Women of Zimbabwe Arise director Jenni Williams told United States embassy officials that Operation Restore Order had placed her group under additional stress because she no longer had contact with many of her members since they had been displaced.
Williams and other activists met the embassy officials in a private home in an attempt to elude Central Intelligence Organisation officers who tracked their activities.
One of the members Shingirai Mupani, who said she had been a trader since 1987, said police had destroyed her market stall and confiscated her vegetables and had then forced her to dismantle her own home.
She said police had told her to go back to her rural home, which was in Buhera. But the United States embassy said like many Ndebele her homestead had been destroyed during Gukurahundi.
Gukurahundi only affected Matebeleland and parts of the Midlands.
Buhera is in Manicaland, though it was part of Masvingo at independence.
Viewing cable 05HARARE991, OPERATION RESTORE ORDER IN BULAWAYO
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
201404Z Jul 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000991
AF FOR DAS T. WOODS
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010
SUBJECT: OPERATION RESTORE ORDER IN BULAWAYO
REF: HARARE 980
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires a.i., Eric T. Schultz under Section 1.
¶1. (SBU) Operation Restore Order has had a profound effect on
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe,s second largest city, much as it has in
other cities around the country. During a visit to Bulawayo
with Staffdel Simpkins on July 3-4, embassy staff viewed
scenes of devastation and relief efforts at sites for
displaced families. Activists from Women of Zimbabwe Arise!
(WOZA) offered compelling first person accounts of the
destruction and individual coping efforts. MDC MP for
Bulawayo David Coltart further described efforts to care for
victims, elaborated on possible GOZ objectives, and conceded
that internal strife had prevented the MDC from responding
effectively to Restore Order. End Summary.
The Destruction in Bulawayo and Assistance to the Victims
¶2. (SBU) On July 4, the staffdel visited Kilarney, one of the
destroyed settlements. There was little remaining of the
settlement to indicate that it had ever been more than a
large, grassy field. There was a piece of clothing in the
mud and the occasional brick remains of a house. The rest,
including rubble from most of the destroyed dwellings, had
been cleared away. Only a handful of elderly men lingered in
the area. World Vision field officer Kilton Moyo said that
Kilarney had been created as a settlement by the Rhodesian
government to move blacks out of the city when Bulawayo was
much smaller. Some people had returned to the rural areas
after independence, but the settlement had remained and
received many new inhabitants in the 1980s, during the
Gukurahundi, when the GOZ destroyed Ndebele villages and
killed thousands of the ethnic minority.
¶3. (C) At an Anglican church providing assistance to the
people of Kilarney and other such settlements, families were
crowded on the small church grounds, most in makeshift
shelters, with only one small tent sheltering a family.
Father Barnabas Nauende said the church was providing the
space, water, transportation for children to school (one
truck that several churches chipped in to fuel), and baskets
of foodstuffs. Parishioners had been collecting blankets and
other items for distribution. The church was working with
World Vision and other churches providing similar support.
Doctors and nurses volunteered their time for a weekly
clinic, and the church provided medicines. The church had
held the weekly clinic before Operation Restore Order had
begun but was experiencing such an increase in demand, that
the last weekly clinic had completely wiped out the church,s
small store of medicines, which would normally last a few
weeks. Doctors without Borders also had volunteer staff in
the area and had visited the church.
¶4. (C) Nauende said the government had been trying to move
all the displaced into a large transit camp but that various
religious leaders had been resisting the removal, due to the
fact that the government had no facilities of any kind of
planned for the camp. So far, the churches had succeeded at
keeping the displaced on their grounds. Nauende said he was
very worried about water rationing by the city and that food
had been diverted from other programs to feed the newly
displaced but, thus far, the churches had been a powerful
force in protecting the people. World Vision,s Moyo echoed
concerns about diversion of food aid. He said that, if
famine struck as was probable, aid organizations would be in
a poor position to assist.
WOZA Tales of Displacement
¶5. (C) WOZA activists, including leader Jenni Williams, met
with the staffdel in a private home in an attempt to elude
CIO officers who track their activities. Members told their
stories of displacement and discussed the challenges the
group now faces. WOZA member Shingiria Mupani, a single
mother of six school-age children, said she had been a
trader, licensed by the City Council, since 1987 and had
lived in the high-density suburb of Old Pumula since 1996.
Police had descended on the market where she had had a stall
and confiscated her bags of vegetables as she was unloading
them. Later, police had forced her to dismantle her own home
and told her to go back to her rural home. Mupani was from
Buhera, but like many Ndebele her homestead had been
destroyed during the Gukurahundi. Subsequent to the
destructions of her home and business, she had been arrested
after a June 29 WOZA demonstration and her fingerprints taken
at the police station. She had been told that, even if she
were acquitted of the charges, the fingerprints on record
would prevent her from receiving one of the new housing plots
or vending stalls the government had promised. The other
women told similar stories.
¶6. (C) Mupani said that few Zimbabweans were demonstrating
against the operation because Zimbabweans had never had any
education in human rights and democracy and had a culture of
obeying leaders who held the responsibility for society,s
future. Although people rose up in the liberation struggle,
afterwards they thought the work had been done and they could
now trust their leaders. In addition, Zimbabweans beyond
those directly affected did not know what was going on.
Williams said WOZA needed a way to get pictures of what was
going on to others around the country in order to raise
awareness because no Zimbabwean media dared run them.
¶7. (C) Williams said Operation Restore Order was placing the
group under additional stress. She had not had contact with
many members since their displacements. Several of the women
were facing trial for one of their demonstrations and were
without legal representation because a human rights legal
fund had turned down their request for support, saying it did
not meet the definition of emergency aid. The women said
that they felt abandoned by others in civil society and by
the international community.
David Coltart on Operation, MDC Reaction
¶8. (C) MDC MP David Coltart arrived late for a meeting at his
offices on July 4. He said he had been at a meeting with
constituents for whose self-help projects he was trying to
find funding, and the meeting had run longer than expected
because there were so many new projects presented aimed at
relieving the effects of Restore Order.
¶9. (C) Coltart acknowledged that the MDC’s internal divisions
had prevented it from effectively opposing Restore Order. He
said there were many possible explanations for the operation.
He had heard a rumor that Solomon Mujuru was the driving
force behind Restore Order as a way of exerting Zezuru power
within the party. A second possibility was retribution
against constituencies that the MDC believed it had actually
won but had gone to ZANU-PF through fraud. Yet another was a
preemptive strike against simmering anger by the populace
concerning the deteriorating economic situation; the
operations would distract them and render them unable to
protest. Still another was that Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
Governor Gideon Gono was the driving force in a move to
gather more foreign exchange. Finally, the operation was an
opportunity for the GOZ to extend its patronage to the cities
by getting rid of existing tenants and traders and giving out
plots of land and trading stalls only to the favored and
loyal. Coltart said that, whatever the motivations, the
government,s behavior during Restore Order was not an
accident or an aberration; it was calculated.
¶10. (C) The Bulawayo visit once more underscored the depth of
suffering Operation Restore Order has caused. Virtually no
part of the country has been untouched, but the operation has
had a particularly devastating effect on the Ndeble people
who predominate in and around Bulawayo. It brought back
memories of the horrors of the Gukurahundi and reminders of
just how brutal a regime Robert Mugabe created.