process exposing themselves to an

assault by Mugabe on their huge business interests. The

Mujurus are corrupt and Mugabe, who reportedly has dossiers

on the faction and its interests, could make things difficult

for them should they publicly oppose him.


23. (C) Comment continued: With Mugabe’s control of

security and intelligence elements of ZANU-PF and with a

substantial following in ZANU-PF outside of the Mujuru

faction, it is unlikely an internal challenge, as envisaged

by Mandaza can succeed. More realistic is a broadbased

coalition with the Mujuru faction and Makoni joining with the

MDC. The third key, then, in addition to willingness on the

part of the Mujuru faction and Makoni, is an accommodation

with the MDC. MDC officials with whom we have spoken are

skeptical of the plan. They doubt Makoni has the courage to

assert a leadership role and that the Mujurus would leave the

party. And they’re not sure a modus vivendi could be worked

out between Makoni and Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai told the

Ambassador he would not step aside for Makoni. End Comment.



Comment–The Road Ahead



24. (C) A broadbased coalition, unlikely to be formed (but

still a possibility), is the best hope to defeat Mugabe.

Given the MDC’s weaknesses, an early election date, and an

unlevel playing field, the MDC by itself is unlikely to

prevail in an election. Reflective of this, Biti and Ncube

both told us they expect this year to be worse than last.


25. (C) Mugabe’s reelection in March is likely. He may then

try to create a government of national unity by inviting some

MDC members into his cabinet. The betting is that he will

try to stay in office until at least early 2009 when the

ZANU-PF Congress will either reelect him as first secretary

or elect a new leader. At this point, the best hope may be

for the unexpected. Mugabe is old and reportedly has cancer.

And as the economy worsens, infrastructure deteriorates, and

hardship increases, opposition may coalesce in ways that are

not now apparent.




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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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