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Government agreed to pay Ben Menashe US$1 million

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.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE259, TREASON TRIAL OF MDC PRESIDENT ENTERS THIRD DAY

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE259

2003-02-05 15:40

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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

 

SIPDIS

 

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR CNEARY

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/05/2013

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR ASEC ZI

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

 

SIPDIS

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.

 

Ari Ben-Menashe

—————

 

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

 

SIPDIS

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

Comment.)

 

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.

 

Access problems

—————

 

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.

 

 

SULLIVAN

 

(10 VIEWS)

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