Squabbles galore in ZANU-PF but….


Factional squabbles were rampant within the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front but there was no support anywhere in the party for meaningful alteration of a rulebook that assured their party of electoral triumph.

This was said eight years ago by United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan when the government introduced electoral reforms ahead of the 2005 elections.

Sullivan said the changes appeared to be attempts to project a more level political playing field without jeopardising the party’s absolute grip on power in the run-up to the 2005 elections.

“This modest effort is geared to advance the party’s modest charm offensive with a long-term view to rehabilitating its international image, but not at any expense of its overarching objective to remain in power,” the ambassador said.

ZANU-PF legislator Simba Mudarikwa described the party as badly fractured. It was like a stick of TNT, susceptible to ignition and disintegration.

He said ZANU-PF was holding together because of the threat of MDC-T and foreign pressure and likened the party to a troop of baboons incessantly fighting among themselves, but coming together to face an external threat.


Full cable:


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Reference ID






2004-06-29 13:55

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 02 HARARE 001067










E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/29/2009






Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5 b/d


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Electoral law changes proposed by the

ruling party last week appear to be attempts to project a

more level political playing field without jeopardizing the

party’s absolute grip on power in the run-up to next March’s

scheduled parliamentary elections. The proposals provide for

a new electoral commission that would still be controlled by

the President and changes to certain technical aspects of

election administration. They would do nothing to alter

media controls, patterns of political violence, suppression

of freedoms of association/assembly, or heavy restrictions of

political campaigning by the MDC.


2. (U) The official “Herald” reported on June 26 that the

politburo had approved on June 25 proposals submitted by

Minister for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Patrick

Chinamasa for revision of the nation’s electoral laws and

processes. The proposals included the composition of a new

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that would be “publicly funded

and accountable to Parliament but independent of Government.”

However, its chief electoral officer and five commissioners

would be appointed by the President — the chairman in

consultation with the Judicial Services Commission and the

four other commissioners from a list of seven names submitted

by Parliament. The Commission would supervise voter

registration; organize and conduct presidential,

parliamentary, and council elections; and be reponsible for

accrediting observers. The article noted also that it would

“monitor the organization and operation of all political

parties, including their finances.” It would hire its own



3. (U) It remains unclear the extent to which the proposal

would affect the four agencies involved in election

administration: the Registrar-General, The Electoral

Supervisory Commission, the Delimitation Commission, and the

Election Directorate. The official press reported that the

Registrar-General’s role would be significantly reduced but

it would continue to conduct voter registration, and the the

Delimitation Commission would continue its functions. An “ad

hoc court” would be established to address any disputes

arising from an election within six months. The proposal

reportedly included a host of changes to technical aspects of

election administration, many apparently designed to

streamline the voting process at polling stations. The

number of polling centers would increase, the use of mobile

polling stations would cease, translucent ballot boxes would

be used, and elections would be conducted in one day.


4. (U) Nothing is suggested to abolish the Public Order and

Security Act (POSA) or Access to Information and Protection

of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which have been the principal means

to prevent oppostiion political activity and to shut down

independent press. Repeal of these repressive laws was a key

element of MDC demands for election reform.


5. (SBU) NGO contacts advise that that the ruling party

consulted with some members of civil society in formulating

its program. However, it did not appear to consult formally

with the MDC nor did it go back the UN to pick up on its

standing offer to help in electoral reform and to prepare

election conditions. The opposition MDC has not responded

officially to the proposals yet, although the independent

“Standard” newspaper quoted MDC Secretary-General Welshman

Ncube as claiming the proposed reforms represented the fruit

of MDC pressure domestically and abroad. He reportedly

asserted that the reforms met many of the party’s demands but

that the opposition would resist appointment of the

commission chairman by the President.


6. (C) MDC MP Silas Mangono told poloff June 28 that the MDC

would take some time to put together a formal vetted response

and cautioned that any individual member reactions should not

be taken as a party response. He forecast that the proposal

would probably be introduced into parliament in July

(confirming UNDP Resrep information; ref B) and passed within

a month. He expected that the MDC delegation would offer

amendments in an effort to beef the proposals up but that

ZANU-PF was unlikely to budge on anything more than

non-substantive changes. He concluded that the changes would

do little to cut into ZANU-PF’s decisive advantage in the

run-up to the March elections but that the MDC would have

little choice but to go along. He conceded the possibility

raised by some parliamentary observers that the election

could be pushed back as late as June to permit passage and

implementation of the proposals.


7. (C) COMMENT: The ruling party is not complacent over

recent by-election victories in Lupane and Zengeza, and the

politburo’s attention to minute details of election

administration underscores the party’s obsession with the

March elections. As politburo member and ZANU-PF “moderate”

Simba Makoni confided to the Ambassador June 18 (ref A), the

party will be careful not place their election “reforms” onto

a slippery slope. Factions squabble over power within

ZANU-PF but there is no support anywhere in the ruling party

for meaningful alteration of a rulebook that assures their

collective electoral triumph. This modest effort is geared

to advance the party’s modest charm offensive with a

long-term view to rehabilitating its international image (ref

B), but not at any expense of its overarching objective to

remain in power.


8. (U) COMMENT (CONT’D): ZANU-PF further tipped its hand in

early state media coverage by blasting the SADC-Parliamentary

Forum, which had prepared electoral norms and standards and

criticized Zimbabwe’s 2002 elections, as donor-funded and

directed. Dismissing SADC-PF, the state media claimed that

SADC member states were circulating their own draft election

standards in advance of the August SADC Summit in Mauritius.


9. (C) COMMENT (CONT’D): The reforms present a tactical

dilemma for the opposition. The proposals borrow from some

of the MDC’s list of electoral demands (originally circulated

as 15 but pared back to five). As such, GOZ propagandists

and diplomats can be expected to present them to domestic and

international audiences as evidence of ruling party “good

will” and “compromise.” The MDC leadership recognizes the

reforms for what they are, but will be loath to reject them

out of hand for fear of giving the official press and Mugabe

apologists in the region a pretext to marginalize the

opposition as “obstructionist.” The reforms and the party’s

posture toward them are unlikely to arrest the continued

slide in the MDC’s political fortunes.



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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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