Tsvangirai said Mnangagwa was a spent force


Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Emmerson Mnangagwa was a spent force and if the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front lost the elections, President Robert Mugabe would be asked to step down.

He was talking to United States embassy officials in the run-up to the 2005 elections which he said his party would win. ZANU-PF won instead with a two-thirds majority.

Tsvangirai said if Mugabe was forced to step down the party would fragment to become no more than a political vehicle for Mashonaland areas because the party had no one strong enough to unite its membership.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2005-03-28 12:34

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.


281234Z Mar 05

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000469







E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010





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


1. (C) SUMMARY: During a dinner at the Residence on March

24, MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai confidently predicted to

the Ambassador and a visiting Congressional staff delegation

that his party would win a majority of the contested seats in

the March 31 parliamentary election. Tsvangirai said ZANU-PF

was flagrantly manipulating local chiefs and the food issue.

Nonetheless, under pressure from abroad the ruling party had

opened up some space for his party, which they had used to

seize the momentum, even in rural areas. Tsvangirai expected

the ruling party to be receptive to negotiations in the wake

of its weak showing and asserted that the MDC would be ready

to discuss everything except a government of national unity,

which he said would be “political suicide” for himself and

the MDC. He promised to coordinate closely with the USG

after the election. END SUMMARY.



ZANU-PF Will Cheat



2. (C) Tsvangirai said that although the campaign had been

largely non-violent to date, ZANU-PF was still attempting to

win the election by intimidating the electorate. In rural

areas, the ruling party was for instance co-opting

traditional chiefs and using them to pressure voters.   It

was also cynically exploiting distribution of the country’s

meager remaining food reserves.   ZANU-PF operatives

frequently disrupted MDC rallies by distributing maize at

adjacent locations.   The police and CIO were being widely

deployed in plainclothes to play an intimidating, though to

date largely non-violent role and were continuing to harass

candidates and activists. MDC MP Trudy Stephenson had been

arrested (and quickly released) in the past week for handing

out flyers at an intersection. Finally, he noted that the

voter rolls were fraught with problems, which he thought

would cause particular problems in areas of

resettled/displaced populations.



But the MDC Will Still Win



3. (C) Tsvangirai said ZANU-PF cheating would not be enough

to win this election. The MDC was training its supporters to

“defend the vote” and would deploy four polling agents to

each of the nation’s 8,000-plus polling stations to guard

against election-day fraud. However, more important was the

snowballing enthusiasm for the MDC. A contagion of hope was

rapidly denting the electoral apathy of just months ago.

Large and animated MDC rallies throughout the country had

convinced him that the party was on the verge of a

significant national victory.


4. (C) Tsvagirai said people across the country were stunned

to see these huge crowds cheering him and other MDC speakers

at rallies in former &no-go8 areas, such as Mutoko and

Guruve in the heart of Mashonaland. Party leaders such as

Secretary for Economic Affairs Tendai Biti were impressing



the electorate in unprecedented media exposure, and ZANU-PF

was doing little to counteract the MDC’s public message.

Tsvangirai said economic decline and ZANU-PF factionalism



continued to sap ruling party support. Evidencing the

election’s shifting tide, Tsvangirai noted that 900 of 1,000

ebullient MDC supporters at a recent rally in Beitbridge (for

a seat held by the incumbent Home Affairs Minister) admitted

to voting ZANU-PF in 2000.


5. (C) Tsvagirai said that despite the MDC,s momentum, he

did not expect a spike in violence in the election,s last

week. He suspected that Mugabe was not fully aware of the

MDC’s sudden rise in fortunes, and had thus not deployed

sufficient government and party machinery to assure ZANU-PF

victory. In any event, the deployment of security forces to

assure a ZANU-PF victory at this late date would be easily

exposed and would thoroughly undermine ZANU-PF’s strategy of

using ostensible implementation of SADC election principles

to legitimize its rule. Moreover, the police were not as

disruptive as in the past, in part because police

sympathizers were feeding MDC campaign staff information.


Previewing the Election and its Aftermath



6. (C) Tsvangirai said winning 80-85 seats was the MDC’s

best-case scenario, and that taking only 61 (a majority of

120 contested seats, not including the 30 seats appointed by

Mugabe) would represent a “total fraud.” However, the lesser

figure still would undermine the government’s legitimacy by

any definition of democracy even if the Constitution gave

Mugabe’s party control of the government. A total of 76

would give the MDC the power to thwart any legislation and

effectively produce a “constitutional crisis.” He predicted

that the ruling party would be ready to negotiate in either



7. (C) Tsvangirai offered no timeline for such negotiations

but said “much work” had already been done on constitutional

amendments, which would be a good departure point. In that

regard, he dismissed Mugabe’s recent proposal for a senate,

and predicted agreement on a new parliament built on a

combination of proportional representation and

“first-past-the-post” seats, with abolition of the 30

presidentially-appointed seats.


8. (C) Tsvangirai said that “everything” except a government

of national unity would be on the table from the MDC’s

perspective in inter-party negotiations. He suspected that

the South African Government favored a GNU, but given the

historical example of ZAPU’s absorption by ZANU-PF in the

1980s and current domestic political dynamics, a GNU would be

“political suicide” for Tsvangirai and his party. Charting a

course for Mugabe’s departure, presumably with a “soft

landing”, would likely be a key MDC negotiating objective.

In that regard, Tsvangirai anticipated Mugabe’s strategy

would revolve around “giving Vice-President Joyce Mujuru

space”, i.e., effectively passing the reins to her for an

extended period during which the Zezuru clan faction within

ZANU-PF could further consolidate its control of the party.



Need for Coordination



9. (C) The opposition leader said his party was still

working on a “Plan B” should the election results prove

completely fraudulent but offered no details. The Ambassador

stressed the need to coordinate on press statements and other

measures in the wake of the election in any event.

Tsvangirai agreed that it would be useful to have a USG



statement as soon as possible after the announcement of

election results so as to set the terms of evaluation by

other key players who might be inclined to blessing a flawed

election, most notably South Africa and some in the EU.



On ZANU-PF,s Future



10. (C) If the election went badly enough for ZANU-PF,

Tsvangirai said Mugabe could face calls from within his own



party to step aside. The party had no leader strong enough

to unite its membership without Mugabe. Eventually, the

party would fragment sufficiently to become no more than a

political vehicle for Mashonaland areas where ethnic Zezurus

predominated. Former Mugabe heir apparent and Parliamentary

Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa was a “spent force”, and the

alienation of his wide network of influential allies was

contributing to the MDC’s rapid rise. The demoted Karanga

clique leader could yet marshal “a third force” – but not for




On the Military



11. (C) On the Ambassador’s inquiry, Tsvangirai asserted

that the military would not stand in the way of an MDC

victory. The military leadership appreciated that the

election was a potential step toward needed change and not an

event that would change the government by itself. Further,

he speculated that retired General Solomon Mujuru, ascendant

in the dominant Old Guard ethnic Zezuru faction, would be

inclined to support inter-party negotiations after the




On South Africa …



12. (C) As for the South African Government, Tsvangirai said

it was seeing that the story on the ground was not as ZANU-PF

had depicted it. He expressed concern that the SAG

nonetheless was intent on blessing what was a flawed process

but noted that the SAG and SADC observer missions had diverse

compositions. He thought that the SAG would be most

satisfied with an election that gave the MDC a significant

presence but did not give it power. It had supported

dialogue in the context of constitutional negotiations and

could be expected to continue to do so. Mbeki would have a

potentially important role in facilitating post-election

inter-party dialogue.



… And Labor



13. (C) Tsvangirai observed that Zimbabwe’s labor movement,

over which he presided before the MDC was formed, was

absorbed with its own problems. Although the dominant

Zimbabwe Confederation of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was largely

supportive of the MDC, the movement was “confused” in

addressing its difficult political situation. Some in the

leadership worried about the consequences of being portrayed

as “too MDC” and so sometimes pushed the movement into

accommodating positions with the GOZ. It had been further

decimated by economic conditions. Nonetheless, labor

remained very important to the MDC and an MDC victory would

significantly strengthen its hand.






14. (C) Even 51 seats would be an extraordinary achievement

for the MDC given this steeply tilted playing field and five

years of relentless pressure from a Mugabe determined to

eliminate it from Zimbabwean politics. This outcome would

give the opposition representation sufficient to block

ZANU-PF’s high priority plans for a new constitution. We are

not as confident as Tsvangirai that ZANU-PF will be prepared

to negotiate meaningfully after elections in any event nor

can we fully share his optimism on the outcome. While there

is little doubt that Tsvangirai is reading the public mood

correctly, even he may understimate ZANU-PF’s willingness to

resort to fraud to skew the results, and Tsvangirai has a

history of excessive optimism about his party’s prospects.

That said, we agree with him that broad, resolute

international pressure will be the key to helping Zimbabwe

make the most of this potential opportunity to jump start the

beginning of the end-game for R. G. Mugabe.



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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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