The United States embassy described then Movement for Democratic Change youth chairman Nelson Chamisa as a hardliner who does not shrink from a fight.
Chamisa had just been selected as the candidate for the Kuwadzana seat which had been left vacant following the death of party spokesman Learnmore Jongwe.
At the time there were clashes between MDC and Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front youths in Kuwadzana.
The selection of Chamisa, a cable dispatched by the US embassy said, only added to the potential volatility of the Kuwadzana campaign.
Viewing cable 03HARARE151, ZANU-PF, MDC YOUTHS CLASH IN HARARE
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 000151
LONDON FOR CGURNEY
PARIS FOR CNEARY
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: ZANU-PF, MDC YOUTHS CLASH IN HARARE
¶1. Youths from the ruling ZANU-PF clashed with counterparts
from the opposition MDC late on January 20 in Harare’s
high-density suburb of Kuwadzana. Although precise details
of what occurred remain sketchy, police spokesman Wayne
Bvudzijena told journalists that one person died from severe
burns and seven others were seriously injured in a petrol
bomb attack on a ZANU-PF base. Sixteen suspects have been
arrested, all of them MDC youth activists.
¶2. MDC spokesman Paul Themba-Nyathi told us that he has
heard many different accounts of what transpired. The most
reliable account, according to Themba-Nyathi, is that an MDC
supporter was abducted by ZANU-PF militia members on January
20 and taken to one of five militia base camps recently
established in the constitutency. (Note: The camps were
established in anticipation of an upcoming parliamentary
election to fill the seat left vacant by the late party
spokesman Learnmore Jongwe. No dates have been set. End
Note.) A group of youths — whom Themba-Nyathi presumed were
MDC supporters — attempted to rescue their colleague, and
skirmishes ensued. The MDC spokesman expressed strong
skepticism that MDC youths had thrown petrol bombs, but he
acknowledged that residents might have decided finally to
defend themselves against depredations by the militia, since
they can no longer rely on the police to protect them.
Themba-Nyathi said he had issued a statement the morning of
January 22 condemning violence from any quarter, and told us
the party has everything to lose if it follows the path of
violence. The instruments of force and violence are
overwhelmingly controlled by one side, he said, and it is
crucial for the MDC to avoid being painted with the same
brush as ZANU-PF.
¶3. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) — an
umbrella organization dedicated to strengthening transparency
of elections — issued a strong condemnation of the clashes
in Kuwadzana. In a January 21 press statement, ZESN
“unreservedly” denounced “all acts of political violence,”
urged “all major political parties campaigning in Kuwadzana
to strongly condemn any form of violence and desist from
assaulting people,” and urged the government-appointed
Electoral Supervisory Commission “to ensure that there is a
¶4. During the past several weeks, the political environment
in Kuwadzana has worsened considerably, as ZANU-PF pulls out
all the stops to win the upcoming parliamentary by-election
in this constituency. Winning this election is a top
priority for ZANU-PF, which is determined to regain the
two-thirds parliamentary majority necessary for amending the
constitution and is now only five seats away from
accomplishing that objective. The ruling party is well aware
that it has little support in a constituency won
overwhelmingly by the late Learnmore Jongwe with more than 75
percent of the votes in 2000, so is falling back on its
tried-and-true tactics of intimidation and control of food
distribution. As urban residents, however, the people of
Kuwadzana are much less vulnerable to intimidation than their
rural counterparts, and many of them despise a ruling party
they believe played a role in the death of Jongwe, who was a
very popular figure in this high-density suburb. The MDC’s
selection of candidate Nelson Chamisa, national youth leader
and a hardliner who does not shrink from a fight, only adds
to the potential volatility of the Kuwadzana campaign.
¶5. As we indicated earlier, the details of the January 20
clashes remain unclear. We would not be surprised, however,
if MDC supporters had had enough of the militia’s
intimidation and decided to retaliate or to teach them a
lesson. Similar incidents are likely in the run-up to the
election, and we expect political violence from both sides
will intensify once election dates are announced. The MDC’s
issuance of a statement condemning violence committed by any
source is positive, and the Department might want to be
prepared to make a similar declaration.