Cablegate: Zanu-Pf Peacefully Protests Sanctions in Front of U.S.
OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0170/01 0551554
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 241553Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0133
INFO SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000170
AF/S FOR BWALCH
DRL FOR SMORGAN, MMITTELHAUSER, AND TDANG
DOL/ILAB FOR SHALEY
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: ZANU-PF Peacefully Protests Sanctions In Front Of U.S.
REF: HARARE 74
1. (U) A ZANU-PF organized group protested peacefully in downtown
Harare and in front of the U.S. Embassy on February 24. The
protesters, who were allegedly bused in from outside Harare,
shouted anti-sanctions slogans and appeared to have been paid at
ZANU-PF headquarters after the march ended. Although the group
reportedly intended to present petitions at the U.S. Embassy and at
the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
neither has received such a petition. The police escorted the
well-organized protesters but did not inform the Embassy in
advance. Police briefly detained and released one journalist.
There are no other reports of arrests or injuries. END SUMMARY.
March on the Embassy
2. (U) At around 10:30 local time, approximately 1,000 ZANU-PF
supporters gathered in downtown Harare for a protest march against
sanctions. According to the MDC, ZANU-PF brought the group to
Harare from nearby rural areas in buses and trucks. The protesters
wore t-shirts that said "sanctions are criminal" and carried
professional-looking posters with slogans such as "We will defeat
sanctions to realize your dreams," "Sanctions are catastrophic to
us," and "Pirate radio stations are stealing our sovereignty." The
group chanted anti-sanctions and pro-ZANU-PF slogans as it was
escorted by police through town.
3. (U) At approximately 11:00 the group arrived on Herbert Chitepo
Avenue, about a block east of the chancery. The crowd, following
directions from its leaders, peacefully marched in front of the
Embassy, pausing for about three minutes to boo, pump fists, and
sing ZANU-PF songs. The group also shouted anti-American and
anti-U.S. government slogans, directing some of their comments at
our locally employed guard force. The comments included: "Don't
you want land? What are you getting from the Americans?"; "We know
where you live, we shall get you one by one"; "We want war with
you Americans we are not afraid of you"; "Charles Ray must go, he
is responsible for sanctions"; "You are responsible for our
problems." After jeering for a few moments, the crowd peacefully
moved down the street. While stopped in front of the chancery, a
few in the group attempted to stand on barricades in front of the
entrance but stopped when told to do so by Zimbabwean police.
4. (SBU) After moving away from the Embassy, the group returned to
ZANU-PF's headquarters, where it appeared protesters entered the
building in turns, possibly to receive payment for participating.
Although it was rumored throughout the day that the group was going
to present petitions at the Embassy and at MDC headquarters
downtown, no one submitted a petition at either location.
Beginning at approximately 15:00, the group was loaded into buses
in downtown Harare. It appeared that some of the protesters
commandeered some public transport, but the crowds quickly
dissipated when it began to rain heavily.
5. (SBU) Although the police succeeded in ensuring the march in
front of the Embassy was peaceful, no one in the Embassy received
advance notice of the protest. The Embassy only learned of it at
10:45 from a civil society contact who heard about it from an MDC
official. The Embassy is still without regular protection by the
Zimbabwean police (reftel).
Journalist Detained, Released
HARARE 00000170 002 OF 002
6. (SBU) Before the march began, plainclothes police detained
freelance journalist Andrisson Manyere for about 15 minutes.
According to Manyere, the police objected to his taking photos
without having first sought permission from the police or ZANU-PF.
According to another journalist in the area, Manyere was
photographing the ZANU-PF youths scrambling for free t-shirts in
front of ZANU-PF's headquarters. Manyere was taken to the nearby
ZANU-PF headquarters building, where ZANU-PF officials and
officers of the Central Intelligence Organization recorded his
details and forced him to delete all of the photos from his camera.
(NOTE: Manyere has been a frequent target of the police. He was
arrested on January 18 in Harare while filming a march by Women of
Zimbabwe Arise. Manyere was abducted in December 2008 and held
incommunicado for several weeks by security agents who tortured
him. He remained in prison until April 2009 and still faces
charges of participating in bombings of police stations. END
7. (SBU) Today's protest came as a complete surprise, despite our
slowly improving communication with ZANU-PF and the police. Our
contacts in civil society, who usually hear of large events in
advance, were also caught off guard. Although the rhetoric
expressed by the protesters is nothing new, it is evidence that
ZANU-PF is once again exploiting rural youth to do its bidding,
using enticements of free food, t-shirts, and a trip to Harare.
This was one of the largest protests in Harare in recent memory and
the first to take place in front of the Embassy in at least three
years. END COMMENT.