MDC supporters protest against imposed candidate


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Movement for Democratic Change supporters marched twice to Harvest House to protest against the imposition of James Makore as the party’s candidate in the Zengeza by-election but they were driven away by party youths on both occasions.

Makore had been imposed by party chairman Isaac Matongo.

Party secretary-general Welshman Ncube said Matongo had failed to follow MDC procedures in verifying candidate selection but had persuaded the Zengeza membership to accept Makore.

Some 80 to 100 youths were camped at Makore’s house and 40 to 50 women were staying inside the house.

Makore said the youths provided security while the women provided further protection.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 04HARARE530, HOTLY CONTESTED URBAN CONSTITUENCY UP FOR GRABS IN

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE530

2004-03-26 12:01

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

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 04 HARARE 000530

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

DS/OP/AF

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2014

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR ASEC ZI MDC

SUBJECT: HOTLY CONTESTED URBAN CONSTITUENCY UP FOR GRABS IN

MARCH 27-28 PARLIAMENTARY BY-ELECTION

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Sporadic violence and intimidation has

characterized the campaign period in an important

parliamentary by-election to be held in Zengeza (a

high-density suburb of Harare) March 27-28. The opposition

MDC selected a candidate rumored not to be the choice of the

MDC membership in Zengeza. For the first time since the 2002

presidential elections, the Electoral Supervisory Commission

(ESC) formally accredited Harare-based diplomats to observe;

however, the accreditation did not result in full access to

campaign events. Zengeza will be a key yardstick for both

parties. ZANU-PF has loudly forecast victory but a loss in

this urban area would simply preserve the status quo and not

cost the party much. The poll is especially important to the

MDC: a loss in this constituency it won decisively in the

past would further sap party morale and magnify its decline.

END SUMMARY.

 

2. (U) The Zengeza seat was left vacant by the departure of

MDC MP Tafadzwa Musekiwa, who fled to the UK in 2003 and has

applied for asylum. The contesting candidates are

Christopher Chigumba for ZANU-PF, James Makore for the MDC,

Tendai Chakanyuka for the National Alliance for Good

Governance (NAGG) and Gideon Chinogureyi of ZANU-Ndonga.

(Comment: The latter two candidates represent very small

parties that have been all but invisible during the campaign

period. End Comment.)

 

MDC Candidate Selection Snafu

—————————–

 

3. (C) In mid-February groups of MDC members from Zengeza

reportedly went twice to the MDC’s offices at Harvest House

in downtown Harare to protest the MDC leadership’s selection

of Makore as the party’s Zengeza candidate. MDC youths

dispersed the crowds with force on both days, resulting in

reported injuries to five MDC members. MDC Secretary General

Welshman Ncube met with representatives of the groups on

February 18. Ncube told Poloff that MDC National Party

Chairman Isaac Matongo had not properly confirmed agreement

between MDC Zengeza local officials and the MDC Zengeza

membership on candidate selection. Nevertheless, Matongo

reported back to Harvest House that the constituency had

chosen Makore. A separate inquiry from within the MDC

reportedly revealed that the constituency actually favored

Zengeza local MDC official Charlton Hwende. Ncube

acknowledged that Matongo had failed to follow MDC procedures

in verifying the candidate selection but had persuaded the

Zengeza membership representatives to accept Makore

nonetheless.

 

MDC Candidate Makore

——————–

 

4. (C) Emboffs conferred with MDC candidate Makore frequently

by phone and other diplomats met him on numerous occasions at

his campaign headquarters. In the final weeks of the

campaign, some 80-100 MDC youths camped in Makore’s yard,

with another 40-50 women staying inside the house itself.

Makore said the youths provided security while the women

inside provided further protection. In various conversations

with diplomats Makore said that campaigning had been

difficult especially in early March, but things had quieted

down somewhat for the last week.

 

ZANU-PF Candidate Chigumba

————————–

 

5. (C) Emboffs attempted repeatedly to contact and meet with

Chigumba. On separate occasions Chigumba yelled over the

phone at emboff and a UK diplomat and refused to meet or

talk. Swedish diplomats did manage to meet Chigumba briefly

by the side of the road in Zengeza. Chigumba berated the

diplomats and white people in general for their supposed

colonial intentions, and for supporting their “puppets”, the

MDC. Chigumba also criticized MDC youths for attacking

ZANU-PF members. He alleged that MDC youths attached four

ZANU-PF members, one of whom was an elderly woman who

subsequently sought medical attention.

 

Violence and Intimidation

————————-

 

6. (C) Makore and other MDC officials reported sporadic

violence and intimidation in the run-up to the election. The

candidate said that by March 22 ZANU-PF supporters had beaten

about thirty MDC supporters, seriously enough to need medical

attention. Makore said that they had relied on female

activists to assist with campaigning in the hope that they

would be less targeted for abuse by ZANU-PF youths and

militia members. On March 22 a Harare-based Swedish diplomat

reported interviewing a woman at the MDC’s Zengeza campaign

headquarters who had been threatened and beaten by ZANU-PF

supporters. On March 19, the same diplomat interviewed a

woman at a local torture rehabilitation center who reported

that she knew of four other women who were beaten by ZANU-PF

supporters and hospitalized on March 17.

 

7. (U) The MDC reported that on March 10 ZANU-PF youths

abducted MDC youth Enock Mukudu and stabbed him in the leg

before they demanded and Mukudu paid them Z$30,000 (about

US$7.00) for his release.

 

8. (U) The MDC reported that on March 10 about 100 ZANU-PF

youths stoned three houses belonging to members of the

opposition in Zengeza, including the house of candidate James

Makore. On March 18, a Harare-based Canadian diplomat

reported that several windows of Makore’s house were broken

and there was visible damage to roofing tiles. The MDC

reported that ZANU-PF youths also beat an unspecified number

of people in the near vicinity and stole household goods on

March 10.

 

9. (U) The MDC reported that ZANU-PF youths disrupted its

official campaign launch rally on March 7 and the party

rescheduled the rally for the following week with a request

for greater police protection. The party then held its

launch rally on March 14. About 350 MDC members attended.

Also present were twenty Zimbabwe Republic Police and

representatives from the Electoral Supervisory Commission

(ESC).

 

10. (U) On March 19, the MDC reported that ZANU-PF youth

members had been patrolling Zengeza in recent weeks and

harassing suspected MDC members, forcing people to attend

ZANU-PF meetings and rallies, preventing people from

attending MDC meetings, tearing down MDC campaign posters and

attacking MDC members who were putting up posters.

 

11. (C) Makore and other MDC members reported that soldiers

in civilian clothes had visited MDC activists’ homes in

Zengeza late at night in recent weeks. The MDC members said

that the soldiers had beaten some of them and threatened them

with unspecified consequences if they continued campaigning

for the MDC. (Comment: The MDC members were unable to

explain satisfactorily how they knew the perpetrators were

soldiers if they were in civilian clothes. End Comment.)

 

Vote Buying Allegations

———————–

 

12. (C) The MDC alleged that ZANU-PF activists had given

residents Z$10,000 (about US$2.33) and later shouted in the

streets that the recipients should attend upcoming rallies or

face unspecified consequences. (Comment: With party’s

resources extremely tight, we find it unlikely that ZANU-PF

would have done this on a large scale. End Comment.) The

MDC also alleged that ZANU-PF officials were confiscating

national identity cards from residents who were then ordered

to vote ZANU-PF in order to get their identity cards back on

voting day.

 

Accreditation / Observing

————————-

 

13. (C) In many recent by-elections the GOZ has ignored

Harare diplomats’ requests for accreditation. However, for

the Gutu-North by-election in February diplomats were invited

to observe using only their Ministry of Foreign Affairs

diplomatic identification cards. In the Zengeza election,

however, the GOZ announced that the ESC would grant

diplomats’ requests for accreditation if the requests were

forwarded through the MFA, and if diplomats paid a US$100.00

accreditation fee. Eleven diplomats from Western embassies

obtained accreditation this way, including four emboffs.

According to ESC officials, at least thirty independent

observers, mostly from local NGOs, were also

accredited–paying a much lower fee in local currency.

(Note: According to the Deputy Reserve Bank Governor, only

the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) was

authorized to charge in foreign currency. End Note.) Post

has coordinated with other missions to visit Zengeza in the

weeks before the election, and will coordinate on the voting

days to observe the voting itself.

 

Observing: Emboffs Chased from ZANU-PF Rally

——————————————–

 

14. (C) On March 24 two emboffs were chased away from a

ZANU-PF rally of about 300 people in Zengeza 4. As emboffs

walked along the road apart from the rally area itself, a

local ZANU-PF official approached, asked what they were doing

there and whether they had been invited. Emboffs responded

that they were there to observe the rally and showed their

ESC accreditation cards. The official inquired whether

emboffs had been invited; emboffs responded that they had

informed the ZANU-PF candidate of their interest in attending

the rally. The official asked emboffs to leave. As they

began walking back to their car, other ZANU-PF officials

approached emboffs and yelled similar comments: what interest

did the U.S. have in little Zimbabwe; Zimbabwe was not like

Iraq; emboffs needed to be accompanied by representatives of

“the Ministry”; emboffs’ accreditation cards were not valid

until voting started. To each accusation emboffs responded

that they were happy to leave. As emboffs prepared to drive

away, a ZANU-PF official threatened to beat emboffs and the

embassy driver. Emboffs departed without further incident.

 

15. (C) When emboffs first arrived at this rally, they

consulted with several ESC observers who said they had not

been informed of the rally, but were just driving by, noticed

the gathering, and stopped. The ESC representatives left

before the candidate had arrived and the rally started.

There were young men milling around unthreateningly.

(Comment: it was unclear whether these were ZANU-PF youths or

militia members. End Comment.) Almost all of the 300

attendees were wearing ZANU-PF T-shirts. The crowed was

subdued, huddled in small groups with some standing, some

sitting.

 

Observing: Militia Bases?

————————-

 

16. (C) The MDC reported that ZANU-PF had set up seven

militia bases in Zengeza and provided emboff with the

addresses of each one. Emboff and a British diplomat visited

a few of the sites. They observed nothing noteworthy at one

and a group of about 15-20 youths milling without apparent

purpose at another. In the vicinity of what was the reported

site of the largest base, the diplomats observed a crowd of

about 50 individuals, many wearing ZANU-PF T-shirts. Alcohol

flowed freely at what one participant described as a ZANU-PF

command center. After a polite exchange between the

diplomats and a gathering crowd of ZANU-PF supporters, a

ZANU-PF official approached the team and requested to see

their ESC accreditation cards. Emboff and the UK diplomat

complied. The individual said he was concerned for the

diplomats’ safety at the hands of MDC youths and did not want

ZANU-PF to be blamed for anything bad that might happen to

the diplomats.

 

17. (C) In the 2000 parliamentary election and the 2002

presidential poll the MDC polled about 15,000 votes in

Zengeza. In the same two elections, ZANU-PF polled about

5,400 votes.

 

Comment

——-

 

18. (C) The stakes are high for both parties this time

around. Zengeza and the upcoming by-election in Lupane (a

rural constituency in Matabeleland North) will be important

yardsticks for both parties to set momentum for 2005 general

elections. For ZANU-PF, a win in Zengeza would demonstrate

that the ruling party has made solid inroads into an urban

high-density area — something that it has thus far not

achieved. Despite official media predictions of a ZANU-PF

victory, the ruling party is the underdog in this fight and a

loss would likely not affect the party’s overall prospects in

the run-up to March 2005. A win for the MDC would help

arrest growing public perceptions that its popularity is on

the wane; a loss in an urban high-density area would be a

serious blow. Although the question of ZANU-PF obtaining a

two-thirds parliamentary majority before March 2005 is almost

moot, for the record, the ruling party still needs four more

seats to achieve that goal.

 

19. (C) Absent intimidation and improper manipulations, the

voting tallies from previous elections in Zengeza suggest an

easy MDC win. With the ruling party’s strong organization

and heavy-handed tactics, its motivated supporters can be

counted on to vote. The election’s outcome may turn on the

extent to which the MDC can motivate enough of its faithful

to overcome voter apathy and disillusionment, brave the risks

of harassment, and get out and vote on their principles.

SULLIVAN

 

(19 VIEWS)

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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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