The Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front was reported to have launched “Operation Red Finger” to force people to go and vote in the presidential elections runoff of 27 June 2008 from which the Movement for Democratic Change had pulled out because of violence.
Reports said that the party had threatened to assemble people a day after voting to check if they had voted or not. Voters are required to dip their fingers in red long-lasting ink before voting.
Reports also said that ZANU-PF had told some voters that they should provide the party with serial numbers of their ballot papers, presumably so that it could check their votes.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said the election was illegitimate.
He said he was ready to negotiate for a transitional set-up but this should be on the basis that President Robert Mugabe was illegitimate and that he had won the March elections.
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SUBJECT: HARARE: ELECTION DAY SITREP
Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (d)
¶1. (SBU) The Embassy sent four observer teams throughout
Harare in the morning and three teams in the afternoon,
including one led by the Ambassador. We had not sought
accreditation, nor did we attempt to observe outside of
Harare in light of the MDC’s withdrawal from the election.
¶2. (C) Harare has been calm the entire day. Voter turnout
in general was greatly reduced from that of the March 29
elections. Turnout appeared dependent on the control ZANU-PF
had been able to exercise in particular areas. In Hatcliff,
for example, which has been the scene of significant
violence, turn out was relatively high, but in most other
areas it was low. Many people were afraid to talk with us,
and fear was palpable. Those people who did talk with us
told us ZANU-PF had attempted to intimidate them into voting
through what has been termed “Operation Red Finger.” Voters
dip their fingers in long-lasting ink after voting, and there
are reports that ZANU-PF will gather people tomorrow to
inspect their fingers; punishment will be imposed on those
who did not vote. Additionally some voters were told to
provide ZANU-PF officials with the serial number of their
ballots; presumably their votes could later be checked.
¶3. (C) Despite the intimidation and threats, a number of
people told us they would refuse to vote. Others said they
would vote but would submit spoiled ballots. While there
have been only few and scattered reports of violence
throughout Zimbabwe today, we are concerned that ZANU-PF
could renew its reign of terror tomorrow, seeking retribution
against MDC supporters who did not vote, or voted the wrong
way. We will closely monitor the situation.
¶4. (SBU) MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai briefed the press
and diplomats this afternoon. He called the election
illegitimate, said he was heartened that a growing number of
African leaders were standing with the Zimbabwean people, and
unsurprisingly condemned Mugabe as a violent dictator who was
trying to intimidate Africa and the world.
¶5. (SBU) On next steps, Tsvangirai said there should be
widespread acceptance that the election was illegitimate and
an international campaign to isolate the regime. He said he
was ready to negotiate, but it should be on the basis that
Mugabe was illegitimate and that he (Tsvangirai) had won the
March election. Finally, he said the focus should be on a
transition process and not a new election.
¶6. (SBU) Turning to South African president Thabo Mbeki,
Tsvangirai said he had expressed his discontent about Mbeki’s
role in the SADC mediation process to SADC and in a letter to
Mbeki. The destiny of Zimbabwe should not rest with one man,
averred Tsvangirai, and he urged a negotiation process that
would include the UN, AU, and other SADC leaders as
mediators. Finally, Tsvangirai said he had heard that Mbeki
would recognize Mugabe’s election. This would be
¶7. (SBU) Tsvangirai emphasized the important role he
believed SADC had in a resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis. He
had never seen SADC so unified, and he believed there was a
common understanding on the part of SADC that the crisis was
a result of Mugabe’s misgovernance and intransigence.
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¶8. (C) Tsvangirai confirmed that he is still esiding at the
Dutch Embassy; he is evaluating hi security. (NOTE: In a
live interview with CNN after the briefing, Tsvangirai said
he will remain in Zimbabwe; he has no plans to leave. END
NOTE.) He said he would not attend the AU Summit in Egypt;
an MDC delegation is already there.
¶9. (C) According to Tsvangirai, MDC secretary-general Tendai
Biti, who was released on bail yesterday, is at his home.
The MDC was considering moving him to a more secure
South African Embassy IDPs
¶10. (C) After the South African ambassador insisted that
about 340 MDC supporters who had taken refuge in the parking
lot of the Embassy had to depart; UN and MDC representatives
persuaded the IDPs they would be safe if they left. The
refugees departed this evening for the town of Ruwa, east of
Harare, where there is a vocational training facility. The
IDPs were accompanied by IOM and IFRC representatives. In
Ruwa, they will be cared for by the national Red Cross.
¶11. (SBU) Embassy continues to monitor detentions of regime
opponents. Tendai Biti was released yesterday, and MDC MP
and lawyer Eric Matinenga was released earlier in the week.
WOZA leader Jenny Williams remains in custody; we will
attempt to visit her next week and report on her welfare. We
note that there are hundreds, if not thousands of persons
unlawfully detained, who do not have the benefit of the