Ncube says war with ZANU-PF would be suicidal


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Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general Welshman Ncube told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan that conducting a war against the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front with petrol bombs would be suicidal.

Sullivan met with Ncube to counsel the MDC strongly against initiating violence saying besides losing moral high ground in such a scenario, the MDC would be playing on ZANU-PF’s proven turf and would not win a violent battle with the ruling party.

The party’s intelligence chief Solomon Chikowero told Sullivan that the party rank and file were ready for violent action against the government and were just waiting for the green light from the MDC leadership to proceed.

Ncube stressed that the MDC leadership was committed to peaceful change, saying that conducting a war against ZANU-PF with petrol bombs would be suicidal.

He acknowledged that elements of his party had been planning certain “insane things” such as bombing bridges and electrical installations.

When this was brought to his attention, he immediately spoke with deputy secretary-general Gift Chimanikire, who supervised the party’s intelligence and security directorates, and told him to rescind any orders that might have been given for violent action.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE628, MDC ELEMENTS STILL CONTEMPLATING VIOLENCE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE628

2003-03-27 15:00

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 02 HARARE 000628

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2013

TAGS: PGOV PINR ASEC ZI MDC

SUBJECT: MDC ELEMENTS STILL CONTEMPLATING VIOLENCE

 

REF: HARARE 516

 

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

 

Summary:

——–

 

1. (C) On March 26, MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube

assured the Ambassador that the party remains committed to

peaceful change, while acknowledging that some party elements

had been planning bombing attacks prior to the March 18-19

stayaway. Solomon Chikowero, the MDC Head of Intelligence

said, however, that some in the party rank and file were

still prepared to launch violent action against the

Government, and were awaiting the green light from MDC

leadership to proceed. End Summary.

 

Ambassador with MDC Secretary-General

————————————-

 

2. (C) The Ambassador, accompanied by Polchief, met on March

26 with MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube to counsel

strongly against the MDC’s initiation of violence. The

Ambassador emphasized that in addition to losing the high

moral ground in such a scenario, the MDC would be playing on

ZANU-PF’s proven turf and could not win a violent battle with

the ruling party. Ncube stressed that the MDC leadership

remains committed to peaceful change, saying that conducting

a war against ZANU-PF with petrol bombs would be suicidal.

He acknowledged that elements of his party had been planning

certain “insane things” prior to the stayaway, such as

bombing bridges and electrical installations. When this was

brought to his attention, he immediately spoke with deputy

Secretary-General Gift Chimanikire, who supervises the

 

SIPDIS

party’s intelligence and security directorates, and told him

to rescind any orders that might have been given for violent

action.

 

3. (C) Ncube said the party would not be ready to launch the

next phase of mass action when a March 31 ultimatum deadline

expires. (Note: After the successful March 18-19 stayaway,

the MDC issued a list of demands the Government must meet by

March 31 or face further civil unrest. End Note.) The party

is now coordinating with civic organizations such as the

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the National

Constitutional Assembly, and would likely need until the

second or third week in April to do the necessary

mobilization. Asked what form the next phase of mass action

would take, Ncube said the party wanted to organize protests

that were sustainable and ongoing, not one- or two-day

affairs. Prolonged stayaways and street demonstrations in

the high-density suburbs were the most likely actions. In

the beginning, however, the MDC would not organize

large-scale demonstrations in the city center, in order to

minimize the possibility of security service attacks on

members of the public and to avoid gathering large numbers of

party activists in the same place.

 

Violence – A Contingency Plan?

——————————

 

4. (C) In a separate conversation with Poloff on March 26,

Solomon Chikowero, the MDC Head of Intelligence, said plans

for violent activities are in place and that they are simply

waiting for the green light from the MDC leadership, which is

to meet on March 28 to decide what to do when the MDC

ultimatum expires on March 31. Chikowero said there was a

feeling within the MDC that whether they engaged in

stayaways, demonstrations, or more violent activities–the

response from the GOZ was the same: detentions, arrests,

beatings, tortures and rapes. He expressed the sense of some

within the MDC that they had exhausted their options and were

left with only violent means to pressure the GOZ into a

dialogue on political change.

 

5. (C) Chikowero suggested that parastatal Zimbabwe Unified

Passenger Company (ZUPCO) buses would be prime targets for

attack, and that avoiding injuries would be important.

Chikowero did not mention other specific targets, but his

subordinates had elaborated on this topic in previous

conversations with us (reftel).

 

6. (C) Poloff reiterated that if the MDC engaged in violence

that the U.S. and others in the international community would

have no choice but to distance themselves. Organized

violence was not the hallmark of a legitimate democratic

political party. Poloff suggested there were many other

peaceful ways to motivate political change. Poloff suggested

that the recent stayaway had already bolstered Zimbabweans’

confidence in their ability to influence political change.

Violent activities would only invite a more violent crackdown

on the part of government, as we saw in the aftermath of the

March 18-19 stayaway.

7. (C) Chikowero agreed in principle that non-violent

activities were a good idea, and that violent activities

could backfire politically, but he said that the final

decision would be made above his head. He also said

non-violent stayaways and protests, though more desirable,

were more complicated to organize in a reasonable amount of

time, and according to him, less likely to succeed.

Chikowero said discouraging stone throwing was a lost cause

with MDC supporters on the street who have been beaten

repeatedly by security forces.

 

Soldiers?

———

 

8. (C) Chikowero said the “soldiers” currently carrying out

the retribution campaign against MDC supporters are National

Youth Service members, “green bombers” led by war vets who

re-entered the military in 2001. He claimed that none of

them are regular soldiers. Chikowero said that his office

could compile a list of the war-vets cum soldiers, and other

information on which military units have supplied the

camouflage uniforms, military vehicles and weapons.

Chikowero was speculating, but he suggested that it was

likely the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which comprises

elements of the police, military, and Central Intelligence

Organization, was coordinating, or was at least complicit in

the operation.

 

Comment:

——–

 

9. (C) We believe that Welshman Ncube is committed to

achieving political change peacefully and hope that other

senior MDC leaders share this view. His obvious discomfort

in discussing this topic, however, raises some question about

the commitment of other MDC leaders to the path of

non-violence. It is noteworthy, that the MDC has issued no

public statement condemning the sporadic violence that

occurred during the March 18-19 stayaway. Such a statement

would send a clear message to the increasingly frustrated

rank and file that the party was opposed to violence of any

sort. Instead it appears that attacks on ZANU-PF interests

are being kept in reserve as a contingency plan, and

cultivated by lower-level officials and supporters who

themselves see few other viable options. So far, those

elements have heeded the leadership’s stand down orders, but

it is impossible to predict how long their commitment to the

party leadership will outweigh their frustration with the

regime. We will continue to stress in our interactions with

MDC leaders our conviction that violence is not the way

forward.

 

Who is Chikowero?

—————–

 

10. (C) Chikowero is an impressive figure, a former Air Force

paratrooper and intelligence officer who served in Somalia,

Mozambique and various posts within Zimbabwe. A military

court imprisoned him in 1991 for refusing to follow orders

during operations in Mozambique, which he described as using

junior soldiers as cannon fodder. He was released in 1996

and declined an offer to re-join the Air Force to instead

team up with the fledging MDC a couple of years later. Since

joining the MDC he has been arrested about eleven times, and

tortured twice within the past year. He said the tortures

have only hardened his resolve against the current regime.

He is widely regarded in ZANU-PF circles as being at the

center of plans for MDC-sponsored violence, and is watched

closely by the security services. End Comment.

SULLIVAN

 

(2 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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