The United States Agency for International Development, a government agency, partly funded the Movement for Democratic Change’s court challenge of the 2002 presidential elections which were won the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front’s Robert Mugabe.
This is revealed in a cable dispatched by former United States ambassador to Christopher Dell on 29 August 2005.
The issue came out after MDC shadow minister of Justice, David Coltart told United States embassy officials that he and businessmen Strive Masiyiwa and Nigel Chanakira were planning to travel to the United States to meet President George Bush.
He said this would be a private visit and they were arranging the meeting through religious contacts. The trip was intended to be low-key with no media profile and Coltart was going to meet the President not as an MDC politician but rather as a fellow believer.
He said the group’s message to Bush would be to match the US government’s strong rhetoric on Zimbabwe with continued resources because the US was cutting back on democracy assistance at exactly the wrong time.
“Change in Zimbabwe remained a very real prospect in the next two-three years and US assistance was badly needed to get civil society and the opposition through the current difficult period,” the cable said.
Coltart said the MDC was continuing its campaign in the courts against government and ruling party abuses. The cases, which were funded in part by USAID, kept the spotlight on government electoral abuses and underscored the MDC’s non-violence and respect for rule of law.
The challenges also tied up government resources. Central Intelligence Organisation operatives, for example, typically outnumbered MDC functionaries in court.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1209, MDC MP COLTART ON PLANNED U.S. VISIT; REQUEST FOR
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
291603Z Aug 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001209
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010
SUBJECT: MDC MP COLTART ON PLANNED U.S. VISIT; REQUEST FOR
REF: HARARE 1156
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C) MDC Shadow Minister of Justice, Legal and
Parliamentary Affairs David Coltart on August 25 told the CDA
that together with Zimbabwean exiled businessmen Strive
Masiyiwa and Nigel Chanakira, he was employing church
connections in the United States to seek a meeting with
President Bush in October. He planned to tell the President
that change in Zimbabwe remained a real possibility in the
short term and that the U.S. should continue assistance to
civil society. Coltart said Parliament would likely pass the
Constitutional Amendment Bill on August 30 and that he would
personally be a prime target of new travel restrictions. He
confirmed that the MDC opposed wider trade sanctions and IMF
expulsion, but favored stepped up international pressure on
the GOZ, including at the UN Security Council. End Summary.
Wants Meeting With the President
¶2. (C) Coltart told the CDA that he and two colleagues were
seeking a Washington meeting with President Bush in October
to discuss Zimbabwe. The two colleagues were Econet
principal owner and former Daily News publisher Strive
Masiyiwa and Kingdom Bank owner Nigel Chanakira. The three
shared a common religious faith, and were seeking the meeting
through their senior religious contacts in the U.S. rather
than through official channels. The group might also seek
meetings on Capitol Hill, especially if they failed to secure
a meeting with the President. Coltart said the trip was
intended to be low-key with no media profile and that he
would not be meeting the President in his guise as an MDC
politician but rather as a fellow believer.
¶3. (C) Coltart said the group,s message to the President
would be to match the USG’s strong rhetoric on Zimbabwe with
continued resources. The U.S. was cutting back on democracy
assistance at exactly the wrong time. Change in Zimbabwe
remained a very real prospect in the next two-three years and
U.S. assistance was badly needed to get civil society and the
opposition through the current difficult period.
Predicts Constitutional Reforms Passage
¶4. (C) Coltart said he expected Parliament to pass the GOZ’s
proposed constitutional amendments bill (reftel) on August
¶30. Of immediate potential impact to the MDC was the bill’s
restraint on travel by perceived regime enemies. He said
ZANU-PF MPs had made clear during the debate over the bill
that he would personally be one of the provision’s principal
and early victims. This could prevent his leaving Zimbabwe
including to meet with the President but in that event his
two colleagues would still make trip to Washington.
¶5. (C) Coltart added that the MDC had introduced its own
proposal for constitutional amendments to point up the
undemocratic nature of the bill. Among other things, the MDC
proposal included a requirement that constitutional
amendments be put to national referendum within two years of
passage. Coltart also noted that the GOZ would likely
conduct senate elections within three months of the bill’s
passage, notwithstanding its lack of budget for it. He
reported that the MDC continued to debate whether or not to
participate and had not reached a position.
MDC To Continue Legal Challenges
¶6. (C) Coltart said the MDC was continuing its campaign in
the courts against GOZ and ruling party abuses. The cases
(which are funded in part by USAID) kept the spotlight on GOZ
electoral abuses and underscored the MDC,s non-violence and
respect for rule of law. The challenges also tied up GOZ
resources; CIO operatives typically outnumbered MDC
functionaries in court. The current focus of the court
challenges was the 2002 presidential election. The MDC had
pursued a two-part case. The first part had been 27 legal
and constitutional challenges to the election’s conduct. Had
the courts found in the MDC,s favor the election result
would have been null and void. However, in June 2004 the
High Court had dismissed the MDC,s case (though without
providing any reasoning). The MDC was now moving forward on
the second part: establishing that the election had been
MDC Opposes IMF Expulsion But Wants UNSC Attention
¶7. (C) Coltart said Zimbabwe,s economic distress posed a
dilemma for the MDC, which didn,t want the country to
collapse and the suffering of common citizens to rise but did
want to see the regime pay for its misrule. Accordingly, the
party remained opposed to generalized trade sanctions but
continued to support targeted sanctions on GOZ and ZANU-PF
leaders. In addition, Coltart confirmed that the MDC opposed
IMF expulsion but nonetheless hoped to see the international
community, and especially the UN increase the pressure on the
Mugabe regime, by recognizing Operation Restore Order as a
crime against humanity. Coltart said he further hoped to see
the UN Security Council adopt a resolution that would invite
the International Criminal Court to investigate the
operation. He acknowledged this could be problematic for the
U.S. but noted a precedent on Sudan and urged the U.S. not to
block such a development were it to occur.
¶8. (C) Coltart has asked for neither Embassy nor Department
assistance in securing the meeting with the President and we
are unable to assess whether his connections are likely to be
able to secure an appointment. That said, we believe his
message to the President is the right one: the Mugabe regime
has weakened itself over the past three months, the chances
for real change in the next few years have improved as a
result, and the U.S. should continue to maintain its support
for democratic elements in Zimbabwe.