Tsvangirai cancelled trip to Washington to avoid being labelled Bush’s boy


Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai cancelled a planned trip to Washington just before the 2005 parliamentary elections to stop the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front from making political capital out of the visit by accusing him of running off to Washington “to get orders from Bush”.

Tsvangirai was confident the party would win the elections because of the opening up of the political space but if it did not win, the party would paint the elections as having been inherently unfair.

The MDC would say it had only participated out of deference to the wishes of its supporters and that neither the party, the region or the international community should recognise another illegitimate election.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2005-02-04 11:11

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 000180







E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2009





Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d


1. (C) SUMMARY: MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai told the

Ambassador on February 2 that he needed to stay in Zimbabwe

to focus on the upcoming parliamentary elections instead of

traveling to the United States and Canada next week as

earlier planned. Tsvangirai was optimistic about the party’s

chances as it prepared to re-enter the campaign arena with

resurgent energy. He said that the party was exploiting new

campaign space and a surprisingly tolerant posture by the

police. The party would redouble its outreach to civil

society, with which it continued to have differences. END



Washington Trip Off



2. (C) During a meeting at the Residence, Tsvangirai said

the press of election-related business and the fact that key

Administration officials would be out of town, especially the

Secretary, had led him to defer his planned trip to New York



and Washington. He added that the visit might be more

appropriate after the election in any eventsince the

government would almost certainly have tried to make

political capital out of a visit at this time by accusing him

of running off to Washington “to get orders from Bush” the

minute elections were called.


Plan A: Win the Election



3. (C) Emerging from the first day of a two-day meeting of

the MDC’s national executive to discuss the election, an

upbeat Tsvangirai described intra-party atmospherics as

uplifting. The party had finished candidate selection for

the parliamentary races with little of the rancor associated

with ZANU-PF’s primary process. Tsvangirai would not

forecast the party’s likely seat count in the election, which

has been set for March 31, but said the MDC would “win.” He

quickly sketched MDC prospects across the country. He

predicted that the MDC would hold its seats in Harare and

Bulawayo, excluding the three seats recently gerry-mandered

out; would increase its representation Manicaland and

Masvingo; would win most urban seats and possibly a couple of

rural ones in Midlands, and Mashonaland East, West and

Central. Elaborating on campaign priorities, Tsvangirai said

sitting urban MPs were essentially on their own. The party

leadership, including Tsvangirai, would focus its energies

principally on marginal constituencies. Unlike their ZANU-PF

counterparts, MDC MPs had little to deliver their

constituencies in terms of basic wants, and would have to

rely in many cases on “basic minimum social interventions”

and show a strong physical presence in their districts.


4. (C) Tsvangirai was optimistic that the party would be

able to exploit growing political space. He was encouraged

by the numbers and enthusiasm he was seeing at rallies

throughout the country. The impending reinstatement of the

Daily News and access to Zimbabwe television in March would

prove decisive in overcoming voter apathy and getting out the

vote. (Note: Rumors are flying that the GOZ will permit

resumed operations by The Daily News, the daily independent

shut down by the GOZ in 2003, upon the issuance of an

expected Supreme Court decision in the paper’s favor on

February 7. End Note.) The police’s increasingly

constructive posture was potentially pivotal; he noted that

police leadership had approached the party leadership to

coordinate security, including in some rural areas. Local

party structures were effectively using Police Commissioner

Chihuri’s publicized statements insisting on tolerance and

non-violence in resisting customary local ruling party

efforts to forcibly conscript people for party rallies. He

reported that local ZANU-PF structures in some areas were

challenged by their leadership’s public directives on

non-violence and were pleading the leadership to be unleashed

if the party wanted to win. Tsvangirai concluded that the

overconfident ZANU-PF leadership had lost its base and was in

a dilemma that it might not fully appreciate as to the

pivotal role played by fear in its control over the country.

He added that the MDC would structure its campaign so as to

keep ZANU-PF complacent. There would be no mass rallies this

time around that could alert the ruling party to the MDC,s

popularity and that might provoke violence or fraud.


5. (C) Tsvangirai said that the MDC would run on a platform

built on the need for change. Rule of law, human rights,

land use, education, housing, jobs, economic reconstruction

would all be issues but the main theme would be the need to

end the &criminality8 of ZANU-PF rule. He added that in

the event the MDC won a majority in parliament it would in

essence make the country ungovernable in order to drive

President Mugabe from power. Its first order of business

would be to repeal repressive legislation such as POSA,

AIPPA, and the NGO bill. He said that under the Zimbabwe

constitution, the president could only veto a bill twice, if

parliament subsequently passed the bill again, it would

become law after 60 days. Finally, he noted that an MDC

majority in parliament would also work to amend the

constitution to remove the president,s power to name the

government without parliamentary approval.


Plan B: a Little Vague



6. (C) According to Tsvangirai, the party had been working

on a “Plan B” if the election results proved untenable. The

main ideas were to paint the elections as having been

inherently unfair, that the MDC had only participated out of

deference to the wishes of its supporters, and that neither

the party, the region, or the international community should

recognize another illegitimate election. The party would

also maintain pressure on the regime by keeping its

supporters motivated and it would use whatever foothold it

retained in Parliament to obstruct the ruling party’s

legislative and constitutional plans.


Skepticism on Civil Society, South Africa



7. (C) On the Ambassador’s inquiry, the MDC leader reported

that he would be meeting within the next few days with ZCTU

and civil society figures to discuss strategies. He

acknowledged continued differences with some, notably

Lovemore Madhuku’s National Constitutional Assembly, and was

dismissive of others, but said they “were coming around.”


8. (C) Turning to South Africa, Tsvangirai asserted that the

ANC leadership had gradually shifted away from ZANU-PF. He

worried, nonetheless, that the spy scandal had weakened

Mbeki’s hand and the Mugabe would more freely snub him and

SAG efforts.


Coltart’s Take



9. (C) During a meeting at the Embassy earlier in the day,

MDC Shadow Minister of Justice David Coltart told the

Ambassador that party spirits were indeed high as it prepared

to re-enter the race officially. He said that he had not

seen such numbers at his own rallies in a long time and party

structures were stronger and better organized than ever

before. The regime was fragile, and would be susceptible to

breakdown given the right spark. Its recent purge of “Young

Turks” left the ruling party with even fewer capable leaders,

exacerbating its problems in managing the Parliament and

policy agendas.


10. (C) Nonetheless, he predicted that the party would win

only 25 seats in the election because of various forms of

ruling party rigging. He said intimidation and official

harassment continued to be impediments for MDC candidates, as

reflected by the detentions of MDC MPs Chamisa and Thuke in

recent weeks. (Note: Each was released within 24 hours, as

is customary in such cases. End note.) Coltart emphasized

the importance of international pressure on Zimbabwe, and in

that vein complimented the President’s and Secretary Rice’s

recent public remarks about the need to confront tyranny. He

stressed the pivotal role of USG assistance in the survival

of democratic forces and civil society in Zimbabwe but

expressed concern that the strong messages coming from

Washington would be offset by shrinking resources for

democratic forces in Zimbabwe.





11. (C) The MDC is re-energized by the continued opening of

campaign space, by the surprisingly tolerant posture of the

police, and by the prospects for more media coverage. Many

MDC leaders are genuinely optimistic about their prospects in

this election, even as they are preparing the groundwork for

protests should they lose. The MDC’s February 3 official

announcement that it would participate in elections (e-mailed

to AF/S) echoed Coltart’s dismal assessment of Zimbabwe’s

election environment and was at odds with Tsvangirai’s more

upbeat appraisal. It was, however, consistent with MDC plans

to protest the tilted playing field in the event of electoral

defeat. That said, the biggest obstacle to their electoral

prospects may not be renewed violence or fraud on the part of

the ruling party. Rather, it may be their inability to

articulate a clear message of how an MDC parliament will make

people,s lives better and thereby energize an otherwise

passive, already intimidated electorate. Tsvangirai offered

few details of the MDC,s platform or its positive message.

Instead, 50 days before the election, one has the sense that

he believes the election will be a referendum on ZANU-PF

misrule and that the MDC has only to call attention to that

misrule to win.



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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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