The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front opened election space in the run-up to the 2005 elections after the Movement for Democratic Change had indicated that it would boycott the poll.
Registrar-general Tobaiwa Mudede gave the MDC an electronic copy of the voters’ roll to enable the party to examine it and prepare for the elections if it decided to participate.
The government also publicly stated that it would give the MDC greater access to the media which was virtually controlled by the State.
Talks about coming up with a new constitution which would see the reintroduction of a bicameral house and the abolition of presidentially appointed seats that were being carried out by ZANU-PF chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa and MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube were, however, cut off.
Viewing cable 04HARARE1562, ZIMBABWE’S ELECTION SPACE OPENING?
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 001562
AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/16/2009
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE'S ELECTION SPACE OPENING?
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: MDC Secretary for Presidential Affairs
Gandhi Mudzingwa told poloff on September 14 that the party
was finding it easier to conduct rallies around the country,
although no-go areas remained. In a surprise move, Mudzinga
said Election Registrar General Mudede had agreed to share
with the MDC an electronic copy of the voter rolls, which
would facilitate the party,s preparations for the national
parliamentary elections should they choose to participate.
Finally, the GOZ has suggested publicly that it would take
measures to afford the opposition greater access to the state
media, a development Mudzingwa said the party planned to
exploit. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) Mudzingwa reported that MDC President Morgan
Tsvangirai and other party leaders had conducted successful
rallies during the past week in Harare, Gweru, and other
locales. Additional rallies were scheduled soon in Bulawayo,
Mutare, and Masvingo. After denying MDC public meeting
applications for weeks, police had granted the party blanket
authority to hold rallies in Manicaland for a month.
(Comment: Contentious territory dominated by the MDC in the
last parliamentary elections, Manicaland this year has seen
concerted ruling party efforts to suppress the opposition,
including the violent seizure of MDC MP Roy Bennett,s farm
and the forcible eviction of the MDC mayor of Mutare from his
office. End comment.)
¶3. (C) Mudzingwa went into detail on the party,s experience
in Hwedza, a fairly remote venue in rural Mashonaland East,
as representative of the improved but still mixed treatment
the party was getting from authorities. When a regional
party representative pursued a permit to hold a rally in
Hwedza, he was told several times by police officials that it
was not &your territory8 and that his safety could not be
guaranteed. Party officials had complained of this and
similar rebuffs elsewhere to their Central Intelligence
Office (CIO) liaison and were told to keep trying.
Subsequently, police convened a &peace meeting8 involving
representatives from both parties in Hwedza and then issued a
permit for the rally.
¶4. (C) On the eve of the Hwedza rally, ruling party
supporters beat opposition supporters and threatened local
people with reprisals if they failed to attend a ZANU-PF
rally scheduled for the same time. ZANU-PF youths abducted
and beat two activists, dumping one of the victims at a
police station. Nonetheless, the MDC rally came off
successfully, according to Mudzingwa. Police dispersed
ruling party youths who wanted to disrupt the meeting. To
date, none of the MDC supporters had experienced reprisals
customarily associated with similar circumstances. Police
protection continued to be uneven, however, and MDC
supporters had to disperse disruptive war vets without police
assistance in a similar situation in Bikita. Many areas
remained no-go areas, with police emphasizing their inability
to guarantee the safety of a meeting, refusing to issue
permits, or arresting those trying to meet without a permit.
State Media Opening?
¶5. (C) Mudzingwa also reported that the party,s CIO liaison
recently indicated that the MDC party would be given access
to the state media. According to state radio on September
15, the GOZ was drawing up guidelines for opposition access
to state media. Mudzingwa said the MDC planned soon to seek
advertising in the official Herald newspaper. It would later
press to get airtime on broadcast media.
MDC Preparing for Election Campaign
¶6. (C) According to Mudzingwa, the MDC was going &full
blast8 in preparations for the election, should the boycott
be called off. The party was engaging in a membership drive,
consolidating local structures, and conducting campaign
training. It had completed primaries or other processes in
connection with the selection of candidates for nearly all MP
¶7. (C) Mudzingwa advised that Election Registrar General
Mudede had agreed to share with the MDC an electronic copy of
the entire national voter rolls. The party was raising the
ZD 12 million (about USD 2000) required to cover costs of the
copy. The roll would permit the opposition to conduct voter
registration audits as well as audits of its own registered
Talks on Talks Scotched
¶8. (C) Mudzingwa confirmed press reports that Minister for
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Chinamasa
and MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube had cut off informal
interparty discussions on constitutional amendments to
restructure the government, including the introduction of a
bicameral parliament and elimination of presidentially
appointed &non-constituency8 members of parliament. He
shared with poloff a copy of the draft legislation to support
the amendments, which he said could be the departure point
for resumed discussions should the parties choose.
¶8. (C) It would be premature to attach too much significance
to these apparently positive developments. ZANU-PF likely
intends the opening of campaign space and media access to
offer cover for SADC endorsement of its March election, a
high ruling party priority. That said, if granted, access to
voter rolls )- a central component of election transparency
and integrity missing in the last election )- would
represent concrete progress in the election environment.
Suspension of informal discussions on constitutional
amendments probably represents a tactical move by each party
to step back in the wake of the MDC's publicized boycott
¶9. (C) These developments present the MDC with an
opportunity and a challenge. The party leadership hopes to
exploit the opening of campaign space and channels of
communication to energize a moribund support base that has
grown apathetic and disillusioned. Improvement of the
election environment affords the party a face-saving option
to participate in the election, even if it could not win.
Participation in a flawed process might confer greater
legitimacy to a ruling party victory (according to the terms
of the MDC,s conditional boycott) but is also more likely to
assure the party,s survival to contest another day.