Tsvangirai told Dell Mugabe would never give up power through an election


Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that President Robert Mugabe was not a democrat and would never give up power through an election.

“He would have to be driven from office,” he said.

Though Tsvangirai said this in 2005 when Mugabe’s post was not up for grabs and his Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front had just won a two-thirds majority in the parliamentary elections, Mugabe was to prove so three years later when Tsvangirai beat him, though the win was not an outright victory for Tsvangirai.

Dell had told Tsvangirai that he was going to Washington for consultations on US policy towards Zimbabwe following the March elections. He wanted to know what the MDC’s post-election plans were.


Full cable:


Viewing cable 05HARARE588, MDC Post-Election Plans Taking Form

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Reference ID






2005-04-16 08:30

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 000588









E.O. 12958: DECL: (04-16-15)


SUBJECT: MDC Post-Election Plans Taking Form


Classified by CDA Eric Schultz, reasons 1.5 (b) (d)


Ref: (A) Harare 548 and previous






1. In an April 14 meeting with the Ambassador, MDC leader

Morgan Tsvangirai laid out in more detail his party’s plans

for challenging the GOZ in the wake of a third successive

stolen election. Tsvangirai said Mugabe would never leave

power by democratic means. The Zimbabwean people would

have to force him from office through a campaign of civil

resistance. The MDC was reaching out to civil society NGOs

to create an alliance to pursue this approach. He hoped to

mobilize this alliance in particular to oppose Mugabe’s

expected constitutional reforms proposals.


2. (C) Tsvangirai said the model for the campaign would be

the recent events in Gokwe South, where MDC activists had

stood up to ZANU-PF thugs and the police, forcing them to

back down. The MDC would need to train activists down to

the village level to make this work. The party also had to

improve its communications, to spread the word about

successful acts of resistance. It also had to do a much

better job of getting its supporters, especially young

people, to register and vote. The Ambassador said this was

an area with which we could help through NGOs. Externally,

Tsvangirai said the MDC needed to broaden its support in



Africa and that he was also considering a trip to Ukraine

to highlight the similarities between Zimbabwe today and

Ukraine a year ago. End Summary.



(Re) Building an Alliance



2. (C) The Ambassador told Tsvangirai that he was traveling

back to Washington for consultations on U.S. policy toward

Zimbabwe following the March 31 parliamentary elections.

In that regard, he had wanted to hear first hand what

progress the MDC had made in firming up its post-election

plans. Tsvangirai said the party’s plan was to confront

Mugabe at every turn. Mugabe was not a democrat and he

would never give up power through an election. He would

have to be driven from office. Critical to the success of

this approach was to strengthen the MDC alliance with civil

society, including the labor union, ZCTU. The party and

its allies had to be seen to be doing something or apathy

and cynicism would grow among the populace.


3. (C) The Ambassador noted that many in civil society had

expressed unhappiness with the MDC for not having reached

out and listened to them. Tsvangirai acknowledged the

problem and said the party would work to be more inclusive.

The democratic opposition needed to work together in

harmony, with no dissenting voices, for their common

objective. The broad alliance would mobilize in particular

around the question of constitutional reform, and would

seek to recreate the National Constitutional Assembly’s

earlier success in stoking public opposition to Mugabe’s

proposed changes. Tsvangirai added that several of the

civil society leaders had political ambitions themselves,

and the MDC would work to give those ambitions space.


4. (C) The Ambassador asked about ZCTU’s role. Tsvangirai

said it was the urban base of the party and that the MDC

needed to reach out to them more effectively. He dismissed

government attempts to remove the current leadership,

noting they had tried before without success.



Planning Civil Resistance



5. (C) Tsvangirai said in the next six months the party and

its allies would focus on building momentum. The first

step was that all of the party’s candidates would return to

their home constituencies to hold rallies to thank their

supporters. The message of these rallies would be that the

MDC had won but that Mugabe and ZANU-PF has stolen a third

election. The party was also planning actions around the

April 18 Independence Day celebrations and May Day. For

the former, Tsvangirai said MDC activists would infiltrate

the crowd at the national sports stadium and seek to

embarrass Mugabe, possibly by walking out en masse while

flashing their party’s open-palmed symbol or by chanting

“change” in Shona. The Ambassador observed that

publicizing such actions was critical to their success.

Tsvangirai agreed and said the MDC had plans to videotape



the event.


6. (C) Tsvangirai said the party also recognized the need

to do more to overcome rural fear and intimidation. He

acknowledged that they had not done enough to protect their

rural adherents during the election. In many rural

constituencies, traditional leaders (i.e. tribal chiefs)

had called their villages together the night before the

election and had pressured people to vote ZANU-PF. One of

the regime’s most effective tactics had been threatening to

deny food assistance to MDC supporters. The MDC had to

break the back of this intimidation and would do so at its

nexus with the population – food distribution centers.


7. (C) Tsvangirai said the model for this approach would be

what had happened this week in Gokwe South, a constituency

in the Midlands province that the MDC believed had been

stolen. There had been great anger among the local

population at the theft. ZANU-PF had reverted to form and

sought to impose its will by punishing MDC supporters. The

night after the election the home of a prominent MDC

activist had been burned down. 2000 MDC activists gathered

at the site to prevent further attacks. Three truckloads

of riot police arrived to disperse the crowd. However, the

activists refused to disperse and faced down the police.

The next day, 200 of the activists appeared at the food

distribution center and refused to let the agents of the

Grain Marketing Board discriminate against MDC supporters.

They had told the agents either everyone gets food or the

“birds will get it.” The GMB agents had also backed down.


8. (C) Tsvangirai said the MDC planned to do the same

throughout the country. He acknowledged that the GOZ would

eventually get wise to these tactics and would try to crack

down hard somewhere. In that event, the party had to be

prepared to have activists spring up at other locations

around the country and force the regime to spread itself

too thin for effective repression. They were assisted in

that regard by the fact that the food shortages were

countrywide. One of the keys to the success of this plan

would be to train activists through out the country and

build the party structure down to the village level.

Another was to spread the word of successful civil

resistance actions through word of mouth, as it was doing

now with respect to the events in Gokwe South, and to

encourage that they be emulated elsewhere. In that regard,

he acknowledged that the party’s communications department

had failed abysmally after the election and needed dramatic




Registering Voters



9. (C) Tsvangirai acknowledged that the party had a lot of

work to do to correct weaknesses in advance of future

elections. In addition to building party structures down

to the village level and training cadre, another key was

voter registration. The MDC had not done nearly enough to

register its core supporters, especially young voters.

More than twenty percent of young voters had not bothered

to register. That needed to be addressed before rural

council elections in 2006 and urban council elections in

2007. Tsvangirai noted that women over forty formed one of

ZANU-PF’s most loyal sources of support. The MDC had to

try to reach out to them but more importantly it had to

reach out to women under the age of forty, who should be

their supporters, and get them to register and vote.


Engaging Diplomatically



10. (C) Tsvangirai said the MDC was also planning a series

of external steps to increase the pressure on the regime.

The party needed to do more to establish its independence

from the U.S. and the UK. To that end, the main thrust had

to be in Africa, where the party needed to build opposition

to Mugabe and his policies. However, Tsvangirai said he

was also thinking of making a trip to Ukraine to meet

President Yushchenko to stress the point that Zimbabwe was

in the same place Ukraine had been before the Orange







11. (C) Throughout the meeting, Tsvangirai referred to a

written memo he had brought with him. The MDC’s leadership

has clearly been thinking a lot about next steps and it is

heartening that their ideas are taking concrete shape.

Moreover, we would agree that what happened in Gokwe South

is the right model to follow. While it would be nice to

see them make a splash at the national stadium on Monday,

it is really in the rural areas that the MDC needs to take

action and make progress. In that regard, while we had

heard bits and pieces about what had occurred in Gokwe

South, we had no idea the extent of MDC activism, nor we

suspect did anyone else. The MDC’s inability to get its

message out remains a debilitating weakness, one that it

has to overcome almost immediately if its civil resistance

campaign is to catch fire and spread nationally.


12. (C) The visit to Kiev strikes us a very creative idea

and one we enthusiastically endorse. It could be

particularly useful to have President Yuschenko and

Georgian President Sakashvili meet with Tsvangirai.





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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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