Rift between Tsvangirai and Ncube widens


The rift between Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and secretary-general Welshman Ncube widened as the pro-senate faction fielded 26 candidates to contest the reintroduced senate seats.

The United States embassy which had written off early warnings about an impending split within the MDC admitted that the participation of the 26 highlighted “long-standing divisions within the MDC leadership” and threatened to split the party.

The embassy, which was solidly behind Tsvangirai and his boycott, said the challenge was for Tsvangirai to prove his continued relevance to a population that had been shell-shocked by economic decline and government repression.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2005-11-23 13:54

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 001603








E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2015





REF: A. REF A: HARARE 001578

B. REF B: HARARE 001467

C. REF C: HARARE 001238


Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Eric T. Schultz under Section 1

.4 b/d






1. (C) November 26 marks election day for the

newly-recreated Senate. Few observers expect the institution

to produce much beyond 66 new offices to be handed out by the

government as patronage. Given voter apathy, the calls for a

boycott from MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai, and lackluster

ZANU-PF campaigning, we expect that few Zimbabweans will

bother to turn out on Saturday, likely resulting in a hollow

victory for ZANU-PF. The Senate elections have, however,

exposed festering leadership divisions within the MDC

(reftels) that will not go away after November 26. The

Embassy intends to mount a small-scale monitoring effort,

focused on Harare and Bulawayo, in conjunction with several

other western Embassies and we recommend that the Department

issue a press statement criticizing the elections as well as

the creation of the Senate. End Summary.



A Powerless Institution



2. (C) ZANU-PF in August used its parliamentary majority to

pass the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (17) Bill, which

among other measures reintroduced a 66-member Senate (ref C).

MDC head Tsvangirai, backed by most of his party and

virtually all of Zimbabwe,s civil society, roundly

criticized the Senate as powerless but expensive institution

that was created solely to enlarge GOZ,s opportunities for

patronage. The Senate has no power of veto and can only

delay for a few months the passage of legislation approved by

the lower house. Further reflecting this body,s

insignificance, the Senate will be done away with after five




A Sham Election



3. (C) Confirming its intention to use the Senate as a

patronage tool, the ruling party put forward a list political

pensioners, many of whom are members of the old guard who

lost in past elections, to contest the 50 elected seats (ref

B). (N.B. ZANU-PF was the only party to nominate candidates

in 19 seats, winning those slots unopposed; 16 additional

seats are appointed by the President.) The GOZ appears also

to have gerrymandered several Senatorial districts in order

to make inroads into MDC strongholds. An electoral analysis

(e-mailed to AF/S) by the nonpartisan Zimbabwe Election

Support Network (ZESN) found evidence of this in most



4. (C) MDC President Tsvangirai called for a boycott of the

election but was opposed by a group of largely Ndebele party

leaders led by party Vice President Gibson Sibanda and

Secretary General Welshman Ncube (reftels). 26 MDC



&candidates8 filed to compete in the elections. Over the

past month, even as Tsvangirai,s boycott campaign emerged

victorious among the party,s rank and file members, the

intra-party dispute heated up. As popular support for

participation eroded even in Matabeleland, the

pro-participation camp shifted its message to one against

Tsvangirai,s supposed transgressions of the party



constitution and anti-democratic tendencies.



Electorate Tuning Out



5. (C) The usual fanfare that has proceeded past elections

in Zimbabwe is conspicuously absent. The cities are largely

devoid of posters and the state media has reported only a

handful of rallies by ZANU-PF candidates. The majority of

voters seem apathetic about these elections and therefore all

the more likely to heed Tsvangirai,s call for a boycott.

The result is therefore likely to be a sweeping, but hollow,

ZANU-PF victory. That said, and despite the low turnout, it

is possible that some of the &MDC8 candidates could win,

especially in opposition strongholds of Matabeleland South

and North, where, as one participation-minded MDC MP told

poloff, the electorate instinctively votes against the

government come election time. It is also possible that

ZANU-PF, sensing an opportunity to further divide the

opposition, may allow some of them to win seats.



Next Steps for the MDC



6. (C) The intra-MDC debate over participation in the Senate

election has highlighted long-standing divisions within the

MDC leadership and has threatened to split the main

opposition party. The fates of the 26 candidates come ballot

day, however, are likely only to move the opposition into a

new phase of intra-party competition, not to conclude it.

Reflecting conventional wisdom here, former MDC mediator

Brian Raftopolous told the Charge on November 23 that

“divorce” seemed likely, but Ncube’s faction might survive

initially as a regional MDC rump that would be able to

reassess its options ) including reconciliation — in the

run-up to and in the wake of next year’s Party Congress.

That said, the challenge for Tsvangirai and the wider

opposition remains to prove their continued relevance to a

population that has been shell-shocked by economic decline

and government repression.



Observation Efforts



7. (C) The Charge has been meeting regularly with other

like-minded Chiefs of Mission to discuss election coverage.

Commensurate with the election’s relative insignificance, the

international community is mounting only a limited

observation campaign. Post will send one accredited officer

and staff to observe the Gutu North parliamentary by-election

) a seat that ZANU-PF is likely to retain because of a weak

MDC candidate and the rural area,s traditional allegiance to

the ruling party. Two unaccredited officers, accompanied by

an Australian diplomat and staff will be surveying Bulawayo,

where there is the most potential for election day violence.

Two unaccredited officers and staff will monitor events in

Harare. The Japanese mission indicated it might also have

one officer join us in observing Harare. The British mission

will be mounting an observation effort similar to ours.


8. (C) According to SADC member diplomats here, SADC organs

are sitting this election out and the issue of SADC electoral

guidelines, a prominent feature of the March parliamentary

elections have been notable for their absence this time

around. Counterparts at the South African and Namibian

Embassies told us November 21 that some of their Harare-based

diplomats would observe. According to a contact at the

Japanese Embassy, the Chinese Ambassador to Harare reported

that Beijing requested that the GOZ not invite China to

observe. For its part, the domestic monitoring organization

ZESN has denounced the elections as a fraud and will field

only ten observer teams, canvassing Gutu North, Harare, and

eight races in Matabeleland.






9. (C) At the last meeting of like-minded Chiefs of Mission,

the Australian and British Ambassadors indicated that their

governments were likely to issue statements condemning the

elections. The EU representatives were split. Post

recommends that Washington also issue a statement along the

following lines:


— Zimbabwe’s Senate elections did not advance the cause of

democracy in Zimbabwe.


— The electoral climate in Zimbabwe is still dramatically

tilted in favor of the ruling ZANU-PF party. There have been

no reforms made since the fraudulent March parliamentary



— Many of the seats were uncontested and President Mugabe

appointed still others. As a result, ZANU-PF had won a

majority in the Senate before the election was ever held.


— The political opposition opposed the creation of the

Senate as an exercise in government patronage rather than an

exercise of the popular will.


— The (expected/apparent) low turn-out further undermines

the legitimacy of the Senate.


— Zimbabwe’s multi-faceted crises demand not an expensive

new political institution but restored rule of law,

responsible economic policies, and genuine political dialogue

between the major parties and civil society.


— We urge the Government of Zimbabwe once again to establish

a political and economic framework that can restore the

country’s prosperity and hope.




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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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