Police founds weapons at the house of a Movement for Democratic Change activist’s house at the height of the week-long stay-away that had been called for by the party but they did not claim that the weapons were intended for use during the demonstrations.
The legislator for the area Job Sikhala confirmed that weapons were found in his constituency but said police had planted them before the seizure.
The stay-away was organised during the treason trial of party leader Morgan Tsvangirai who was charged together with Welshman Ncube and Renson Gasela with plotting to kill President Robert Mugabe.
The state asked the judge to change Tsvangirai’s bail conditions to bar him from making inflammatory statements after he had urged people to participate in the stay-away.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1149, POSSIBLE MARCHES JUNE 6, BUSINESS ALMOST AS USUAL
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 02 HARARE 001149
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
BANGKOK FOR WIN DAYTON
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013
SUBJECT: POSSIBLE MARCHES JUNE 6, BUSINESS ALMOST AS USUAL
– MASS ACTION DAY FOUR
REF: A. HARARE 1136
¶B. HARARE 1122
¶C. HARARE 1101
¶D. HARARE 1097
¶E. HARARE 1081
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) Reports continued on June 5 that security forces beat
MDC activists in high-density suburbs around Harare on the
previous night; there were numerous unconfirmed reports that
riot police even beat patients, and bystanders at the Avenues
Clinic in central Harare on June 4. The MDC called for
nationwide marches on June 6, but it is unclear whether the
MDC expects its membership to show up in force, or whether
their strategy is simply to cause people to be cautious on
Friday and stay home. Police seized weapons at the house of
an MDC activist on June 4; the MDC MP for the area said they
were planted. Most businesses appeared to be open as normal
on June 5. End Summary.
Reports of Beatings
¶2. (U) There were reports from several sources that riot
police beat patients and bystanders at the Avenues Clinic in
downtown Harare on June 4. Elisabeth Sibotshiwe, the
Principle Matron on duty at the time, acknowledges that
police did visit Avenues on that day, but denies that they
assaulted anyone inside the building. There were unconfirmed
reports that riot police questioned, beat, and arrested two
people outside the clinic. The police then allegedly entered
the waiting area shouting, and assaulted patients,
journalists and bystanders with fists and batons.
¶3. (C) MDC Presidential Advisor, Gandi Mudzingwa, and MDC MP
for St. Mary’s Job Sikhala reported that security forces beat
MDC activists for the second night in a row in the
high-density suburbs of Highfield, Budiriro, Glen Norah and
Chitungwiza near Harare on the night of June 4 – 5. They
both acknowledged that fewer people were beaten on that night
than on the previous one. Sibotshiwe said that Avenues was
“quiet”; she was not seeing an above average number of
beating victims in the Avenues Clinic casualty ward on June 5.
¶4. (C) The MDC ran a full-page ad in the independent Daily
News on June 5 calling for marches into centers of town on
June 6. According to Mudzingwa, the marches were to start at
10 am, and were likely to be small-scale events with the
leadership and primary activists participating. Sikhala said
that most activists who had been arrested earlier in the week
had been released, and were organizing for the marches.
Mudzingwa said that even with the earlier arrests, there was
still considerable enthusiasm within the party faithful to
march. When confronted with the possibility that security
forces might prevent a march before it even started, Sikhala
suggested that the strategy was to promote the march and at
the very least people might be afraid to leave their homes –
helping to log the stayaway as a full week’s exercise.
¶5. (C) On June 5, the government-owned The Herald reported
that a cache of weapons was found at the house of an MDC
activist in St. Mary’s (a high-density suburb of Harare).
The GOZ did not claim that these weapons were intended for
use in this week’s demonstrations, but state media used the
seizure as part of its propaganda effort to paint the MDC as
a violent party. Sikhala confirmed that the weapons were
found, but he said that police planted them previous to the
seizure. The Herald reported that police seized 22 sticks of
dynamite, 5 kilograms of fertilizer, one nine mm round of
ammunition, 22 electric detonators, electric wires, and other
less dangerous items. Sikhala did not confirm what weapons
were actually seized.
¶6. (U) On June 4 in the treason trial of MDC President Morgan
Tsvangirai, the state asked the judge to change Tsvangirai’s
bail conditions to bar him from making inflammatory
statements that might cause public disorder. The State was
referring to Tsvangirai’s comments, reported in the press,
urging Zimbabweans to participate in the June 2 – 6 mass
action. The Defense argued that the law under which the
State argued its case, Section 24 of the draconian Public
Order and Security Act (POSA), was too vague, and therefore
unconstitutional. Justice Paddington Garwe said he would
deliver his judgment on the issue on June 6.
Business Almost as Usual
¶7. (U) Driving around Harare on June 5, Poloff observed that
only about 15 percent of shops in downtown Harare, and 50
percent of businesses in the light industrial areas of Harare
were closed. Pedestrian and vehicle traffic in downtown
Harare seemed normal. Activity in the high-density suburb of
Mbare seemed normal.
¶8. (SBU) One or two groups of 3 police officers were visible
in downtown Harare on June 4; they assumed very relaxed
¶9. (C) According to Richard Pope, a furniture manufacturer in
Bulawayo, about 30 percent of his workers did not show up on
June 5. His factory was open, but running at reduced
capacity. He said many other factories nearby were open and
operating, most with an average of 75 percent of their normal
workforces. He said activity around Bulawayo seemed almost
normal with most banks and businesses open.
¶10. (C) There are various factors influencing whether the
June 6 marches come off. MDC activists are shell-shocked
from arrests and beatings earlier this week, but still
enthusiastic, and even angrier now because they could not get
earlier marches off the ground. Security forces are now
practiced in methods to quell marches before they happen.
With failed marches earlier this week, MDC leaders are not
confident a march can be pulled off on June 6. But it
appears they are going ahead with the plan, under the notion
that at least preparation efforts on both sides will cause
ordinary Zimbabweans to stay at home and thus make the
stayaway a week long exercise. End Comment.