Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai told South African President Thabo Mbeki that he was no match for Robert Mugabe as a negotiator on behalf of the Southern African Development Community.
Mbeki therefore needed to enlarge the mediation team with other SADC leaders.
Tsvangirai said Mbeki agreed to do so.
He disclosed this when he announced that he was pulling out of the presidential election run-off, five days before the poll.
Tsvangirai had told United States ambassador James McGee the day before that he would be contesting the elections because he felt that he would not quit after having come so far.
But in his meeting with Mbeki, Tsvangirai had said there should be no election.
Instead there should be a transitional government which he, Tsvangirai, would lead.
Mugabe would have to retire and the transitional government would discuss the new constitution and new elections.
Viewing cable 08HARARE530, MDC PULLS OUT OF ELECTION
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STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/23/2018
SUBJECT: MDC PULLS OUT OF ELECTION
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Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (d)
¶1. (C) A day after telling the Ambassador the MDC intended
to participate in the June 27 runoff election, MDC president
Morgan Tsvangirai on June 22 announced the MDC would boycott
the election. Tsvangirai told the press and diplomats at a
later briefing that continuing violence against the
population, the violent suppression of his campaign, and
government rigging made an election impossible. Tsvangirai
told diplomats that the ultimate solution was not a new
election, but a negotiated settlement resulting in a
government of national unity, headed by himself, and the
retirement of Zimbabwean president Mugabe. He said the MDC
would announce future plans on June 25.
¶2. (C) Tsvangirai told the Ambassador on June 21 that he
had met with South African president Thabo Mbeki on June 19
at Mbeki’s request and had pressed the idea of a transitional
government rather than an election. He told Mbeki that he
(Mbeki) lacked sufficient strength as a sole mediator, and
that Mbeki should be part of a SADC mediation team. Mbeki
promised to pursue this suggestion. END SUMMARY.
Ambassador’s Meeting with Tsvangirai
¶3. (C) Tsvangirai told the Ambassador that (despite
conflicting news reports) the MDC would contest the June 27
runoff election. Tsvangirai said that, after consulting with
MDC members, he felt he could not quit after having come so
¶4. (C) Tsvangirai said he had met Mbeki two days earlier at
Mbeki’s request. Mbeki, according to Tsvangirai, said he was
aware of the violence and appreciated the problems. But he
had been unable to achieve a breakthrough in the impasse
between ZANU-PF and the MDC, and he had no plan to go forward.
¶5. (C) Tsvangirai suggested Mbeki ask Mugabe (whom Mbeki was
scheduled to see later in the day) what his plans were since
it was obvious that nobody, including the international
community, would accept a Mugabe victory in the June 27
election. Tsvangirai told Mbeki the goal should be a
transitional government on the following terms:
–Retirement of Mugabe;
–Government to be led by Tsvangirai in accordance with the
March 29 election;
–Transitional government to discuss new constitution and new
¶6. (C) Tsvangirai said he had learned that Mbeki had
presented the transitional plan to Mugabe. Additionally,
Tsvangirai told Mbeki that he was no match for Mugabe as a
sole negotiator on behalf of SADC; he needed to enlarge the
mediation team with other SADC leaders. Mbeki agreed to do
Decision to Withdraw
¶7. (C) The MDC at press and diplomatic briefings on June 22
distributed a written statement (scanned to AF/S) outlining
its decision to not participate in the June 27 runoff
election. Summarizing the written statement, Tsvangirai said
the decision had been made unanimously by the MDC’s Executive
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Committee and National Council and was based on:
–Continuing state-sponsored violence;
–Suppression of the MDC campaign, including banning of all
rallies, decimation of MDC structures and the arrests of MDC
leaders and 2,000 polling agents; and
–ZANU-PF vote-rigging activities.
¶8. (C) Stressing the importance of polling agents,
Tsvangirai said the MDC would not be able to deploy 75
percent of its agents, and those agents who were deployed
would not have access to rural areas.
¶9. (C) Tsvangirai emphasized the decision had not been made
lightly. He noted that the day before (after the meeting
with the Ambassador), he had attempted to campaign in
Harare’s high-density suburbs. People were afraid to talk to
the MDC, and the fear on their faces was palpable. Earlier
in the day, before the decision was made, the MDC had
attempted to hold a rally in a stadium in Harare in an area
of strong MDC support. ZANU-PF youth had taken over the
stadium and had used force on MDC supporters who tried to
enter. The MDC’s Youth Chairman had attempted to go to the
rally and was now in the hospital. Tsvangirai concluded that
the election had become a declaration of war against the
people and the MDC would not be part of it. The people
wanted to support the MDC, but the mood and the people’s
willingness to participate in an election had changed
dramatically in the last two days.
Solution to the Crisis
¶10. (C) Tsvangirai at the briefing said a solution to the
current crisis lay not with another election but with a
negotiated settlement that involved a form of “cohabitation.”
This was necessary because ZANU-PF possessed the
institutions of state, while the MDC enjoyed popular support.
is proposal, presented to diplomats, was similar t that
related to Mbeki on June 19.
–End to volence;
–Tsvangirai, a winner of March 29 election, to lead
–After transitional government has settled in, n election
supervised by SADC and international ommunity;
¶11. (C) Tsvangirai said tht the MDC would consult
internally and then make an announcement on June 25 on next
steps. He impied this would involve a new diplomatic
offensive in an effort to seek pressure on the Mugabe regime
from the UN, AU, and SADC. Tsvangirai said that in the last
few days he had been in contact, in addition to Mbeki, with
Zambia’s Mwanawasa, Botswana’s Khama, and Tanzania’s Kikwete.
The Residue of the Election
¶12. (C) ZANU-PF justice minister Patrick Chinamasa told the
media that the election would go forward unless the MDC
submitted a written notice of withdrawal. The MDC told us it
is planning to submit a letter stating it is impossible to
participate in an election under these circumstances.
(COMMENT: The Electoral Act states that a presidential
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candidate must withdraw his candidacy at least 21 days before
an election. There is no discussion in the Act of a runoff
election. We believe ZANU-PF is disappointed with the MDC
withdrawal, as it hoped to derive some legitimacy from an
electoral win. It remains to be seen if the GOZ will treat
an MDC letter as a formal withdrawal and will call off the
election, or whether it will decide to proceed. END COMMENT.)
¶13. (C) ZANU-PF has dug in its heels, as manifested by
Mugabe’s statements at rallies and to the media that the
party would never cede power to the MDC. We see no
willingness at this point of ZANU-PF and Mugabe to negotiate
a transitional government on the lines proposed by
Tsvangirai. ZANU-PF has succeeded with its campaign of
terror and will negotiate only on its terms.
¶14. (C) Tsvangirai clearly enjoys the support of the
majority of the Zimbabwean people, and until recently the MDC
thought it could win the election despite ZANU-PF’s violence
and machination. The MDC realized in the last several days,
however, the pervasiveness and effectiveness of the ZANU-PF
terror machine. While the MDC’s withdrawal is disappointing,
it is also understandable. And an election is not necessary
to demonstrate to the world the unfairness of the electoral
process which has been underpinned by terror. UN envoy Haile
Menkerios saw it and the SADC observers continue to see it.
Mbeki has been thoroughly briefed by his team of retired
generals who have traveled the length and breath of the
country. It is imperative that Mbeki, the UN, and SADC speak
out. END COMMENT.