Tsvangirai told Dell that CIO had told him MDC had won over 90 seats


Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that his contacts within the Central Intelligence Organisation had told him that the MDC had won over 90 seats in the 31 March 2005 parliamentary elections.

His party was, however, not going to boycott parliament but was going after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to force them to explain the large discrepancies in the total number of votes cast and the official results.

Despite its concerns, the MDC was going to make sure that people did not take to the streets because that was what President Robert Mugabe was waiting for.

He called Mugabe a “stumbling block” to every effort to effect democratic change in Zimbabwe and said that Mugabe was hoping people would take to the streets so that he could crush them ruthlessly and eliminate the democratic threat to his grip on power.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2005-04-04 17:21

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.


041721Z Apr 05

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000508








E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/31/2015












1. (C) A more upbeat MDC Head Morgan Tsvangirai told the

Ambassador late Saturday night that his contacts inside the

CIO had told him the MDC had won over 90 seats in the March

31 Parliamentary elections. Tsvangirai said his next step

was to go after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and

force them to explain large discrepancies in the total

number of votes cast and the official results. The MDC

would not, however, boycott Parliament. He told a broader

group of Ambassadors the same thing Sunday morning

(omitting any mention of the CIO), but added that anger was

building and after five years he was not sure the MDC could

prevent people taking to the streets. This, however, was

what Mugabe wanted – a pretext to crush the opposition. He

added that South Africa had played a “dishonest” role and

that the MDC would write them off. The Ambassadors

stressed that African criticism would strengthen that of

Western countries and several suggested he look to the AU.

The Ambassador added that in any event, the degree of fraud

was such that it was hard to imagine any serious outside

observer arguing for “normalizing” relations with Zimbabwe,

for example by removing sanctions and resuming IFI

lending. End Summary.



Private Meeting with Ambassador Dell



2. (C) Tsvangirai said he was calling in all MDC candidates

and asking them to analyze the official results and compare

them to MDC and Zimbabwe Electoral Support Systems (ZESN)

data to highlight the extent of the fraud. He said a

preliminary study of the results had found there were 32

(rising to 35 by Sunday) constituencies where difference

between the total number of votes cast as announced by ZEC

at 2 a.m. Friday morning and those ultimately certified by

ZEC later in the morning was enough to change the outcome.

He highlighted the Beitbridge constituency as an example,

where ZEC had initially reported 32,000 voters but only

20,000 were ultimately recorded in the official results.

Tsvangirai claimed his contacts in the Central Intelligence



Organization (CIO) had told him that according to their

information the MDC had in fact actually won over 90



3. (C) Tsvangirai said MDC was considering its options in

responding to the fraud but would in any event pursue a

legal challenge to the results through the electoral

courts. The goal would be to force ZEC officials to

explain these discrepancies, which they had so far failed

to do. He said at this stage the MDC had ruled out a

boycott of parliament, which ZANU-PF would simply pocket.

The MDC would accept what it had won and challenge what it

had lost. Tsvangirai said anger was building but that the

MDC and its partners could not as yet generate the kind of

numbers for street protests that would be needed to face

down the military. He said Mugabe would be waiting for

just such an opportunity to crush the MDC and would “come

on heavy” if the MDC took to the streets. He said the

party was considering organizing a stay-away. He

acknowledged problems with some in civil society but said

they were being resolved and that labor and the churches

were supportive.



Broader Diplomatic Meeting



4. (C) In a Sunday morning meeting with the Ambassador and

a selection of other, largely European Ambassadors,

Tsvangirai reiterated that the election had been stolen and



that the MDC had actually won over 90 seats (he did not

note that this information came from the CIO). So far

irregularities had been reported in the results for 35

constituencies. Tsvangirai acknowledged that the MDC had

been slow to react to the fraud, but said the MDC would be

issuing a statement saying they could not possibly accept

the result of the elections. As he had previously told the

Ambassador, his party intended to challenge the ZEC to

defend the announced result totals before the newly

established electoral court but would not pursue a strategy

of challenging individual constituency results.


5. (C) Tsvangirai criticized the “cosmetic” changes to the

electoral environment, which he said had not addressed the

fundamental lack of a democratic environment in Zimbabwe.

The delimitation exercise had been the most serious

problem, followed by the lack of a truly independent (and

empowered) independent electoral commission and a voters

roll which he characterized as a “shambles.” He also noted

the use of the security forces to run the electoral

process, use of traditional leaders to coerce rural voters

to support ZANU-PF, and said that the people in

resettlement areas were in fact “captive constituencies”

(literally) for ZANU-PF. The MDC leader added that the ZEC

had not really been in charge of any aspect of the process,

which had in fact been run by the ZANU-PR bureaucracy.



Next Steps



6. (C) Tsvangarai said the Zimbabwean people were

disappointed with the result since they knew how they had

voted. However, he was urging them to stay the course and

fight on. “Democracy is not an event, it’s a process,” he

said.   He said that after reviewing its options the party

had decided to reject the results of the election and to

carry on with its democratic struggle. He repeated what he

had told the Ambassador that the MDC would not boycott

Parliament. He called Mugabe a “stumbling block” to every

effort to affect democratic change in Zimbabwe and said

that Mugabe was hoping people would take to the streets so

he could crush them ruthlessly and eliminate the democratic

threat to his grip on power. For five years MDC had

avoided the path of violence, but he was uncertain whether

he could control the people’s emotions anymore.



South Africa’s Role; International Response



7. (C) Turning to the role of Zimbabwe’s neighbors,

Tsvangarai described South African president Mbeki as a



“dishonest broker” in view of the whitewash of this process

offered by the South African and SADC observer missions.

He said that as a matter of principal South Africa was

complicit in the electoral fraud in Zimbabwe and had gone

“all out” to justify the end result “without scruples.” He

said that in view of this complicity, henceforth the MDC

would reject any role for South Africa in any potential

dialogue between MDC and ZANU-PF. On the question of

future dialogue with the GOZ and ZANU-PF, Tsvangarai said

the MDC would only agree to discuss a new constitution

after the “fundamentals,” including the recent electoral

fraud, had been addressed.


8. (C) In the ensuing discussion several of the diplomats

present stressed that the ability of the West to criticize

the elections would be lent additional credibility if

African voices were also heard. Tsvangarai and MDC

Secretary General Welshman Ncube both said that while they



planned making a round robin visit to African capitals in

the coming weeks, they had little faith that any African

government would dare speak out. They were thus trying to

get independent voices from African civil society, churches

and trade union movements to offer public criticisms. The

British Ambassador stressed that the leader of the AU

observer team was a Ghanian official who was independent,

courageous and concerned to protect his reputation. He

urged the MDC not to give up on the AU. (N.B. In fact, the

AU team followed us into Tsvangarai’s residence).


9. (C) The Ambassador made the point that our ability to

increase pressure on Mugabe had been helped considerably by

the degree and extent of the latter’s manipulation of the

vote tabulation. No serious international observer could

now credibly assert that this was a legitimate process and

that therefore the time had come to drop sanctions on

Zimbabwe and “normalize” relations. Saying that he was

speaking personally and not on instructions, the Ambassador

said he found it hard to imagine, for example, that

Washington would even consider supporting IMF balance of

payment support to the Mugabe regime in light of this

patent fraud and anti-democratic behavior. Mugabe’s

behavior also portrayed the attitude of a despot who ruled

from a narrow base, relying on the security services and

absolute control over all political processes to maintain

his hold on power, and was not the attitude of a

fundamentally confident democratic leader.






10. (C) Two things are clear from the aftermath of this

election. One is that Robert Mugabe will do whatever it

takes to fulfill his wishes and will only address the

consequences afterwards. We underestimated the extent to

which he would go in securing a two-thirds majority so that

he can dictate his country’s future, believing that

Zimbabwe’s need for assistance: food and fuel, would force

hi to moderate his aims. As long as Mugabe is in charge,

ZANU-PF is incapable of embracing reform and

democratization in Zimbabwe, no matter how modest. The

second thing that is clear is that Thabo Mbeki has lost the

MDC’s confidence completely and cannot now play a

constructive role because of his perceived bias and “

complicity” in favor of one of the parties in the dispute.

We will have to look elsewhere for an African voice that

will speak for the disenfranchised people of Zimbabwe.


11. (C) As to Tsvangirai, anger at the MDC’s failure to

anticipate the opaque tabulation process and be ready with

counter measures is growing, especially following his

vacillating press conference performance on Friday

morning. That said, he is probably right that mass action

would not succeed without a lot of preparation and it says

something for his inherent decency that he was not willing

to risk people’s lives — it would be hard to see Mugabe

making a similar call. It was good to see Tsvangirai

upbeat and preparing himself for the struggle ahead, which

he knew all along — as did we — was going to be long and

difficult regardless of the election’s results.



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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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