Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai said there was no room for life presidents in Zimbabwe and promised to step down as party leader after Zimbabweans liberated themselves from the current dictatorship.
He was addressing the party’s congress after the split of 2005 where he was unanimously elected president.
Tsvangirai said the MDC’s agenda was to complete the liberation struggle that Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front leader Robert Mugabe had hijacked from the people and used to justify his rule for life.
“The dictator must brace himself for a long, bustling winter across the country…A storm is on the horizon,” he said.
Viewing cable 06HARARE355, CONGRESS REAFFIRMS TSVANGIRAI’S GRASSROOTS
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 000355
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/21/2015
SUBJECT: CONGRESS REAFFIRMS TSVANGIRAI’S GRASSROOTS
SUPPORT, CHARTS CONFRONTATIONAL COURSE
REF: A. REF A: HARARE 321
¶B. REF B: HARARE 319
¶C. REF C: HARARE 263
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Eric T. Schultz under Section 1
¶1. (C) Despite GOZ pressure, an estimated 15,000
enthusiastic delegates, many of whom traveled at their own
expense, attended the MDC anti-Senate faction’s Congress on
March 17-19 and reaffirmed their support for Morgan
Tsvangirai, who was unanimously reelected president. MPs
Thokozani Khupe and Tendai Biti were elected to the key
positions of vice president and secretary general,
respectively. Although he had yet to return to Zimbabwe,
former-MP Roy Bennett was unanimously appointed as treasurer.
¶2. (C) In his acceptance speech, Tsvangirai called for
greater confrontation against ZANU-PF. The party also
amended the constitution to prevent another split, weakening
some leadership positions and creating new decision-making
mechanisms. In contrast to the pro-Senate MDC Congress,
civil society and the grassroots structures turned out in
droves to support Tsvangirai and his party. End Summary.
Despite GOZ Harassment(
¶3. (C) The anti-Senate faction of the MDC held its second
National Congress March 17-19 despite stepped up GOZ
intimidation of key opposition leaders in the week prior. In
addition to the arms cache seizure and associated arrests,
the GOZ briefly detained two other MDC MPs on putative Public
Order and Security Act (POSA) infractions (ref B): Tapiwa
Mashakada was detained for addressing a political rally and
Timothy Mubhawu was charged with insulting the president.
During the Congress, however, uniformed police were not to be
seen, although there were allegations that CIO agents
attempted to disrupt the proceedings.
¶4. (C) Also arrested a day before the Congress was the fiery
trade unionist Raymond Majongwe. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights member Jacob Mafume on March 19 told poloff that no
charges had yet been filed against Majongwe and that his
arrest appeared to be intended to keep the union leader away
from the Congress.
(Congress Reaffirms Tsvangirai, Elects Management Team
¶5. (SBU) Morgan Tsvangirai’s Presidency of the anti-Senate
faction of the MDC was reelected unanimously without
opposition. Isaac Matongo also retained his position as
national chairperson, although a constitutional amendment
stripped the position of most powers in response to criticism
that Matongo had wielded power improperly in the past.
Despite his continued absence from Zimbabwe, former MP Roy
Bennett was unanimously elected as treasurer.
¶6. (SBU) The Congress introduced a “one-man-one-vote”
process and did away with past practice that allowed
provincial chairpersons to elect key officers. National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku, who
essentially ran the second day of the Congress, spearheaded
HARARE 00000355 002 OF 004
this reform, which was adopted partly in response to
allegations of vote-buying at the provincial level. To
correct for the overrepresentation of some provinces at the
Congress, organizers proportioned the number of ballots to
the number of wards in each province. NCA and other civil
society representatives acted as “independent election
observers” that managed the process.
¶7. (U) In the closest vote of the Congress, Bulawayo MP and
former trade unionist Thokozani Khupe won the Vice Presidency
over National Executive Council member Getrude Mthombeni.
Harare MP Tendai Biti was elected secretary general over
Mashakada, who was later elected deputy secretary general.
Ousted Harare Mayor Elias Mudzuri was elevated to the
powerful new post of organizing secretary, which received
most of the authority transferred from the national chairman.
Others winning positions were Matabeleland North party
chairperson Mogen Komichi (deputy organizing secretary),
Matabeleland South MP Lovemore Moyo (deputy national
chairperson) and former youth chairman Nelson Chamisa
Turning Up the Heat on ZANU-PF
¶8. (U) Addressing the Congress, Tsvangirai declared that the
MDC’s agenda was to complete the liberation struggle that
Mugabe had hijacked from the people and used to justify his
rule for life. Saying that a new Zimbabwe would have no room
for life presidents, he promised to step down as President of
the MDC after Zimbabweans had liberated themselves from the
¶9. (U) Tsvangirai said the anti-Senate MDC would organize
mass civil action in the coming months. Rigged elections
could not be the sole arena of resistance and the courts had
only limited usefulness. &The dictator must brace himself
for a long, bustling winter across the country…A storm is
on the horizon.8 Many of the civil society solidarity
messages echoed these sentiments, saying it was up to
Zimbabweans to work to change their own country.
¶10. (C) Elaborating on the civic action plan, Tsvangirai
adviser and newly designated member of the National Executive
Eddie Cross told poloffs that the opposition would form a
united front with civil society to carry out this program.
The plan of action would be decided at a civil society summit
organized with the NCA and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions (ZCTU) to be held in early April (Ref A). All of
civil society, including churches, unions, and student
organizations, would participate. Organizers of the summit
had also invited the pro-Senate faction of the MDC, though
Cross questioned that faction’s commitment to a
¶11. (C) According to Cross, the “mass action” campaign would
begin in the churches on Easter, and then in May massive
national demonstrations would begin. The MDC and civil
society would muster hundreds of thousands of people for the
demonstrations, whose aim would be to shut down those cities
with GOZ-appointed managing committees.
¶12. (C) Cross said Mutare North MP and member of
Parliament’s defense committee Giles Mutsekwa had reached out
to mid-level soldiers who confirmed that the army was largely
disenchanted with the regime and would stand aside if
confronted with massive demonstrations. The police, though
more politicized than the army, would also allow the
protests. If the security forces stood by while tens of
HARARE 00000355 003 OF 004
thousands of people at a time demonstrated, Cross said it
would signal the end of the regime.
Amending Constitution To Prevent Another Split
¶13. (U) The MDC Congress adopted a series of amendments to
the party constitution that according to chief architect
Tendai Biti were designed to prevent a recurrence of “October
12″ ) the date of the National Council meeting last year
that triggered the current split. Biti said the amendments
were designed to make the party both more democratic and more
disciplined. They confirmed the powers of the president as
the leader and chief principal officer of the party while
diluting the authority of the secretary general and national
chairperson. However, the new constitution also increased
the authority of the National Council, allowing it to change
and formulate new policies as well as amend decisions made by
the National Executive.
¶14. (C) The new constitution also created External
Assemblies as a means to tap into the political expertise and
financial backing of Zimbabweans living abroad. Such
Assemblies in certain countries ) Biti suggested that South
Africa, the UK, and US would each have an Assembly ) would
be granted the same powers as provinces. (N.B. The diaspora
is a huge but untapped source of potential MDC support.
Eddie Cross told us that with only a couple of weeks notice,
the MDC raised more than 30,000 rand from South Africa and
about 1,500 pounds from the UK for the Congress.)
Congress Deflates Kitchen Cabinet
¶15. (C) According to civil society contacts, the Congress
dealt a blow to the much-criticized “kitchen cabinet” of
advisers surrounding Tsvangirai. The introduction of
universal suffrage in the election meant that the unpopular
advisers could no longer count on backroom deals to secure
new positions and the election results showed that these
appointees had virtually no support. Election director Ian
Makoni, for instance, placed a distant third in the secretary
general race with only 88 votes and Dennis Murira dropped out
of the race for organizing secretary after he drew only
polite applause from the crowd, compared to the roaring cheer
that greeted Mudzuri. Moreover, the new constitution
prevents staff members from contesting future elections.
Congress Revives Grassroots, Shows Popularity
¶16. (SBU) In marked contrast to the pro-Senate MDC Congress
(Ref C), civil society and the grassroots structures turned
out in large numbers to support Tsvangirai and his party.
Congress organizers said that more than 40 civic groups had
sent solidarity messages, including ZCTU and the university
students’ union. Perhaps foreshadowing collaboration on
future mass action, the NCA played a key role in the
Congress; Madhuku’s address cast the NCA and MDC as “like
twins” and called for a united front against ZANU-PF.
Projecting support from the Ndebele people, local NGO group
Bulawayo Agenda sent Peter Khumalo, a descendent of the last
Ndebele king, as one of its representatives.
¶17. (C) Clearly evident at the Congress was the
determination of average supporters to go to great personal
lengths to participate. Cross told us that the party had
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only managed to collect enough money to pay for
transportation from four provinces, with participants from
the remaining eight having to pay their own way. (N.B. Also
in marked contrast to the pro-Senate faction, which received
government funds to pay for its Congress.) Noting the
sacrifices made by many to attend, Congress speakers
frequently thanked supporters for selling their chickens and
goats to raise funds for their travel. Unlike the pro-Senate
Congress at which participants became agitated due to delays
in the delivery of promised food, participants at the Harare
Congress were in high spirits even during the lengthy
delegate registration process.
¶18. (C) The MDC Congress also demonstrated that Tsvangirai
enjoyed the support of elected municipal officials.
Organizers paid tribute to the MDC elected mayors, including
those who have been forced out of office by the GOZ.
Approximately ten of the mayors ) including Mudzuri and the
ousted mayors of Chitungwiza and Mutare ) were present.
(N.B. Bulawayo Mayor Japhet Ndabeni Ncube, who has taken a
low profile in the split, was the only notable absence.) The
MPs also played a comparatively greater role than in the
pro-Senate Congress, with those assembled in Harare taking
the stage to show their support. Included among the MPs was
Binga MP Joel Gabbuza, who was originally listed as one of
the parliamentarians that sided with the pro-Senate faction
at its February Congress. (N.B Post understands that another
MDC MP from Matabeleland North is contemplating switching to
the anti-Senate side.)
¶19. (C) The anti-Senate faction’s Congress conclusively
demonstrated that Tsvangirai enjoys the preponderance of
support among the MDC’s grassroots and among its civil
society allies. Taken together, the two Congresses show that
the MDC split is more of a leadership fracture – a splinter
rather than a split – that does not extend to the grassroots.
In addition, in marked contrast to the pro-senate Congress,
which attacked Tsvangirai at least if not more often than
Mugabe, this Congress’s agenda was firmly on confronting the
regime and its leadership seems united around mass action.
Overcoming the fear and despair that pervades the general
populace will not be easy, but the MDC’s impressive
organization and energy at the Congress were a good start.