MDC plans to boycott ZANU-PF owned businesses


The Movement for Democratic Change was planning to boycott businesses owned by Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front officials including the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe which was headed by Gideon Gono at the time.

Biti said this as the party prepared for a mass stay-away that was slated for March 18 and 19, 2003 to express discontent and disgust with the state of affairs within the nation.

Though the party said the stay-away would be peaceful, Biti said that MDC youths were planning to stone or burn commuter omnibuses which attempted to transport people to work in the city centre.

He said organising a boycott of the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe would be fairly easy because Zimbabweans had many other banking options. He pointed out, however, that it might be more difficult to convince people to shun other businesses which produced the basic commodities which were in short supply.


Full cable:


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Reference ID






2003-03-17 17:15

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 000546









E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2013







B) AND (D).



MDC finally calls for mass action



1. (C) After a year of careful planning, the opposition

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has, for the first time

since the flawed 2002 presidential election, issued a public

call for Zimbabweans to participate in mass action, beginning

on March 18 and 19.   In full-page advertisements carried in

the independent newspapers, the MDC calls for “peaceful

action carefully calculated to express discontent and disgust

with the state of affairs within our nation…We must take up

the challenge and engage in the most visible form of

democratic resistance until our rights, freedoms, and dignity

and the right to live in peace are won back.”   The party has

gotten the message out in a number of ways, including via

special mass action structures established in most of the

country’s urban centers and distribution of large numbers of

pamphlets. In a March 15 interview with the independent

weekly, “The Standard,” MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai

confirmed that mass action had been called for March 18 and

19, but he declined to be drawn on what forms it would take.


Possibility of violence



2. (C) Concerned by reports that some elements of the MDC

were planning violent attacks against security service

installations (reftel), the Ambassador urged restraint in a

March 17 meeting with Tsvangirai. The Ambassador told the

MDC leader that the U.S. Government supported the right of

the MDC and civil society to engage in peaceful forms of

mass action but counseled strongly against violent

confrontation. Such an approach would take away any claim

the MDC had to the moral high ground and give the GOZ an

excuse to crush the opposition. Tsvangirai agreed, said the

party was encouraging only peaceful activities and that the

first phase to begin on March 18 was a work stayaway, with

the possibility of peaceful demonstrations in some

localities, but no march in downtown Harare as yet. The

party might proceed to broader demonstrations depending on

what happens on March 18 and 19.


3. (C) In a separate conversation with the DCM and

polchief, MDC Member of Parliament and National Executive

member Tendai Biti said he was not privy to all of the

activities planned. He reported, however, that MDC youths

are planning to stone or burn commuter omnibuses which

attempt to transport people to work in the city center. He

said the stayaway would likely be accompanied by

demonstrations in the high-density suburbs, and that some

groups of people might try to carry their protests to the

city center. Biti noted that the MDC is currently drawing up

a list of businesses owned by ZANU-PF officials or party

donors for the purposes of organizing a boycott. Organizing

a boycott of the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe, run by ZANU-PF

stalwart Gideon Gono, would be fairly easy, Biti claimed, as

Zimbabweans have many other banking options. He pointed out,

however, that it might be more difficult to convince people

to shun other businesses which produce the basic commodities

which are in such short supply these days.


Stayaway participation



4. (C) Meanwhile, many businesses we have checked with have

confirmed that they plan either to close on March 18 and 19

or to allow employees to miss work without sacrificing pay,

motivated by concern for the safety of their workers who live

in the high-density suburbs. At the same time, some

businessmen with whom we spoke were wary of taking any action

that might be interpreted by ruling party enforcers as

support for the stayaway. Contemplating that many of our

FSN’s who live in high-density suburbs might have difficulty

getting to work on these two days, the Embassy has announced

a liberal leave policy.





5. (C) The MDC has worked intensively during the past year

to establish structures in most of Zimbabwe’s urban centers

capable of organizing mass action. The fact that Tsvangirai,

who has been under enormous pressure to take such a step for

much of the past year, has now called for mass action

suggests he believes that the necessary organization is in

place and that the eminently patient Zimbabwean population,

angered by political repression and the economic implosion,

are finally ready to demonstrate their displeasure. During

the past several months, the MDC has planned a number of

small-scale protests in Harare’s high-density suburbs — at

bus stations, police stations, and food queues — and appears

ready to broaden these activities.


6. (C) Although it is impossible to predict the outcome of

the March 18-19 stayaway, the fact that some employers have

promised not to dock their employees’ pay and the fact that

many Zimbabweans have been urging the MDC to organize such an

action for some time now, increase the chances for a

successful stayaway. While recent labor union calls for

stayaways have flopped, the MDC has prepared the current

action more carefully and is seen by more Zimbabweans as the

embodiment of hope for change. And while the MDC evinces

confidence about this action’s prospects for success, the

party also is aware of the risks and high costs of failure.

We are concerned about the possibility of violence and have

counseled the MDC at many levels, from Tsvangirai down, not

to initiate violence. Although the MDC leadership regularly

insists to us that it is pursing political change through

peaceful means, we cannot rule out the possibility of

spontaneous outbreaks of violence associated with the

stayaway. Security forces are on high alert and will seek to

frustrate any organized MDC action.



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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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