Women of Zimbabwe Arise leader Jenni Williams told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that Zimbabweans, especially those in the rural areas, were at the breaking point.
She said uniformed soldiers were moving into the rural areas and running their own agricultural areas, making life very difficult for the residents in the area.
Rural people were finding it increasingly difficult to get food.
Williams said WOZA planned marches in Bulawayo and Harare to protest increased fees at government schools.
She did not expect interference from Bulawayo’s security forces, which were also unhappy about the fee increases.
Police, however, arrested demonstrators in Bulawayo but not in Harare.
Asked about WOZA’s interactions with the Movement for Democratic Change factions, Williams said that WOZA supported the opposition but had a specific aim, to empower women and to enable the position of ordinary women on issues affecting their daily survival to be heard.
Therefore, WOZA would continue to do its own work, independent of other organizations.
Viewing cable 06HARARE553, ZIMBABWEANS ON THE EDGE OF A BREAKDOWN: THE VIEW
DE RUEHSB #0553/01 1311806
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FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
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RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1038
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1205
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 0832
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1259
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000553
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
USAID/AFR/SA FOR E. LOKEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/09/2016
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWEANS ON THE EDGE OF A BREAKDOWN: THE VIEW
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) During a May 2-3 visit to Bulawayo, Ambassador Dell
met with both factions of the MDC, an activist
organization, and a local economist. MDC anti-Senate
faction Vice-President Thokozani Khupe argued that
Zimbambweans were ready for mass peaceful action but needed
to see the opposition taking the lead. By contrast,
pro-Senate MDC official Abednico Bhebhe said the public’s
mood was not yet right for mass demonstrations. Women of
Zimbabwe Arise! (WOZA) representatives said they were
planning a series of demonstrations to protest increased
school fees. Economic observer Eric Bloch predicted that
Zimbabweans’ restlessness over their economic struggles
would lead President Mugabe to step down sooner rather than
later. End summary.
Anti-Senate Faction MDC: We Must Lead the People
¶2. (C) On May 3, anti-Senate faction Vice President
Thokozani Khupe said Zimbabweans had reached the boiling
point, especially in the rural areas, and would participate
in civic action if led properly. If they saw the
anti-Senate faction’s leaders taking to the streets
themselves, the people would be emboldened to act. She
said people stopped her in the streets daily and asked when
the faction was going to begin the peaceful resistance
discussed at the faction’s Congress. Khupe emphasized that
lack of resources was an obstacle to the faction’s plans
but noted that if the MDC failed to act, spontaneous
protests could erupt instead that would bring pressure on
¶3. (C) Khupe maintained that many in the security forces
were tired of the system and secretly supported the
opposition. They had told the faction’s leaders that they
were forced to take action against small demonstrations.
However, if thousands or hundreds of thousands appeared at
a demonstration the security forces could tell their
superiors that they had been overwhelmed and there would be
no arrests or beatings of demonstrators.
¶4. (C) Khupe added that supporters of the pro-Senate MDC
faction were coming back to the anti-Senate MDC faction
slowly. Some were embarrassed to switch positions. Others
were intimidated by Welshman Ncube or felt they owed him
their allegiance. However, bit-by-bit, the pro-Senate
faction was being hollowed out. Civil society, too, was
wholeheartedly embracing the anti-Senate faction, including
groups that had experience with civil action, such as the
National Constitutional Assembly and WOZA, churches, and
Pro-Senate Faction MDC: We Must Educate the People
¶5. (C) On May 3, Abednico Bhebhe, MP for Nkayi and Shadow
Minister for Transport and Communications of the pro-Senate
faction of the MDC, told the Ambassador that times were
worsening for people but they were still unwilling to stand
up for themselves. He said the mood of the people was not
yet ripe for mass demonstrations. It was the role of his
faction to educate the people in their civic rights so that
they could take the lead in protesting the current regime.
HARARE 00000553 002 OF 003
¶6. (C) The Ambassador asked how the faction planned on
conducting this civic education. Bhebhe said that public
elected officials should use their positions and the
party’s political structures in their constituencies to spread
information about civic rights. This, rather than the
anti-Senate MDC’s announcement of its intention to conduct
mass action at public rallies, was the way to convince the
people to take the initiative.
The Activists’ Take
¶7. (C) On May 3, the Ambassador met with members of WOZA,
an activist group primarily composed of women, which holds
regular demonstrations on a range of issues affecting
ordinary Zimbabweans. WOZA leader Jenni Williams and
several of WOZA’s members agreed that Zimbabweans,
especially those in the rural areas, were at the breaking
point. Uniformed soldiers were moving into the rural areas
and running their own agricultural areas, making life very
difficult for the residents in the area. Rural people were
finding it increasingly difficult to get food.
¶8. (C) The group described planned marches in Bulawayo and
Harare to protest increased fees at government schools.
Williams said she did not expect interference from
Bulawayo’s security forces, which were also unhappy about
the fee increases. (N.B. In the event, police did arrest
demonstrators in Bulawayo but not in Harare). The women
also noted an increasing number of men attending WOZA
meetings and wanting to participate in its activities.
¶9. (C) The Ambassador asked about WOZA’s interactions with
the MDC factions. Williams responded that WOZA supported
the opposition but had a specific aim, to empower women and
to enable the position of ordinary women on issues
affecting their daily survival to be heard. Therefore,
WOZA would continue to do its own work, independent of
¶10. (C) On May 2, respected local economic commentator Eric
Bloch told the Ambassador the country’s economic meltdown
was reaching a critical point. The Ambassador asked Bloch
if RBZ President Gideon Gono (whom Bloch knows well) had
been deliberately making mistakes in his attempts to
influence economic policy. Bloch attributed Gono’s
blunders to naivete and impetuousness. He said Gono had
made enemies of several powerful figures in the ruling
party and was only saved by his strong support from
¶11. (C) The Ambassador asked Bloch how long the economy
could last under such mismanagement and if it could ever
recover. Bloch replied that Zimbabweans had been willing
to put up with lack of fuel and long lines for food but
were now seeing their children go hungry, a situation that
was likely to prod them into action. Longer-term, however,
Bloch expressed optimism noting that mineral wealth, good
industrial infrastructure, a desirable geographic position,
and the possible revitalization of tourism and commercial
agriculture all provided hope that the economy could
recover given the right policies.
¶12. (C) Bloch added, however, that the current regime was
likely incapable of adopting the right economic policies.
In that regard, he claimed to have heard that Mugabe was
planning his exit from the Presidency. Bloch speculated
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that Mugabe would explain his retirement to the public by
saying that he had completed his work for the people of
Zimbabwe and would now need time to work on his other
goals, such as writing his memoirs. However, the reality
was that Mugabe could not bring himself to make policy
changes and feared the possibility of mass uprisings
brought on by economic decline.
¶13. (C) Much is often made of differences between the
Ndebele minority-dominated Matabeleland and the rest of the
country, but all share at least one common denominator —
the extent to which they are fed up with the regime’s
mismanagement of the economy. Still, whether Zimbabweans
act on that growing disgust and resentment continues to
hinge in part on key variables referred to in the
Ambassador’s exchanges: opposition leadership, security
forces’ loyalties, and the pace of economic decline, among
other things. Unspoken by the interlocutors is the need
for a spark, some event to snap everybody here out of their
superhuman tolerance for long-worsening conditions with no
meaningful hope for respite.