Canadian Ari Ben Menashe’s personal assistant Tara Thomas was paid $10 000 for injuries she sustained in a bicycle accident after Menashe attributed this to the work of the Movement for Democratic Change.
This was disclosed by the Central Intelligence Organisation boss Happyton Bonyongwe during the treason trial of MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai.
Bonyongwe confirmed that the government had paid Menashe a large sum of money three weeks before he came to testify in Tsvangirai’s trial but said the money was for Menashe to boost the image of Zimbabwe and to solicit for investment.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1256, TSVANGIRAI FREE ON BAIL; TREASON TRIAL CONTINUES
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 SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001256
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIRBOI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/20/2008
SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI FREE ON BAIL; TREASON TRIAL CONTINUES
WEEKS TWELVE AND THIRTEEN
Classified By: Political Officer Peggy Blackford for reasons 1.5b/d
¶1. (C) After two weeks in prison, MDC President Morgan
Tsvangirai was today granted bail on fresh treason charges.
Bail conditions are high for Zimbabwe but should be doable.
Tsvangirai’s trial on old treason charges resumed this week
as well. Under cross examination Central Intelligence head
Happyton Bonyongwe confirmed that the GOZ had made
substantial payments and extended a contract to principal
government witness, Ari Ben Menashe. The Justice presiding
over the trial appeared to come under renewed pressure from
¶2. (SBU) At the bail hearing held at nine this morning, the
court granted bail to Tsvangirai on the fresh charges of
treason which led to his arrest on June 7. Bail was set at
Z$10 million (about US$4250), a substantial sum given the
weakness of the State’s case and the fact that no reasonable
person would believe that someone who did not flee the
court’s jurisdiction while undergoing one trial from treason
is likely to flee from a new trial. He will also be required
to surrender title deeds to at least Z$100 million in
property as a surety and to refrain from advocating (or
encouraging other to pursue) the overthrow of the State
President or the government by violent means. Tsvangirai’s
attorney told PolOff that the party was furiously running
around to raise the bail which must be paid in cash, a
commodity that has been in short supply in Zimbabwe for some
weeks now. Assuming the bail is raised, and we are quite
sure it will be, Tsvangirai should spend the weekend at home.
¶3. (SBU) After last week during which proceedings were
suspended, Tsvangirai’s original treason case resumed this
week with the defense’s continued cross-examination of CIO
chief Bonyongwe. Bonyongwe revealed that the government
renewed its contract with political consultant, Ari Ben
Menashe, one of the principal witnesses against Tsvangirai
about three weeks before Menashe flew to Harare to testify
against Tsvangirai. Ostensibly the purpose of the contract
was to boost the image of Zimbabwe internationally and to try
and solicit investment. The GOZ was allegedly worried about
Tsvangirai’s travels, especially to West Africa, where the
government believed that Tsvangirai was sending out the wrong
message on the land reform program. Pressed by Tsvangirai’s
lead attorney, George Bizos, Bonyongwe admitted that there
was nothing subversive about Tsvangirai’s travel.
¶4. (U) Bonyongwe also confirmed that the GOZ had paid
US$10,000 to Ben Menashe’s personal assistant, Tara Thomas,
for injuries received as the result of a bicycle accident in
Canada which Ben Menashe attributed to the work of
opposition Zimbabweans. This testimony contradicts Thomas’s
own evidence in which she claimed she had not been paid any
money by the GOZ. Bizos also attacked the reputation of Ben
Menashe who is wanted for fraud in Zambia and reputed to have
been involved in numerous shady deals, but Bonyongwe insisted
that Ben Menashe had done good work for the GOZ.
¶5. (C) The court room was not full this week. Tsvangirai was
guarded by prison officials while in the witness box and
rushed away after each session. Justice Paddington Garwe who
is presiding over the trial, appeared to be getting impatient
with advocate Bizos and kept prompting him to move on and not
repeat questions. This is a change from previous weeks when
Garwe, if not overly sympathetic to the defense, did seem to
be impartial and may reflect additional pressure being
brought on him by the GOZ.
¶6. (C) Any dispassionate observer would have to conclude that
the State’s original treason case has collapsed. The payment
of large amounts to the principal government witness just
weeks before the trial surely raises serious suspicions of
conflict of interest or outright bribery while the new
charges are so insubstantial as to be nothing more than a
pretext for locking up and humiliating Zimbabwe’s leading
political opponent. Unfortunately, the GOZ is anything but
dispassionate. Nevertheless, granting bail does suggest that
the government knows that it must ultimately deal with
Tsvangirai across a bargaining table.