Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions leader Wellington Chibebe told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that people should not underestimate President Robert Mugabe because he was not likely to leave office, even in 2008.
Chibebe said way back in September 2004 that Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front had long term plans and had successfully kept the opposition on the defensive by, among other things, taking the opposition’s ideas and implementing them as their own.
In contrast, the opposition lacked a long-term strategy and instead was constantly reacting to ZANU-PF initiatives.
Viewing cable 04HARARE1624, AMB DELL MEETS TOP LABOR LEADER
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 HARARE 001624
AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVELLE, D. TEITELBAUM
USDOC FOR AMANDA HILLIGAS, TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW,
PASS USTR FOR FLORIZELLE LISER, STATE PASS USAID FOR
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2009
SUBJECT: AMB DELL MEETS TOP LABOR LEADER
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell for reason 1.5 d
¶1. (C) During a September 15 meeting with the Ambassador,
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, (ZCTU) Secretary General
Wellington Chibebe said President Mugabe was unlikely to
leave office, even in 2008 and that the political opposition
would likely lose the parliamentary elections badly, largely
because of ZANU-PF,s control of rural areas. ZCTU and other
civil society groups therefore needed to adopt a different,
longer-term approach to democracy. For its part, ZCTU was
attempting to organize agricultural workers as a first step
in weakening the ruling party,s hold over the countryside.
A Long-Term Approach Needed
¶2. (C) Chibebe said President Mugabe would be unlikely to
leave office, even in 2008 and that the ZCTU and other civil
society organizations therefore had to also plan long-term,
not just post-2008 but post-Mugabe. He added that Mugabe,s
political acumen should not be underestimated. ZANU-PF has a
long-term plan and had successfully kept the opposition on
the defensive by, among other things, taking the
opposition,s ideas and implementing them as their own. In
contrast, the opposition lacked a long-term strategy and
instead was constantly reacting to ZANU-PF initiatives.
¶3. (C) Chibebe said that as a key part of their long-term
strategy, the ZCTU was starting to organize farm workers in
the traditionally ZANU-PF countryside. He claimed early
success in reaching farm workers and asserted that his
organization,s efforts would eventually loosen ZANU-PF,s
grip on rural areas. He claimed ZCTU,s recruiting efforts
had the support of local chiefs, despite their traditional
ties to the ruling party. The ZCTU was nonetheless proceeding
cautiously with its rural efforts to avoid detection and
reprisal. In that regard, Chibebe said the GOZ clearly saw
the ZCTU as an opponent and was determined to weaken it.
Government tactics included infiltrating the union with
informers, creating the rival Zimbabwe Federation of Trade
Unions (ZFTU), breaking up labor rallies, and police
harassment of labor activists. That said, the GOZ had to
tread more lightly on labor leaders than other perceived
opponents because of the International Labor Organization,s
(ILO) close scrutiny.
¶4. (C) Chibebe said that another component of the ZCTU,s
plan for the future was to concentrate on raising its
membership. The ZCTU currently contained 36 unions with a
total of 250,000 to 300,000 workers, which represented 25-30
percent of the total formal Zimbabwean work force and workers
in parastatal firms still formed the ZCTU,s backbone.
However, the union was in the process of organizing some 1.2
million workers in the informal sector, mostly in rural
areas. The Ambassador raised the issue of land reform,
questioning why no one had challenged ZANU-PF on the failure
of its land reform policy. Chibebe agreed the opposition
should be more outspoken, noting that ZANU-PF should not be
allowed to claim as a success a policy that had hurt four
times as many Zimbabweans as it had helped.
¶5. (C) Chibebe was confident, articulate and thoughtful. His
strategic vision is particularly impressive and it is
encouraging that under Chibebe,s leadership the ZCTU is
already thinking of ways to counter a likely ZANU-PF victory
in the March elections, even as it struggles with the
shorter-term political situation. One can,t help but think
that, like Morgan Tsvangirai before him, the future leader of
the political opposition might well come from the ZCTU.