Tsvangirai said ZANU-PF confidence was misplaced


Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that recent moves by the government to open up the political space reflected the growing confidence within the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front that it would win the 2005 elections.

“The more confident ZANU-PF became the more space they would allow the MDC in the run-up to the elections,” Tsvangirai said but added. ”However, the government’s current confidence was misplaced.”

He said the government remained deeply unpopular and would lose a free and fair election.

Ed: It turned out that ZANU-PF’s confidence was justified. The party won a two-thirds majority and the MDC lost 16 seats that it won in 2000. The government allowed even greater freedom in the 2008 elections but this time its confidence was misplaced. It lost to the MDC but managed to salvage itself and remain in government.

Full cable:



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Reference ID






2004-09-23 14:31

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.


231431Z Sep 04

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001593




E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/22/2014







AND 1.5 (D)


1. (C) Summary: The Ambassador and DCM met

September 17 with Movement for Democratic Change

(MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who said that the

GOZ was making cosmetic changes in the face of

internal and external pressure but that the

situation on the ground had yet to change and

until it did the MDC would hold to its threat to

boycott the elections. He added that the government

remained deeply unpopular, would lose a genuinely

free and fair election, and faced the prospect of

continuing and potentially more radical opposition

should it steal another election. The Ambassador

asked what more we could do to help. Tsvangirai

said the West needed to keep the pressure on SADC

in turn to put pressure on Mugabe. Separately, he

confirmed that a verdict in his treason trial was

now due October 15, and speculated that he might

be found not guilty because the GOZ might seek to

avoid controversy. End Summary.



Election Strategy



2. (C) Tsvangirai said the MDC,s approach for the

coming elections was to hope for the best but plan

for the worst. The party faithful supported the

boycott plan as a way to put pressure on the

government to make real changes. The dilemma for

the MDC remained whether to participate in rigged

elections, when doing so would allow the government

to claim the elections were fair. On the other hand,

any positive changes that the government made at

this point would be seen as a win for the MDC,

regardless of whether in response to pressure from

the South African Development Council (SADC), and if

sufficient could lay the ground for MDC participation

in the elections.


3. (C) Tsvangirai acknowledged the government had

recently made some cosmetic efforts to allow the

MDC more space, including allowing three campaign

meetings to be held, but he said the reality on the

ground was still intimidation and bribery, especially

in rural areas. Government militias in the rural areas

had taken off their uniforms and blended back into the

populace but were still there, observing, and everyone

knew who they were )- which was more than enough to

intimidate the rural populace. The result was that

opposition activity remained muted in these areas.

In addition, the regime was buying off the local chiefs,

further ensuring that ZANU-PF would sweep the rural

areas in next spring,s parliamentary elections.

In addition, the GOZ was busy gerrymandering districts,

especially in rural areas, to further ensure a ruling

party victory.


4. (C) The Ambassador asked whether land reform couldn,t

be turned against Mugabe in rural areas by arguing that

racial justice aside, it had been botched and had

devastated the economy. Without really addressing how

the MDC might capitalize on this issue, Tsvangari said

land reform was equated in many Zimbabwean,s minds with

hunger. In fact, the litany of woes for most Zimbabweans:

economic collapse, rising crime, and deteriorating

education and health systems, ensured that the elections

would be competitive. Even if ZANU-PF won, these issues

would not go away and would fuel continuing opposition.


5. (C) Tsvangari said the recent moves by the government

reflected their growing confidence. The more confident

ZANU-PF became the more space they would allow the MDC in

the run-up to the elections. However, the government,s

current confidence was misplaced. The regime remained

deeply unpopular and would lose a free and fair election.

The government might get another rude shock this spring

as the results rolled in. The three campaign meetings

he had attended, in Bulawayo, Gweru, and Harare, had all

been well attended and the participants enthusiastic.


6. (C) Tsvangirai said his deepest concern in the event

of another stolen election was that the Zimbabwean people

would lose hope that things would ever change and would

respond either with massive emigration or rising violence

or both. Tsvangirai said he was already having difficulty

convincing some in his party to continue non-violent

opposition. Some day soon, he might find himself pushed

to the side by more radical elements.






7. (C) The Ambassador noted that the U.S. had a

difficult line to walk with respect to Zimbabwe.

If we pushed too hard on the elections, it could be

counter-productive for the MDC since Mugabe was so adroit

at turning that support into rhetoric about race and

colonialism. He asked what additional steps the U.S.

and the West in general could take to put pressure on the

regime. Tsvangirai agreed that the role of the U.S., UK,

and other non-African countries was tricky and that our

approach would have to crafted carefully to avoid playing

into Mugabe,s hands. He argued that regional pressure

from SADC remained key.


8. (C) The Ambassador said we were unsure whether SADC

would really pressure ZANU-PF as there was little evidence

to suggest such willingness. Tsvangirai agreed, noting

that South African President Mbeki,s preferred outcome

would be a &fairly8 free election that kept Mugabe

and ZANU-PF in power, restored their legitimacy,

and muted Western pressure and criticism. Tsvangirai

said an MDC delegation was due to travel to South

Africa the following week to meet with Mbeki; he

promised a readout of the meeting (septel). That said,

the goal for both the MDC and the West should

be to put the burden on SADC to enforce the principles

they agreed to in Mauritius.



Trial Verdict



9. (C) The Ambassador mentioned to Tsvangirai that we

had heard from his lawyers (septel) that there would be

a verdict in his treason trial on October 15 and asked

what outcome he expected. Tsvangirai said the timing of

the decision was curious. October 15 was a Friday, which

would not leave any time for the government to find him

guilty but then grant him clemency before the weekend,

the outcome he had expected in August. For that reason,

he and his lawyers were beginning to think the court might

find him not guilty. He speculated that the GOZ might be

hoping to avoid controversy and present a &nice face8 to

the outside world.






10. (C) Tsvangirai confirmed other reports we have heard

that the GOZ and ZANU-PF, confident that they,ve got

the election in the bag, may be easing up a bit on the

MDC. The motivation is almost certainly to give SADC

and other regional leaders enough evidence to back the

election results. For his part, Tsvangirai appears

confused and somewhat unrealistic in his own analysis.

He continues to hope that somehow enough outside

pressure can be generated to constrain ZANU-PF,s

electoral antics even as he admits this is highly unlikely.




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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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