Mugabe still packs a punch


President Robert Mugabe went on the offensive after the week-long anti-government demonstration that had been called for by the Movement for Democratic Change to force him to step down declaring: “I am ready for a fight, I am getting younger…, and I still can punch.”

Mugabe vowed to crush any future mass action and warned that participation in demonstrations would be “playing with fire”.

“We will never allow the MDC to hold another mass action. That will never happen again,” he said.

Mugabe derided MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai saying sarcastically that the MDC planned to put Tsvangirai in State House but he was already in State, meaning prison.

Tsvangirai was facing treason charges for allegedly plotting to assassinate Mugabe.


Full cable:


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Reference ID






2003-06-16 14:52

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.


161452Z Jun 03

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001233










E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/16/2008





Classified By: Political Officer Peggy Blackford for reasons 1.5 b/d





1. (C) Robert Mugabe went on the offensive last week

following the previous week’s mass action by the opposition

party, the MDC. Mugabe was pugnacious and triumphalist and

used every opportunity to demean his political rival, MDC

President, Morgan Tsvangirai. At the same time he took to

his political stronghold in the countryside and heaped

criticism on the West and local whites.   Tsvangirai is still

being imprisoned on new charges of treason. At his bail

hearing, the State argued that thinking of treason is in

itself treason. The judge reserved her decision until

possibly this week. Mugabe’s recent actions seem more reflex

than strategy. There seems little to be gained by kicking

his opponents while they are down but in the past he has

shown himself to be incapable of conciliation.


Mugabe: Getting younger and still punching

——————————————— —–

2. (C) On June 8 following a week of mass action organized

by the opposition MDC, President Robert Mugabe, in an

interview given to the South African Broadcasting Company,

declared that, “I am ready for a fight, I am getting

younger…, and I still can punch.” In the week since he has

matched his actions to his words, demeaning the opposition,

incarcerating political opponents on the flimsiest of

charges, threatening diplomatic establishments, and stirring

up racial hatred. Avoiding urban areas which are MDC

strongholds, he went on the offense during a swing through

provinces and rural areas where ZANU-PF has traditionally

been strong.


Taking aim at the opposition



3. (U)   On June 13, at a rally some 50 kilometers from

Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, Mugabe vowed to crush any

future mass action. He warned that participation in

demonstrations would be “playing with fire” and added, “We

will never allow the MDC to hold another mass action. That

will never happen again.” Mugabe derided MDC President

Tsvangirai saying sarcastically that the MDC planned to put



Tsvangirai in State House (the President’s home) by Friday



and that he was glad that Tsvangirai was, in fact, in State

house (prison). Referring to members of the MDC, Mugabe

said, “We hope they have learned their lesson. If they

haven’t, they will learn it the hard way.” The GOZ moved to

enforce this crackdown by announcing that it had banned

strikes in the public sector. This would include doctors,

nurses, utility, transport, and communication workers,

firefighters and employees of the state radio and television.



And the British



4. (U) A day earlier, at a rally in Manicaland some 300

kilometers from the capital, Mugabe accused British High

Commissioner, Brian Donnelly and the British Government of

funding the MDC mass action and threatening to expel the High

Commissioner “if he continued interfering in the affairs of

the country by helping the MDC stage illegal and violent

demonstrations.” Donnelly denied Mugabe’s allegations of

funding or organizing the mass action while underlining

support for “the rights of Zimbabweans to freedom of

expression and association.” This threat follows on remarks

made June 7 at the funeral of Joshua Nkomo’s widow where

Mugabe criticized both the British and the American embassies

for their alleged “illegal activities.”


And white Zimbabweans



5. (U) Mugabe also used both rallies to fan hatred of white

Zimbabweans. In Manicaland, he said, “These whites are not

deserving cases in regards to land allocation because they

are destabilizing our society. They are supporting a party

pursing an illegal course to power. If they have any land

left we will take it.” He then singled out Roy Bennet, a

white commercial farmer and MDC MP for the Chimanmani

district of Manicaland, for disrupting the operations of

newly resettled farmers. Bennet, speaking to South African

news sources on June 15, reported that a separate farm in

Ruwa close to Harare had subsequently been occupied by

ZANU-PF supporters. At the rally near Bulawayo, Mugabe said

that whites “just wanted to take and refused to give. They

never accepted our rule …They despise our government and

want to destroy it. We refuse to be destroyed. Instead, we

will destroy them.”


Tsvangirai: He sinned in thought





6. (U) On the concluding day of Tsvangirai’s bail

application, after defense attorney Bizos showed that

Tsvangirai had never called for violent demonstrations, the



prosecutor argued that Tsvangirai was guilty of treason

because “It’s not a question of personally or physically

participating in a violent or physical manner. Merely

postulating or contemplating can be to commit treason.” This

led one MDC supporter to say that given that criteria “we all

commit treason when we wake up in the morning.” The

presiding judge said that she needed more time to render her

judgment and “could make a decision next week.”


Mugabe’s actions; Strategy or reflex



7. (C) Comment. Most observers agree that Mugabe and the

GOZ came out ahead during the mass action proving that they

still have firm control of the military and police. The MDC,

on the other hand, was limited to a relatively successful

stayaway, no small accomplishment but nothing they had not

accomplished before. With that in mind, it is hard to

understand why Mugabe has chosen to be so deliberately

provocative. A South Africa journalist speculated that it

might be early campaigning but that seems unlikely. Instead

it seems as though Mugabe is incapable of new tactics. Mugabe

has the power to lock Tsvangirai away, humiliate him in leg

irons and so he has done it Mugabe has always taken the hard

line and given nothing away. That has worked for him in the

past and he appears unable to see that in Zimbabwe’s current

economic situation, there must be concessions if the country

is to avoid ruin.



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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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