The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front which was increasingly losing support to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change had adopted a strategy of keeping the MDC on the defensive thus forcing it to devote its time and resources to litigation instead of a more proactive agenda.
This was said nine years ago by the United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan when the state postponed MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s treason trial.
The State had also applied to amend its indictment, a move Tsvangirai’s lawyers had said they would oppose.
Sullivan said though it appeared that the State did not have enough evidence to support a conviction, the broader political context suggested that it was likely to stretch the trial.
“A lengthy trial would absorb Tsvangirai’s attention, potentially leaving substantive party leadership and involvement in possible inter-party talks increasingly to other MDC principals with whom the ruling party feels more comfortable,” the ambassador said.
“It would further fit in with ZANU-PF’s long-standing strategy of keeping the MDC on the defensive, requiring the opposition’s time and resources to be devoted to harassing litigation instead of a more proactive agenda.”
Ed: It would appear that the MDC has not learnt any lesson. Even today the MDC, though now part of the government, is always on the defensive, spending more time in the courts or lobbying regional leaders, instead of proving that it can govern better than ZANU-PF.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1805, Tsvangirai Treason Trial Postponed Until
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 001805
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
¶E. O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Tsvangirai Treason Trial Postponed Until
REF: HARARE 1598
Sensitive but unclassified. Not for internet posting.
¶1. (SBU) Lawyers for Morgan Tsvangirai advised the
Embassy on September 12 that by mutual agreement of the
parties, resumption of Tsvangirai’s treason trial was
postponed from September 15 to September 22. Presiding
Justice Garwe approached the parties on September 11,
noting that he had scheduling conflicts the following
week and giving the parties the option of postponing,
which the parties took.
¶2. (SBU) When the trial recommences, the first order of
business will be a hearing on the prosecution’s
application seeking amendment of its indictment before
Tsvangirai presents his case. In its application, the
state admitted that the evidence that it had offered thus
far differed from the particulars in the indictment. The
state is seeking to invoke a section of the Criminal
Procedure and Evidence Act that allows a party to amend
an indictment in order to correct discrepancies between
the indictment and the evidence introduced at trial.
During the trial, the prosecution introduced no evidence
to prove that Tsvangirai specifically requested
representatives of Dickens and Madson to arrange for the
assassination of Robert Mugabe at a third meeting. The
state wishes to alter the indictment to show that no
request was made at a third meeting.
¶3. (SBU) Defense attorneys will oppose the application
but have yet to file a response. Garwe is expected to
hear the state’s application on September 22, and will
have the option of reserving judgment while the defense
proceeds, or suspending the trial pending judgment. In
the latter case, a decision would likely be rendered and
the trial resumed within a week, according to defense
¶4. (SBU) COMMENT: The state’s application to amend the
indictment suggests the prosecution’s doubts about the
evidence’s sufficiency to support a conviction. In any
event, the trial’s broader political context suggests it
likely will stretch out until at least the end of the
year, as Tsvangirai suggested to us recently. A
conviction before December’s Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja would upset
Zimbabwe’s prospects for having its Commonwealth
suspension lifted and seems unlikely. While an acquittal
before that might be seen to enhance Zimbabwe’s
international image, the government may choose to string
the case out as long as possible. A lengthy trial would
absorb Tsvangirai’s attention, potentially leaving
substantive party leadership and involvement in possible
inter-party talks increasingly to other MDC principals
(e.g., MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube) with whom
the ruling party feels more comfortable. It would
further fit in with ZANU-PF’s long-standing strategy of
keeping the MDC on the defensive, requiring the
opposition’s time and resources to be devoted to
harassing litigation instead of a more proactive agenda.