Tsvangirai held in suspense for four months


The government postponed the treason trial of Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai to February 2003, thus keeping him in suspense for four months since the state would be holding his passport.

Tsvangirai is accused of planning to assassinate President Robert Mugabe and was implicated by former Israeli agent Ari Ben Menashe

The postponement deprives Tsvangirai and his co-accused of their passports for four months and keeps the threat of hanging over their heads.


Full cable:

Viewing cable 02HARARE2455, Govt Postpones Tsvangirai Treason Trial

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Reference ID






2002-11-12 04:23

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

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


SUBJECT: Govt Postpones Tsvangirai Treason Trial


REF: Harare 2120


Sensitive but unclassified. Protect accordingly.


1. (U) Summary: Zimbabwe’s High Court has put off the

trial of opposition Movement of Democratic Change (MDC)

leader Morgan Tsvangirai on charges of treason until next

February. We believe the postponement indicates the GoZ

has been unable to build a strong case against its main

political foe. End Summary.



Eleventh Hour Accusations



2. (U) In a bizarre case of political intrigue, the GoZ

brought charges of high treason, punishable by death,

against Tsvangirai and two other party officials

immediately before last March’s controversial election.

Former Israeli agent Ari Ben-Menashe implicated them in

an alleged plot to assassinate President Mugabe. Ben-

Menashe had allegedly shot a video of himself discussing

the plot with Tsvangirai.


——————————————— —-

Procedural Defects in a Structurally Weak Case

——————————————— —-


3. (U) According to local attorneys, the Zimbabwean legal

system differs from the US system in that defendants are

not automatically entitled to review evidence that will

be used by the prosecution. In this case, Tsvangirai’s

attorneys requested postponement because they had

received neither a copy of the allegedly damning

audiotape nor a transcript, both of which they had

requested. There is speculation that the State

manipulated the audiotape, so Defense is seeking to have

an expert examine the original before the trial begins.

Additionally, Defense complained of delays in receiving

an outline of State’s case against the three defendants.

Finally, Defense requested postponement because the

original court date was set without consultation with

defense attorneys, in violation of accepted practice.


4. (U) While the decision whether or not to grant the

postponement was a matter of the High Court’s discretion,

the prosecution failed to contest the application. Local

attorneys believe this failure to oppose, after earlier

threats by the State to vigorously contest postponement,

lends credence to the view that the GOZ has been unable

to build a case.


5. (SBU) Comment: Ben-Menashe is a shady figure who has

done consulting for Mugabe’s government. If the video-

tape exists, we suspect it shows evidence of manipulation

or involves a sort of baiting and entrapment that any

neutral court would throw out. It seems Tsvangirai was

on the mark when he predicted to us in September (ref)

that Ben-Menashe’s unwillingness to testify would weaken

an already flimsy case. While the Government has planned

to try Tsvangirai and his colleagues at almost the same

time as alleged wife-killer and MDC MP Jonwe (who

subsequently died in custody), the GoZ must regard the

trial’s postponement as a “next-best” outcome, since it

deprives the MDC’s two most effective spokesmen

(Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube) of their passports for

four more months and keeps the threat of a capital

indictment hanging over their heads.





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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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