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Cablegate: Mdc Consolidates Platform at Annual Conference

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. (SBU) SUMMARY: Under the firm leadership of Party
President Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC's national conference
in Harare December 20-21 yielded a comprehensive policy
platform and "blueprint" for national recovery. The party
reiterated its commitment to unconditional talks with the
ruling party but confirmed plans to use mass action in 2004
even as the parties talked. Party statements were
supportive of South African President Mbeki's efforts to
facilitate dialogue. The party and civil society groups
undertook to coordinate on shared objectives in their
contentious relations with the state. END SUMMARY

Party Exhibits Organizational Skills

2. (SBU) Built on the theme "Courage and Hope Overcome
Fear", the party conference brought together roughly 1,000
delegates from all over the country. Presiding over the
event were Chairman Isaac Matongo, President Morgan
Tsvangirai, Secretary-General Welshman Ncube, Deputy
Secretary General Gift Chimanakire, and Treasurer Fletcher
Dhulini Ncube (attending to his ill wife, Vice-President
Gibson Sibanda was the only of the party's six senior
figures absent). According to Shadow Minister for Justice
and Constitutional Affairs David Coltart, the Harare event
was considerably more organized than the party's last
national conference, held in Gweru in 2000. Aside from
audio problems that severely distorted the first five
minutes of the President's keynote address, the event
proceeded with few hitches and wrapped up ahead of schedule
on Sunday afternoon in order to permit the early departure
of delegates with long distances to travel.

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3. (SBU) The party circulated a host of papers, including
a "National Council Report", "Values, Goals and Policies of
the MDC", "The Current Crisis in Zimbabwe and the MDC's
Views on the Way Forward: The Blueprint", and a working
draft of "From Crisis to Democratic Human-Centered
Development: Programs of the MDC" (including elaboration of
the party's "RESTART" economic program, a final version of
which was not circulated). (The Embassy has e-mailed the
papers to AF/S.) Developed over the past year largely under
the direction of party's Secretary for Policy and Research
Trudy Stevenson, the papers flesh out the party's policies
on the economy, land reform, mining, industry/trade,
tourism, environment, infrastructure, energy, transport,
communications, water, labor, health/HIV/AIDS, education,
justice, local government, defense, youth, and international

Land Reform

4. (SBU) Particularly noteworthy were the party statements
on land reform, the ruling party's central issue. The party
reiterated that it would accept neither the status quo, nor
the status quo ante. Stressing the centrality of tenure
security and property rights, Tsvangirai pledged to "abolish
the dual agrarian structure" by extending the use of title
deeds in communal areas. In keeping with earlier
descriptions of the party's approach to land reform, he
articulated an approach involving an audit by a Land
Commission, leading to rationalization of land allocation.

Anticipating Broad Alliance

5. (SBU) Among the themes stressed by President
Tsvangirai's keynote address (e-mailed to AF/S) was the need
for a broad alliance across organizations and communities to
undergird any future mass action. Civil society
representatives from the National Constitutional Assembly,
the Zimbabwe Conference of Trade Unions, and others issuing
statements to the gathering in open session played to this
theme, expressing solidarity with the party's efforts to
restore the nation but stressing the need to coordinate and
consult with civil society. Tsvangirai reiterated the
importance of engagement and unity with "the people" in his
closing remarks. He and other speakers emphasized the
party's commitment to unconditional dialogue with ZANU-PF
but reserved the option of mass action to press the ruling
party to the table. In his closing press conference,
Tsvangirai elaborated that the party would employ "civil
disobedience, demonstrations, stay always, and boycotts of

Encouragement of International Efforts

6. (SBU) Tsvangirai's keynote address and several policy
papers highlighted the importance of international
engagement in effecting dialogue. Tsvangirai highlighted
events at the recent CHOGM in Abuja as vindicating the MDC.
He encouraged efforts by South African President Mbeki and
Nigerian President Obasanjo to bring ZANU-PF to the table.
Going beyond his printed text, Tsvangirai elaborated briefly
on Mugabe's betrayal of Mbeki and stressed the party's
willingness to work with Mbeki.
Transparency Showcased in Word, Deed
--------------------------------------------- ------------

7. (SBU) Speakers repeatedly stressed the party's core
values and how they differed in concept and practice from
ZANU-PF's. The delegates were constantly reminded that the
MDC was a party that stood on principle and the leadership
asserted that it would not tolerate within the party tactics
employed by the ruling party. Tsvangirai vowed to install a
culture that encouraged debate and discussion at every
level. He put these words into action when the national
council report was presented. Soon after it was read, one
of the delegates stood up to adopt it. Tsvangirai said,
"Not so fast. We are here to debate this and not to rubber
stamp it." A four-hour discussion ensued as delegates went
from paragraph to paragraph through the entire report.

8. (SBU) Tsvangirai told the conference that the MDC was
committed to "not merely replacing the elites in ZANU-PF
with new ones from MDC but to installing a completely new
political culture." On many occasions he referred to the
party's commitment to good government, a tolerant society, a
multi-party political culture, and a place where human
rights are observed and respected. When the time came for
the election of a new national executive, Tsvangirai
castigated the party at length about a rumored vote-buying
scheme and warned that anyone distributing money would be

9. (SBU) According to suspended Harare councilor Maiamba
and Innocent Chigonda, Tsvangirai's lawyer in the treason
trial, Shadow Finance Minister Tapiwa Mashakada and Harare
Mayor Elias Mudzuri were those involved in the the vote-
buying scheme publicly addressed by Tsvangirai. Mashakada
also passed around a pamphlet that attacked Renson Gasella,
who ended up winning the seat, by accusing him of being
responsible for Tsvangirai's treason trial. In the end,
Mudzuri withdrew from the election and threw his support
behind Mashakada. After Tsvangirai's reprimand, however,
Mashakada lost 7-4 (one vote per province) to Gasella. Mrs.
Chitsa and Kabela Macheba also ran but received no votes.

Gender Tension

10. (SBU) Tsvangirai stressed the importance of equal
opportunity for women in the party on numerous occasions in
his opening speech and throughout deliberations. On the
last day, however, when voting took place for a vacant seat
on the national executive, the woman candidate received no
votes. Lucia Matabenga, the head of the women's assembly,
declared to the conference "Come general elections it will
be the same thing. All men and no women. There is no place
in the MDC for gender equity. By block voting by province,
the women are disenfranchised. Shame on you, MDC."
Tsvangirai responded that they would consider this in the
next election, and after the meeting indicated that the
party would have to develop a mechanism to include women
more meaningfully.


11. (SBU) Like the ZANU-PF party conference that preceded
it by two weeks, the MDC event featured its share of
energetic presentations, singing, slogan-chanting, and
varying levels of enthusiasm among the membership. While
the MDC affair generally seemed more spontaneous than the
ZANU-PF exercise, both suffered from a palpable sense of
frustration and powerlessness in the face of the country's
political stalemate. A question posed to poloff by one of
the party faithful at the conference's conclusion testified
to an underlying drift from politics in Zimbabwe: "How can I
emigrate to the United States?"

12. (SBU) This conference's inclusive debating process and
value-oriented voting process highlighted stark differences
in MDC and ZANU-PF political cultures -- and therein lies
the rub. For all of its often impressive exposition of
issues and diagnoses for Zimbabwe's myriad crises, the MDC
remains fundamentally challenged by the environment of
stalemate here. How does an opposition party committed to
non-violence and rule-of-law play ball with a ruling party
impervious to domestic and international opprobrium and the
increasing suffering of its populace? How can an opposition
party energize an intimidated or apathetic populace that is
increasingly absorbed with the daily challenge of making
ends meet? Going into 2004, the party's response to these
questions appears to lie largely in enhanced coordination
with civil society and more sustained effort by the
international community.

© Scoop Media

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