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Cablegate: Media Reaction Council Elections in Zim; Harare

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001736

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/PDPA FOR DALTON, MITCHELL AND SIMS
NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER
LONDON FOR GURNEY
PARIS FOR NEARY
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAO KMDR ZI
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION COUNCIL ELECTIONS IN ZIM; HARARE

1. While an editorial in the September 3 edition of the
independent daily "The Daily News" saw the outcome
of the weekend urban council elections, in which the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
narrowly defeated the ruling ZANU PF party, as a
demonstration that Zimbabweans want change, the
September 3 edition of the government-controlled
daily "The Herald" blamed the overwhelming urban
support for the MDC on the travel restrictions
imposed on Robert Mugabe and senior members of his
government by the United States and the European
Union (EU). Excerpts follow:

2. Under headline "Gauging the nation's mood" the "Daily
News" (09/03), comments:

"The results of the weekend urban council elections
have once again confirmed the importance to national
politics of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the
MDC. Apart from emphasizing that the MDC enjoys
significant support from Zimbabweans across racial,
tribal and regional lines, the outcome of the polls
aptly demonstrated that the people of this country
want change in the way they are being governed. The
outcome of these elections should help the ruling
ZANU PF gauge the mood of the nation. . .The MDC's
overwhelming victory, although largely expected, can
only be viewed as a vote of no confidence in the
ruling party by the people who are most affected by
Zimbabwe's worst economic crisis since independence
in 1980. . .It must be clear by now, even to the
government, that blaming the MDC and `racist
imperialistic forces' for all of our problems will
simply not wash with the people of Zimbabwe.
Clearly no one is falling for this line anymore.
Zimbabweans want their problems to be addressed now
so that they can move on with the business of living
and building a prosperous nation. The government
cannot continue to ignore or engage in a tug-of-war
with the MDC. . .The outcome of the weekend
elections has shown that Zimbabwe is virtually a
divided nation, with ZANU PF controlling its
traditional rural stronghold while the MDC holds
sway over the urban electorate. . .It is important,
now more than ever, that Zimbabwe's main political
parties begin to make some headway in resolving this
unhealthy situation by sitting down to come up with
a negotiated political settlement. . . ."

3. Under headline "Punishing the innocent, setting
Barabbas free?" the "Herald" (09/03) comments:

". . .Once again urban voters voted with their
stomachs. We view their failure to vote for the
ruling party as protest against economic hardships
that include cash shortages, rising prices of basic
commodities, shrinking salaries and fuel shortage.
However, while there can be no denying that these
problems are there and urban dwellers are bearing
the brunt, we feel that there is still need to get
people to appreciate the real cause of our problems.
The economy has been on a steady decline for the
past four years. . .but that decline accelerated
when the MDC called on the West to impose sanctions
on the government and, by extension, the people of
Zimbabwe. Those calls were headed and in December
2001 U. S. leader George Bush signed the so-called
Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Bill into
an Act. The Act prompted American agents and
organizations the world over not to vote for any
financial aid and assistance to Zimbabwe in entities
to which they are affiliated. It also authorized
Bush to fund a so-called free media in Zimbabwe,
which is but a euphemism for media that is anti-
government. Over and above this, on February 18
last year, the EU declared sanctions on Zimbabwe,
which imposed travel bans on senior government
officials. All these steps have aggravated the
hardships faced by Zimbabweans. It is in this light
that we view the tendency by urban voters to vote
and protest against the ZANU PF government while
inadvertently placing the MDC in positions of
authority as being tantamount to punishing the
innocent while letting Barabbas go free. . .While we
chide the ruling party for failing to mobilize all
its supporters to go and vote, the apathy on the
part of MDC supporters cannot escape our attention.
In our view, it dramatizes the disillusionment of
the urban voters with the MDC's failure to deliver
since it started making inroads into Zimbabwe's
political arena. . . ."

SULLIVAN

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