MDC councillors freshmen unable to comprehend issues


Movement for Democratic Change Harare provincial head Morgan Femai and Shadow Minister for Local Government Gabriel Chaibva described party councillors in Harare as political freshmen who were unable to comprehend issues.

Their comments came after the suspension of Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri and other councillors who were refusing to toe the line of Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo.

Even the United States embassy in Harare was baffled as there were 44 MDC councillors and only one Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front councillor in the capital but the council appeared to be run by a ZANU-PF council.

“Although forty-four out of forty-five Harare councillors are from the MDC, about twelve councillors are seen to be accommodating the ruling party, about twelve are towing the MDC line, and the remaining twenty seem to be unaligned,” the embassy said in a cable released by Wikileaks.

Combined Harare Residents’ Association chairman Mike Davies suggested that councillors were afraid that Chombo would suspend them if they voted against ministerial interests and they were afraid of losing their salaries and benefits.

Femai said that Chombo invited councillors on an all-expenses paid retreat to Victoria Falls in early October at which he gave some of them spending money–allegedly Z$260 000.

When the councillors got back to Harare Femai said that Chombo communicated with those who had taken the money that they would need to vote however the Minister said they should, or they would need to refund the money.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2003-11-03 09:27

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 03 HARARE 002179









E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013







Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d


1. (C) SUMMARY: For the past several weeks, the government

press has blamed Harare’s MDC-dominated City Council for

myriad woes and has depicted a Council mired in personnel

conflicts and improper procedures. It is possible the GOZ is

gearing up to dismiss the entire Council and replace it with

a ruling commission–something it has done in recent years

with ZANU-PF councils. The MDC for its part is struggling to

enforce party discipline while maintaining unity. END



Water – Dirty and in Short Supply



2. (U) The government-controlled Herald has been running one

to three articles daily on Harare’s water crisis for the past

week; articles on the water crisis have been a regular

feature in the paper for the past year. According to The

Herald, residents in high-density suburbs of Mabvuku, Tafara,

Hatcliffe, Epworth, Greendale and Hogerty Hill are porting

water in wheelbarrows from nearby reservoirs, and those with

wells on their property are selling buckets of water to their

neighbors. In several areas, water supplies have been

intermittent since August 2002. Some neighborhoods are now

facing daily shortages with no water, or insufficient amounts

to even flush toilets–creating disease-spreading

conditions–according to the Herald.


3. (SBU) Most of the recent articles blame the Harare City

Council for failing to address this crisis adequately, even

as the same articles acknowledge that Harare City Councils

since the 1990s have failed to make adequate upgrades to

water-pumping and treatment systems. The Herald reported

that Harare city engineers have been predicting this crisis

for years. (Note: Suspended Harare Mayor Elias Mudzuri is a

former Harare city engineer. End Note.)


4. (U) The Herald reported that the city’s pumping capacity

is 580 megaliters daily, whereas demand is 700 megaliters,

with population growing at seven percent annually. Similar

situations exist in a host of Zimbabwean cities, where

drought, equipment failure, and a declining revenue base

handicap delivery of most municipal sources.


5. (C) A quick poll of Embassy local staff revealed that

several neighborhoods, both high and low density, have

experienced water shortages, or no water, intermittently for

the past month or so. Most people subject to shortages get

water from neighbors with wells or from nearby reservoirs or

streams. There have been no reports of riots or strong

public outcry against the problem.


6. (U) On October 14, The Herald reported that supplies of

oxygen gas for the City of Harare’s ambulances and hospitals

had become erratic, and that some newborn babies had died

because of it.


7. (C) Over lunch on October 23, the Ambassador told MDC

President Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC Secretary General

Welshman Ncube that the MDC was paying a political price by

allowing city services to fall victim to the disruptive

tactics of Minister Chombo. Tsvangirai agreed that the MDC

could not dismiss the need for adequate delivery of services

in Harare, but observed that the MDC faced “acute acrimony”

with the Ministry of Local Government. Ncube said that the

party was simply not prepared for this level of central

government hostility, and conceded that the MDC leadership

needed to coordinate better with the council.


Hiring, Firing, Rehiring, Refiring



8. (U) Both the independent press and The Herald have

reported recently on a drama within the Harare City Council

concerning the firing and rehiring of Town Clerk Nomutsa

Chideya. Mudzuri fired Chideya in October 2002, but he was

reinstated after the Mayor was suspended. The Council

suspended him (again) on October 1, but reinstated him in mid

October under pressure from the Ministry (see below). In the

first week of October, Chideya suspended City Treasurer

Misheck Mubvumbi for not cooperating with the Commission set

up to investigate Mudzuri. Despite documentary evidence that

he had cooperated with the Commission, police enforced

Mubvumbi’s suspension, and his salary and benefits have been



9. (U) On October 21, Minister of Local Government Ignatius

Chombo suspended six councilors, reportedly for objecting to

Chideya’s reinstatement and disrupting council meetings. The

six councilors are Falls Nhari, Fani Munengami, Jerome

O’Brien, Kenneth Nhemachena, Benjamin Maimba and Tsaurai

Marima. The Ministry of Local Government had previously

attempted to suspend Nhari, Munengami and O’Brien and three

other MDC councilors but the suspensions were overruled by

the High Court on September 11 because the Minister himself

had not signed them (reftel).

Freshman Cracking Under Pressure



10. (C) As reported reftel, although forty-four out of

forty-five Harare councilors are from the MDC, about twelve

councilors are seen to be accommodating the ruling party,

about twelve are towing the MDC line, and the remaining

twenty seem to be unaligned. The councilors suspended by the

Ministry are some who were towing the MDC line. Combined

Harare Residents’ Association Chairman Mike Davies suggested

that councilors fear that the Minister will suspend them if

they vote against Ministerial interests, and they are afraid

of losing their salaries and benefits.


11. (C) MDC Harare provincial head Morgan Femai said that

Minister Chombo invited councilors to an all-expenses paid

retreat to Victoria Falls in early October at which he gave

some of them spending money–allegedly Z$260,000 (US$46.00).

When the councilors got back to Harare Femai said that the

Minister communicated to those who had taken the money that

they would need to vote however the Minister said they

should, or they would need to return the money. Femai said

that in a mid-October council meeting concerning the

reinstatement of the Town Clerk, some councilors boycotted,

others abstained, but some voted for the reinstatement, even

though the council had voted for his suspension on October 1

and councilors had agreed in a previous MDC caucus to

maintain the suspension.


12. (C) Femai said that the Minister rejected the council’s

budget submission in June, and instead proposed a different

budget which included the additional employment of some 800

ZANU-PF youths as general laborers. Femai said that many

councilors were to afraid to speak out against the new budget

and instead voted to approve it.


13. (C) Both Femai and Chaibva complained that many of the

MDC’s Harare City councilors were political freshman, unable

to comprehend the issues and implications of this type of

complicit voting. Chaibva said a primary problem was a

simple lack of intellectual capacity, and Femai said that the

MDC’s vetting of future council candidates would need to be

more rigorous in the future.


MDC SNAFU in Suspending Councilors



14. (C) On about October 15, Femai attempted to suspend eight

of the MDC councilors who have been accommodating the ruling

party from their positions as councilors for failing to

follow MDC directives. MDC Shadow Minister of Local

Government Gabriel Chaibva said the suspensions were improper

because under the Zimbabwe and MDC constitutions, the MDC

does not have the authority to suspend its own councilors

from their positions as councilors. Several of the eight

suspended did hold positions within the party in the Harare

provincial structure, such as treasurer and youth chair.

Although the MDC leadership had authorized the suspensions,

the result has been confusion. Chaibva said that the MDC

leadership, represented by Secretary General Welshman Ncube,

overturned the councilor suspensions, and instead authorized

Femai to suspend the councilors only from their positions

within the Harare provincial structure.


15. (C) Chaibva said that under the MDC’s constitution, MDC

National Disciplinary Committee hearings were necessary to

request a councilor to resign–those hearings are now

scheduled and might be completed within two to three weeks.

Party President Morgan Tsvangirai confirmed to the Ambassador

on October 23 that some disciplinary action was likely within

two weeks. However, even if the Disciplinary Committee

requests that these councilors resign, under Zimbabwean law

they have no obligation to do so. The MDC could then expel

them from the party, but many want to avoid such divisive

action. Unlike party-expelled parliamentarians, Zimbabwean

law does not require councilors expelled from their party to

be replaced in council. If they resign their positions, a

by-election would be scheduled. Miffed that his disciplinary

efforts were undermined despite prior consultations with the

MDC leadership, Femai nevertheless denied divisiveness within

the MDC in conversations with Emboffs. The result seems to

have been confusion over procedural and legal matters. Both

Femai and Chaibva emphasized the need to enforce party

discipline, and Femai criticized the Secretary General’s

leniency with recalcitrant elements as “potentially

disastrous” in the long run. Suspended Mayor Mudzuri is also

frustrated that his efforts to sideline those MDC councilors

who have cooperated with Minister Chombo have failed.


16. (C) COMMENT: The GOZ’s strategy of overturning council

decisions, publicizing water and oxygen shortages, and

fomenting dissent within the Harare City Council is

essentially fomenting dissent within the MDC. Civil society

observers and MDC members fear that the GOZ may be preparing

to dismiss the entire council and replace it with a ruling

commission–as was done with a ZANU-PF council from 1999

until the current council and suspended mayor were elected in

March 2002. At this point the GOZ appears to be successfully

continuing with its strategy to excise councilors who oppose

ruling party interests, and rewarding councilors and

officials who support them. In the meantime, the MDC’s

inability so far to resolve competing priorities of

discipline and unity in Harare politics are giving it a black




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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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