The United States embassy said protests centred on the government’s economic mismanagement and general misrule resonated with the general public than constitutional reform and other pet rocks of the opposition’s leadership.
It said this after the success of the marches organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of trade unions in which it called for wages to be raised to the poverty datum line and tax cuts.
The protests came at a time when the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change was in turmoil following squabbles on whether to participate in the recreated Senate elections or not.
The government had also just released all the labour and civic leaders, including National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku, that had been arrested during the demonstrations.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1560, PROTESTERS RELEASED, PLANNING MORE ACTION
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 001560
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
AFR/SA FOR E. LOKEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010
SUBJECT: PROTESTERS RELEASED, PLANNING MORE ACTION
REF: (A) HARARE 1534 (B) HARARE 1527 (C) HARARE 1512
(D) HARARE 1503
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Eric T. Schultz under Section 1
¶1. (C) On November 10 and 11, the police released the
arrestees involved in the recent Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions (ZCTU) and National Constitutional Assembly (NCA)
sponsored protests. The police also released student
activists and other civil society members who had been
arrested last week in connection with separate events. On
the heels of these arrests, contacts in the democratic
opposition told us they are planning to go forward with
additional protests. End summary.
Activists, Mayor Released
¶2. (C) Following his arrest associated with last week,s NCA
protest (ref B), NCA Chairman Lovemore Madhuku was released
November 10; no NCA protesters remain in jail. NCA
spokesperson Columbus Madzunga told Poloff on November 14
that Madhuku had been unharmed and intimated that police and
prison guards had been sympathetic to Madhuku and other
arrested protestors. Madzunga said that the GOZ had dropped
charges initially filed against Madhuku under the Criminal
Evidence Act but advised Madhuku that they may serve him with
a summons to reappear within a few days.
¶3. (C) Following their arrests in connection with ZCTU
protests on November 8 (ref A), ZCTU General Secretary
Wellington Chibebe and ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo were
released November 11. ZCTU Information Officer Mlamleli
Sibanda said the organization,s activists had appeared tired
but otherwise healthy. All of those arrested had been held
in police custody without being formally charged within 48
hours as required by law. Irene Petras of the Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) noted that ZCTU activists
were held 30 to a cell in cells designed to hold six people.
Petras added that the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO)
interrogated each individual protester.
¶4. (C) ZLHR lawyer Otto Saki confirmed to the Embassy on
November 14 that police had also released six University of
Zimbabwe student leaders on November 11 following their
arrest earlier in the week by campus police. Four of the
six, including the Student Executive Council,s Secretary
General Garikai Kajauro, Vice-President Colleen Chibango,
Information and Publicity Secretary Mfundo Mlilo, and Legal
Secretary Wellington Mahohoma, had been suspended from the
university after staging a protest on October 19 in
connection with new university charges for toilet repairs.
They obtained a court order requiring their reinstatement but
were again arrested on attempting to re-enter the university
grounds. They were released following payment of a small
fine for breach of the Miscellaneous Offenses Act – “conduct
likely to breach the peace.” Saki advised that the students
were seeking an additional court order to assure their return
to the campus.
¶5. (C) Saki also reported that Chitungwiza Mayor Mishek
Shoko had been released on November 11. Following long
running tension with the GOZ (ref D), the controversial mayor
had been arrested on November 8 (ref B) and charged with
violation of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) in
connection with a meeting he had held with constituents on
November 7. Saki reported that the state had dropped the
charges but could yet proceed against Shoko by means of a
¶6. (C) Police also released Netsai Mushonga of the Women,s
Coalition on November 10, following 50 hours of
incarceration. Mushonga had been arrested on November 8
after convening a peace and nonviolence training workshop on
November 5 and 6 without prior police approval. She told
Embassy contacts that the police and prison guards had shown
a lack of enthusiasm – at times even sympathy – in their
arrest and processing, and that POSA charges against her had
More Protests Planned
¶7. (C) ZCTU’s Sibanda told PolOff on November 14 that the
ZCTU planned further actions in conjunction with others in
civil society but could not provide any details as to the
nature or timing of such future actions. NCA’s Madzunga
informed PolOff that the NCA was meeting on the afternoon of
November 14 to plan its next protest – again, likely to
proceed in multiple locations – and would keep the Embassy
¶8. (C) Movement for Democratic Change Secretary for
Presidential Affairs Gandhi Mudzingwa reiterated to the
Embassy on November 14 that the party planned to renew its
own efforts at civic action (ref C). He said party President
Morgan Tsvangirai was likely to announce dates for
unspecified civic action by the end of this week.
Separately, AFP reported that Tsvangirai’s rally in Bulawayo
November 13 attracted 8-10,000 people and other sources
indicated that a rally he held in Gweru the same day also
drew several thousand people.
¶9. (C) Last week,s protests marked a renewal of the
democratic opposition,s willingness to peacefully yet
forcefully confront the GOZ. More promising from our point
of view was the protest,s focus on the regime,s economic
mismanagement and general misrule, issues we believe are far
more likely to resonate with the general public than
constitutional reform and other pet rocks of the
opposition,s leadership. Buoyed by attendance at their
public events as well as by the relatively muted response of
the police, and despite continuing intra-party turmoil over
the Senate elections, the MDC and its civil society allies
seem set to go forward with more protests.