The Movement for Democratic Change mobilised about 30 women aged between 45 and 60 to attend the trial of party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to show support because interest in the trial was waning as it entered its fifth week.
A cable by the United States embassy said the women were in court for two days and if it weren’t for these women the lower gallery would have been half full.
The upper gallery was empty.
Interest among reporters was also waning and there were no more than seven reporters present on average.
Tsvangirai, MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube and legislator Renson Gasela were facing treason charges for allegedly plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.
Viewing cable 03HARARE568, GOOD BYE ARI, HELLO TARA: TSVANGIRAI TRIAL PART V
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
191256Z Mar 03
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000568
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/18/2013
SUBJECT: GOOD BYE ARI, HELLO TARA: TSVANGIRAI TRIAL PART V
REF: A. HARARE 484
¶B. HARARE 360
¶C. HARARE 313
¶D. HARARE 259
Classified By: POLITICAL OFFICER KIMBERLY JEMISON FOR REASONS 1.5 B & D
¶1. (C) The treason trial of Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) officials Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube, and Renson
Gasela, which entered its fifth week on March 10, took a step
forward with the completion of the questioning of Ari Ben-
Menashe, the state’s star witness. The pace of the trial
quickened considerably once the next witness, Ben-Menashe,s
personal assistant, Tara Thomas, took the stand. At first,
her testimony seemed to favor the prosecution’s case, but by
week’s end it was difficult to tell which side was benefiting
from her testimony. End Summary.
No More Ben-Menashe
¶2. (U) On March 11, lead defense attorney George Bizos,
Deputy Attorney General Bharat Patel, and Presiding Judge
Garwe completed their questioning of the state’s star
witness, Ari Ben-Menashe. Bizos completed his
cross-examination on March 10, after asking Ben-Menashe final
questions about Dickens and Madson,s (D&M) amateurish
production of the videotape, requesting the original
videotape and some faxes, and objecting to Ben-Menashe
leaving the court without first submitting these pieces of
evidence. Patel began the re-direct examination on March 10
with questions about Ben-Menashe,s educational and
professional background, clearly trying to prove the
witness’s competence to manage a political consulting firm.
He finished on March 11 asking questions about passages on
the videotape, the affidavit Ben-Menashe gave to the police,
Foreign Agents Registration Act registration, and what D&M
would be expected to do if hired by the MDC.
Witness Number 2: Tara Thomas
¶3. (U) On March 11, the state called its next witness, Tara
Thomas, personal assistant to Ben-Menashe. Thomas appeared
to be a much better witness than Ben-Menashe. She was
relaxed and respectful to the court, unlike Ben-Menashe.
During the direct examination, Thomas seemed composed and
tried to be as specific in her details as possible, although
she did often confused testimony several times. Patel asked
Thomas about the audiotaped meeting with Tsvangirai in
England and the transcript of the meeting. Patel went over
the second transcript of the Montreal meeting with her and
also reviewed the videotape.
¶4. (U) On March 12, the defense brought a motion before the
judge to have Thomas view the videotape using a clean
transcript rather than the annotated one she had been using,
which appeared to have been guiding her testimony. Garwe
upheld the defense objection and the prosecution had to find
a clean copy. Patel asked her several speculative questions
about what she thought Alexander Legault, his business
partner, Ben-Menashe, and Morgan Tsvangirai were thinking or
meant to say. Bizos objected that the witness could not
possibly know what the various speakers were thinking, but
his objections were overruled. Thomas confirmed that the
transcript was not accurate because they could not understand
everything on the tape.
¶5. (U) On March 14, the defense began its cross examination.
During the cross-examination, Thomas contradicted some of
the evidence that had been given by Ben-Menashe. Thomas
confirmed that a signed agreement between the MDC and
Ben-Menashe was legitimate, contrary to Ben-Menashe,s
testimony, and she contradicted Ben-Menashe on the number of
employees at D&M and what they do.
¶6. (U) The courtroom was sparsely populated this past week.
The MDC mobilized a group of 30 or so female members aged 45
to 60 to attend the trial to show support. They were present
for at least two days. If it weren’t for these women, the
lower gallery would have been half full. The upper gallery
was empty. The press area had no more than 7 reporters
present on average.
¶7. (C) Tara Thomas made for a refreshing change from
Ben-Menashe. The pace of the trial picked up considerably
without the frequent adjournments caused by Ben-Menashe’s
diatribes. While Thomas was not necessarily more credible
than Ben-Menashe, she appeared much more calm and less
combative. This could help create a sense that she is more
believable, regardless of the substance of her testimony.
The court continued to allow the prosecution’s witness
unusual latitude and did not seem to be enforcing any
acknowledged rules of evidence. End Comment.