MDC tried to lure expelled ZANU-PF politicians ahead of 2005 elections


The Movement for Democratic Change tried to lure Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front politicians purged at the 2004 Tsholotsho debacle which saw six provincial leaders suspended from the party for attending the meeting at which they allegedly planned to stage a smart coup against Joice Mujuru, John Nkomo and Joseph Msika.

MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that the party was talking “quietly” to the politicians who had been purged after the Tsholotsho debacle and those who had been sidelined in the ZANU-PF primary elections.

Ncube believed these individual would have no real interest in joining forces with the MDC but out of vengeance might be induced to influence their supporters to stay away from the polls in order to demonstrate to ZANU-PF just how valuable they were to the party’s fortunes.


Full cable:


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Reference ID






2005-01-20 13:11

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 000113







E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/18/2010







Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.5 b/d


1. (C) SUMMARY: In a meeting with the Ambassador on January

18, MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube reported that MDC

President Morgan Tsvangirai planned to lead an opposition

delegation to Washington February 6-9. Ncube noted that

ZANU-PF’s internal turmoil was opening space for opposition

election preparations and could provoke a backlash among

resentful ruling party figures “bent on revenge.” He

asserted that the opposition’s electoral success would depend

on many factors over which it had little control, but as

things stood now he expected the party to win 45-55 seats.

He reported that a SADC delegation expected to visit Zimbabwe

soon would include only lawyers evaluating the legal

framework of elections, not more important election

environment issues. END SUMMARY.


Tsvangirai Visit





2. (C) According to Ncube, Tsvangirai, Shadow Minister of

Foreign Affairs Priscilla Misihairabwa-Mushonga and he

planned to arrive in Washington on Sunday, February 6. They

would seek meetings there with representatives from the

Administration, civil society, and the Congress February 7-9,

after which they would leave for meetings in Canada enroute

to Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai also hoped to meet with UN SYG Annan

in New York on his way to or from Washington. Ncube

requested the Embassy’s assistance in arranging meetings for

the delegation with Administration officials. The MDC has

sought assistance from NDI and IRI in making appointments

with Congress.


Ruling Party Turmoil



3. (C) Ncube said the opposition was enjoying the spectacle

of the intra-ZANU PF fight. More practically, the MDC was

talking quietly to ruling party figures purged in the recent

Tsholotsho debacle and primaries process (refs B and C). He



believed these individual would have no real interest in

joining forces with the MDC but out of vengeance might be

induced to influence their supporters to stay away from the

polls in order to demonstrate to ZANU-PF just how valuable

they were to the party’s fortunes. He noted that victims of

recent developments included not just hard-liners and

moderates seen to be deviating from the party line, but even

some of the most loyal followers (e.g. NGO Bill architect and

Minister of Social Welfare Paul Mangwana) who lost out in

primary contests.


4. (C) Ncube said he was continuing his informal dialogue

with Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs

Patrick Chinamasa on election and constitutional issues (they

were to meet later that day on an unspecified agenda).

However, Chinamasa had told him that he was resigned to

playing very little role in the next Government. Chinimasa

thought he might lose his ministry in a cabinet reshuffle

before the elections and, if not, would certainly lose it

after the elections. (Note: Chinamasa has retained his seat

in the Central Committee but lost his slot in the Politburo

and is not running for a parliamentary seat. End note.)

Ncube said that if Chinamasa departed, Security Minister

Nicholas Goche, who already had been involved in the

confidential unofficial dialogue, would likely become his



principal ZANU-PF interlocutor.   Ncube added that he had

heard current Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa might take

Chinamasa’s place in the cabinet.


Opposition Election Preparations



5. (C) In response to the Ambassador’s question about

Zimbabwe’s election environment, Ncube said he was pleased

that “a lot of space” had opened up for the opposition while

the ruling party was absorbed with its internecine combat.

The tone and substance of official media reporting had

improved, and Ncube joked that even he was reading the

government-controlled Herald these days. Nonetheless, many

of the usual constraints continued: authorities kept finding

excuses not to approve meetings requested by the opposition

in Chinhoyi, for example, and one MDC MP was threatened with

arrest for letting a member of his audience speak without

authorization at an otherwise authorized meeting. Moreover,

the MDC fully expected conditions to worsen quickly when the

dust settled in ZANU-PF and it turned its attention to the

opposition again.


6. (C) Ncube reported that the opposition did not have the

funds with which to conduct national primaries but that its

candidate selection process was nearly complete. The party’s

organization down to the grassroots continued to improve,

although a few local structures that had seen disagreement

over selecting a candidate remained dysfunctional. Ncube

made no prediction about when the party might lift its

“conditional suspension of participation” in the

parliamentary elections, but reported that the party’s

campaign was in an advanced stage of planning. The party was

finalizing its communications strategy, which nonetheless

would likely evolve to meet changing circumstances during the



7. (C) Ncube asserted that how the MDC fared in elections

would depend on several factors beyond its control, e.g.,

access to the media, freedom of assembly, and police action

against perpetrators of violence. The party’s ability to

overcome voter apathy and voter fears on voting day would be

keys to maintaining seats in traditional MDC strongholds. To

do so, it was organizing “voting clubs” to project safety in

numbers, and would coordinate with authorities and observer

groups to try to address circumstances at the local level.

Ncube said estimates within the party for seats it will win

if it participates range from 10 to 65 — each extreme being

unrealistic in his estimation. Reiterating the uncertainty

of key variables, he said that he nonetheless expected the

party to win 45-55 seats. (Note: The parliament has 150

seats, 120 of which will be contested and 30 of which are

selected by the President. The MDC won 57 seats in 2000.

ZANU-PF will need to win 70 seats to gain a two-thirds

majority in parliament and amend the constitution at will.

End note.)


South Africa/SADC Issues



8. (C) Regarding the ruling party/government espionage

scandal, Ncube said the opposition had seen court documents

that indicated the involvement of not only the South African

agent in GOZ custody, but the director-general and assistant

director-general of the South African National Security

Service. Asked by the Ambassador about the ANC’s recent

public statement taking the GOZ to task on election

conditions, its strongest to date (ref A), Ncube suggested

that it indicated that the spy affair had not given the GOZ

decisive leverage over the SAG.


9. (C) Ncube reported that the next SADC group to visit

Zimbabwe on elections was not likely to be at a high-level.

He said a group of SADC lawyers was scheduled to visit

Zimbabwe this week to review the country’s election-related

legal infrastructure, but had been advised that the GOZ would

only be prepared to receive them at an unspecified date next

week. The group was not prepared to address the most

important election environment issues, including media

access, freedom of assembly, and political






10. (C) We urge that serious consideration be given to

affording Mr. Tsvangirai access to the highest levels during

his visit, including a possible meeting with the President.

There are pros and cons for affording Tsvangirai such

exposure. First, this is an opportunity for the

Administration to underscore its commitment in Zimbabwe at

the outset of President Bush’s second term and soon after Dr.

Rice’s confirmation hearings in which she stressed our view

of Zimbabwe as an “an outpost of tyranny.” From his

perspective, Tsvangirai has concluded that such meetings

would do him more good than harm politically and we see no

reason to second guess the conclusion of the man closest to

the politics. The MDC President has been meeting African

heads of state — a rare honor for an opposition leader by

culture and tradition on the continent. He also was received

at the highest levels in Europe in December, including a

meeting with Prime Minister Blair. Such a gesture in

Washington will bolster Tsvangirai’s stature with domestic

and regional audiences.


11. (C) However, there are also potential downsides to such a

high visibility visit. It could provoke a backlash within a

ruling party that has been markedly moderating its posture

toward the U.S. and the opposition. It might also play into

the hands of GOZ propagandists in portraying the MDC as

Western lackeys. From our perspective, the risks can be

mitigated by public and private reiterations to the GOZ of

our priority on the election process and the prospects for

improved relations should the GOZ embark decisively on a path

to advancing rule of law, human rights, and democracy. While

there are good arguments to be made for and against an Oval

Office meeting and a meeting with the Secretary, on balance

we believe they would be constructive and recommend that the

requests be given favorable consideration.





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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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