Ari Ben Menashe, the star witness in the treason trial of Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, said the government had agreed to pay him US$1 million for his services and had already paid $400 000.
Ben-Menashe, who was a director of a Canadian firm, Dickens and Madson, said he met Tsvangirai at his request and it was at one of these meetings that the elimination of President Robert Mugabe came up.
Tsvangirai, MDC secretary Welshman Ncube and legislator Renson Gasela are facing treason charges for plotting to assassinate Mugabe.
Tsvangirai’s lawyer George Bizos acknowledged that Tsvangirai had met Ben-Menashe but said this had been done at the request of Dickens and Madson which had pressed Tsvangirai to enter into a political consultancy arrangement.
Ben-Menashe claimed that it was the MDC who sought a relationship with his company and that it was Tsvangirai who asked for his company’s help in arranging the assassination of Mugabe.
He, however, admitted signing a contract with the government for provision of consultancy services, but said this was only in January 2002, after the videotape of his final meeting with Tsvangirai was made.
He said the government had agreed to pay him US$1 000 000 for his services and had paid only about US$400 000.
Viewing cable 03HARARE259, TREASON TRIAL OF MDC PRESIDENT ENTERS THIRD DAY
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 000259
LONDON FOR CGURNEY
PARIS FOR CNEARY
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/05/2013
SUBJECT: TREASON TRIAL OF MDC PRESIDENT ENTERS THIRD DAY
REF: HARARE 230
Classified By: POLITICAL SECTION CHIEF MATT HARRINGTON. REASONS: 1.5 (
B) AND (D).
Trial proceeds slowly
¶1. (U) The treason trial of three Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) leaders — President Morgan Tsvangirai,
Secretary-General Welshman Ncube, and Member of Parliament
Renson Gasela — began as scheduled in Zimbabwe’s High Court
on February 3 and is now in its third day on February 5. On
the first day, GOZ deputy attorney-general Bharat Patel
summarized the state’s case, which is that the three MDC
leaders hired a Canadian political consulting firm — Dickens
and Madson — to arrange the assassination of President
Mugabe. Patel indicated that state witnesses would include,
inter alia, Dickens and Madson director Ari Ben-Menashe, Air
Force Commander Perence Shiri, and Central Intelligence
Director Happyton Bonyongwe. In his summary, the lead
counsel for the accused — renowned South African attorney
George Bizos — emphasized that his clients belong to a
political party which is committed to the rule of law and to
the achievement of change via a constitutional process and
declared that the charges had been filed to discredit and
embarrass the accused. Bizos acknowledged that Tsvangirai
had met with Ben-Menashe, but said he had done so at the
request of Dickens and Madson, which had pressed the MDC
President to enter into a political consultancy arrangement.
¶2. (C) The second and third days of the trial (February 4 and
5) have been consumed by the state’s questioning of its star
witness, Ari Ben-Menashe and examination of the infamous
videotape, in which the “elimination” of President Mugabe was
allegedly discussed. The prosecutor walked Ben-Menashe
through how he was introduced to Tsvangirai and his MDC
colleagues, and what was discussed at each of their meetings.
Ben-Menashe claimed that it was the MDC who sought a
relationship with his company and that it was Tsvangirai who
asked for his company’s help in arranging the assassination
of Mugabe. Ben-Menashe did admit to signing a contract with
the GOZ for provision of consultancy services, but only in
January 2002, after the videotape of his final meeting with
Tsvangirai was made. He said the government had agreed to
pay him U.S. $1,000,000 for his services and had disbursed
only about U.S.$400,000 of that sum to date. Ben-Menashe
claimed that he had informed the U.S. Government of the plot.
¶3. (C) The prosecution spent half of February 4 and all of
February 5 eliciting Ben-Menashe’s commentary — in agonizing
detail — on the grainy videotape of the fateful meeting.
Much of what is said on the videotape is unintelligible, and
it is impossible to make out most of the faces of those who
attended the meeting. (Comment: Ben-Menashe has appeared
to be reading from a ZANU-PF script — his testimony was
sprinkled with such familiar phrases as “the MDC represents
its masters, the UK government and white Rhodesians,” and
“Tony Blair’s imperialism.” Ben-Menashe came across mostly
as an unprincipled buffoon, and his testimony regularly
elicited derisive laughter or whistling from the crowd. End
¶4. (C) Ben-Menashe has stated that he plans to depart
Zimbabwe on February 7, but the presiding judge — Paddington
Garwe — has not indicated whether he will permit this. The
MDC is planning to cross-examine Ben-Menashe for up to two
weeks, and his departure on Friday would provide only a day
for cross-examine. In a conversation with us, Bizos called
Ben-Menashe “a cross-examiner’s dream,” and said his early
departure would seriously prejudice the defense’s case.
¶5. (U) Obtaining access to the courtroom was much smoother
after the chaotic first day of the trial, when large numbers
of journalists, diplomats, MDC officials, and members of the
general public were denied entry. On the second and third
days, police presence for blocks around remained heavy, but
all interested diplomats were admitted, along with a number
of international journalists — AP, Reuters, The Guardian,
and stringers for a number of international news services.
Each day, the GOZ has packed a number of seats with security
service members while continuing to restrict access by
members of the general public.