US embassy says Tsvangirai is too optimistic


Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai was upbeat about 2004 asserting that the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front would be more attentive to international opinion as it fought for economic survival rather than concentrate on attaining a two-thirds majority in parliament.

But the United States embassy remained sceptical. It said that the insecurity, lack of meaningful debate, and combustible rhetoric associated with the ZANU-PF national conference and commonwealth fall-out suggested a hardened ruling party posture.

Tsvangirai said the appointment of Gideon Gono as central bank governor and his desire to re-engage with the Bretton Woods institutions was likely to entail enhancing the credibility of both the government’s economic policy and the political situation.

On the controversial land issue, Tsvangirai said his party would carry out a rationalisation exercise grounded on consistent plot sizes, one farm per family, productive capacity and would weed out many but not all of the current beneficiaries of land reform.

Beneficiaries with alternative viable occupations, such as civil servants and military personnel, would likely be given a choice between land and position.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2004-01-08 14:38

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 000047










E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/08/2009




REF: (A) 03 HARARE 2455 (B) 03 HARARE 2443 (C) 03




Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5(b)(d)


1. (C) SUMMARY: With qualified optimism, MDC President

Morgan Tsvangirai offered an assessment of Zimbabwe’s

political landscape to Ambassador Sullivan during lunch on

January 7 at the Residence. Tsvangirai identified

mobilization of membership, coordination with civil society,

and improving the election environment as tactical party

priorities in the coming year. He was non-committal about

mass action and held out the possibility that the MDC would

not participate in elections if election atmospherics and

mechanics did not improve. While still skeptical of South

African President Mbeki’s motives, Tsvangirai surmised that

Mbeki had pressed Mugabe meaningfully during his December

visit and predicted that the GOZ would be more susceptible to

foreign pressure in coming months. END SUMMARY.


Party Mobilization, Election Preparations



2. (C) Accompanied by MDC Secretary for Presidential Affairs

Gandi Mudzingwa, Tsvangirai expressed appreciation for

Secretary Powell’s response to his letter last month. He



said he was pleased with the results of last month’s MDC

national conference (ref A), which fostered grassroots

momentum among middle class and rural constituencies.

Further mobilization of those constituencies would absorb

substantial party energy in coming months, in part with a

view to mass action. Tsvangirai did not say when mass action

might commence but indicated that it would require close

coordination with civil society groups.


3. (C) Tsvangirai indicated that the party’s preoccupation

with training, building, and reinforcing party structures and

motivating the membership would be geared in large party to

election preparations. He expected that parliamentary

elections would be conducted within six to 18 months,

depending on when ZANU-PF perceived it had the strongest

advantage. The intimidating environment and GOZ control of

election administration continued to offer the ruling party a

prohibitive advantage. The MDC would consider boycotting

elections altogether if the situation did not improve,

although he conceded that the party risked sliding into

irrelevance if it walked away. In that vein, MDC

participation in elections would depend largely on

international posture toward the election environment and the

ruling party.


Change in Ruling Party Posture?



4. (C) Tsvangirai asserted that ZANU-PF may be more

attentive to international opinion in coming months. For

example, the ruling party may be reluctant to manipulate

elections to yield itself the two thirds parliamentary

majority it would like in order to engineer controversial

constitutional changes. He noted that the GOZ had signalled

interest in re-engaging with the Bretton Woods institutions,

which would likely entail enhancing the credibility of both

economic policy and the political situation. Indeed, the

country’s dire economic straits — of late manifested in the

precarious financial sector — left the ruling party little

choice but to work on its international credibility in

economic and political spheres. New Reserve Bank Chairman

Gideon Gono’s rise to prominence gave the regime a confident

voice for re-engagement. Tsvangirai concluded that the

ruling party would not sacrifice these longer term interests

for the short-term expedience of getting a two thirds



5. (C) According to Tsvangirai, Mbeki’s visit (ref B) helped

to drive home to Mugabe the imperative of political progress.

Mbeki would have had to impress on Mugabe the length to

which he had gone for Mugabe and the extent to which Mbeki’s

own credibility was on the line domestically, regionally, and

internationally. Tsvangirai trusted that Mbeki had elicited

from Mugabe a commitment to dialogue, and hoped that Mugabe’s

exit was “part and parcel” of the commitment. Tsvangirai

added that the CHOGM affair further underscored South

Africa’s importance to Zimbabwe, and Mugabe would have to

deliver something. Nonetheless, ZANU-PF still appeared to be

playing for time a month, a week, a day at a time — a

situation that effectively diluted the impact of outside



6. (C) Tsvangirai confirmed that there was no progress since

Mbeki’s visit toward recommencement of interparty talks.

Mbeki’s assignment to the parties was to work out a program

for talks, which would require more work by MDC negotiating

team and additional engagement between party Secretary

General Welshman Ncube and Minister of Justice Patrick

Chinamasa. He concluded that substantive progress would be

impossible while Mugabe was out of the country. (NOTE: The

GOZ reports that Mugabe is “on leave” until the end of

January. He reportedly plans to be in Asia much of that

time, beginning with Indonesia and Malaysia. South African

Ambassador Ndou advised Ambassador (septel) that SAG expected

progress toward talks to continue regardless of Mugabe’s

absence. END NOTE.)


Land Reform



7. (C) Commenting on the MDC land reform policy articulated

at the national conference, Tsvangirai asserted that it was

an approach that should benefit and appeal to the masses,

including the poor. He confirmed that there was no going

back to Zimbabwe’s status quo ante. Imparting value to the

land, including the communal areas, was a central priority.

Considerable attention would be required to establish a model

for allocation of titles. A rationalization exercise —

grounded on consistent plot sizes, one farm per family,

productive capacity — would weed out many but not all of the

current beneficiaries of GOZ land reform. Beneficiaries with

alternative viable occupations, such as civil servants and

military personnel, would likely be given a choice between

land and position. The new system would significantly alter

traditional patronage relationships and means of social

control in rural areas. A transparent, widely consultative

process would be key in assuring the program’s success.

Tsvangirai conceded that the party would have difficulty



overcoming official obstacles in publicizing the program to

rural areas, and would have to rely on the party’s growing

personally based networks.


Harare Hassles



8. (C) Tsvangirai confirmed newspaper reports that the

investigative report into alleged corruption and

mismanagement by Harare’s City Council and Mayor Mudzuri (ref

C) was complete but had yet to be released. He predicted

that the report would be relatively objective and would

identify legitimate shortcomings that would fall short of

justifying dismissal. At the same time, Mudzuri’s

uncooperative interaction with the investigating commission

would likely reflect poorly on him in the report. The

Council suffered from inexperience and susceptibility to

corruption but seemed to be gaining competence with the

passage of time, in part because of MDC efforts to organize

and discipline wayward members. He noted that Christopher

Mushonga was one of the more experienced councillors but

suffered flaws such as unseemly patronage arrangements.


9. (C) According to Tsvangirai, municipal administration put

ZANU-PF in a quandary. Local Government Minister Chombo was

working hard to hamstring MDC-controlled municipalities,

especially Harare, but dismissing the Harare Mayor and

Council outright would undercut efforts to burnish the

government’s image internationally. In the end, he expected

the process to serve as a “verbal warning” to Harare’s MDC

administration. If personnel were dismissed, new elections

would yield a new or rejuvenated MDC-dominated council in any

event. Tsvangirai underscored the value of USAID assistance

that would help MDC municipal administration and urged that

we explore opportunities in this area.


Regional Outreach



9. (C) Tsvangirai expressed satisfaction with continuing MDC

efforts to engage regional leaders and parties. The party

planned following up soon with Nigeria, Senegal, and Kenya,

and was interested in tapping Ghanaian experiences in

election organization. Tsvangirai acknowledged with the

appreciation the “courage” of Botswana’s supportive efforts.





10. (C) Tsvangirai was surprisingly upbeat in his new year’s

tour d’horizon. We remain skeptical. The insecurity, lack

of meaningful debate, and combustible rhetoric associated

with the ZANU-PF national conference and CHOGM fall-out

suggest a hardened ruling party posture, notwithstanding

Gono’s refreshing voice and Mbeki’s efforts. Early litmus

tests of GOZ sincerity likely will include progress in the

Ncube-Chinamasa engagement, disposition of the Harare

Council/Mayor controversy, Tsvangirai’s treason trial (due to

recommence January 19), and adjudication of the MDC’s

election petition (also likely to resume this month).



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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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