Cablegate: Former Mdc Spokesman Found Dead in Prison

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Former MDC spokesman and MP Learnmore Jongwe was found
dead in his prison cell early in the morning of October 22.
Jongwe was arrested in July for fatally stabbing his wife,
and he subsequently confessed to the crime. Jongwe had
been denied bail by both the High Court and Supreme Court,
ostensibly for fear that he would abscond. His trial had
been scheduled for November. (Note: In 2000, Jongwe won
his parliamentary seat in Kuwadzana -- a high-density
suburb in Harare -- with a convincing margin over his Zanu-
PF opponent: 15 691 votes to 4 349. End Note.)

2. MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai released a strong press
statement expressing the party's shock and regret, and
saying the MDC "holds the Mugabe regime accountable for the
death of Jongwe.deaths in custody are associated with
tyrannical and oppressive regimes worldwide whose aim is to
eliminate opponents, silence critics and promote open
fascism." The statement ends by vowing that the opposition
party "will intensify the struggle for the supremacy of the
people's power and sovereignty."

3. The MDC's National Youth Chairman -- and a close friend
of Jongwe -- Nelson Chamisa told us that the MDC had been
denied access to the prison since Jongwe's death. He said
Jongwe's uncle had seen the former MDC parliamentarian at
approximately 1 pm on October 21 and that he appeared to be
in reasonable spirits at that time. MDC MP David Coltart
told us that the party had heard unconfirmed reports that
Jongwe had been taken out of his cell yesterday and
returned last night, a report we also heard from other
reliable sources. Coltart did not rule out suicide as a
possible cause of death but encouraged the international
community to call for an independent investigation and
autopsy. The Director of Zimbabwe Prisons, Paradzayi
Zimondi, insisted that a "full investigation" would be
conducted, but the MDC is understandably reluctant to take
him at his word.

4. Comment: It is unclear at this stage what may have
caused Jongwe's death or whether the GOZ may have played a
part in it. It is interesting that reports in the
government media have failed to provide any details on the
manner in which Jongwe might have died, only that he was
found dead in his cell. The GOZ had been using his case to
portray the MDC as a violent party, and planned to try to
further discredit the opposition party by trying Jongwe at
the same time as Tsvangirai's treason trial. It thus is
not clear that the government would have had any motive for
ordering his murder. Although the Government is determined
to gain as many parliamentary seats as possible, in an
effort to regain a two-thirds majority, Jongwe likely would
have been convicted in November and lost his parliamentary
seat in any case. The reports -- as yet unconfirmed -
that Jongwe was taken from his cell for a number of hours
yesterday is troubling. Until we learn more details,
however, it would be premature to speculate, but the
Department may wish to consider David Coltart's suggestion
that we call publicly for an independent investigation and


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