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By: Jan Lamprecht

There is currently a very important trial going on in Zimbabwe in which the leader of the official opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai and two other senior members of the Movement for Democratic Change are being accused of plotting to kill Robert Mugabe and aiming to stage a coup afterwards. If found guilty, these three black men, Mr. Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube and Renson Gasela could face the death penalty.

The chief state witness also claims that the CIA is involved in this and that the US and British governments are behind this.

The truly sad part is that the three accused are totally innocent.

I have spoken to MDC supporters, and heard the many statements of the MDC, and also know of many who encouraged the MDC to go to war against Mugabe. The MDC is totally and utterly committed to dealing with Mugabe peacefully. They are as squeaky clean as can be.

There was an instance last year, where an independent newspaper in Zimbabwe exposed a plan whereby Mugabe was going to send troops into neighboring Mozambique. From there they would infiltrate back into Zimbabwe where the Zimbabwean army would intercept them and shoot some of them. The survivors would then "confess" to being part of an MDC plot to invade Zimbabwe, and Mugabe would have the excuse he needed to crack down on the leadership of the MDC. But, the plot was publicly exposed before Mugabe could pull it off.

Mugabe has been trying ensnare the MDC for quite some time, but it has not been easy for him since they have been scrupulously honest in the way they have conducted themselves.

It is instructive to see how Mugabe nevertheless managed to spring this trap.

It started with the formation of the MDC. Most of it is composed of former members of Mugabe's ZANU(PF) party. Somewhere along the line, Mugabe must have sent moles and spies into the new organization to undermine it and to spy on it. When Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, wanted some political consultants to help him, he was referred to a company in Canada called Dickens and Madson. It is owned by a former Israeli, named Ari Ben-Menashe.

The problem is, that this company was actually used extensively by Robert Mugabe!! So the possibility exists that this was a trick from the start and whoever referred Tsvangirai to them might have been secretly working for Mugabe.

Tsvangirai went to meet Ben-Menashe before the Zimbabwean Presidential elections to work out a strategy. He charged them $100,000 for the work he was to do for them. He had several meetings with them and had cameras secretly installed to record the proceedings. Later, when Ben-Menashe turned against Tsvangirai, this film footage was shown in many countries across the world. It is clear that Ben-Menashe was trying to entrap Tsvangirai because in the footage I saw, Ben-Menashe says to Tsvangirai that they must plan for all eventualities. So he then started asking Morgan Tsvangirai all manner of strange questions. He would say "What will you do if Mugabe is killed?" How will you take over power, etc. He asked all these strange leading questions covering all manner of strange situations. He was of course hoping that Morgan's responses to these bizarre questions could be used against him. But Morgan was generally very good in his responses, however he also became irritated by the continual prodding and the continual attempts at verbal entrapment.

From my perspective, Ben-Menashe did not do a good job, and Morgan said almost nothing which could be used against him in any way. Nevertheless, shortly thereafter, Ben-Menashe apparently notified the Zimbabwean and US Governments that Morgan had asked him to "kill Mugabe". This is of course nonsense, and there is nothing on those tapes to suggest anything of the kind. The so-called "evidence" against Morgan is virtually non-existent. Nevertheless, Ben-Menashe is regarded by the Zimbabwe government as a "very reliable state witness". This entire treason trial actually rests on the testimony of Ben-Menashe only. However, there are some very interesting twists along the way.

Let me state at the outset that I have asked a number of people in Zimbabwe what they think of this treason trial. They tell me there is virtually no chance that they can make the accusations against the MDC stick. One of the people I spoke to was Eddie Cross, who was a shadow minister in the MDC. Even here in South Africa, where the government tries very hard to win everyone over to Mugabe's side, the treason trial is regarded as something of a joke. People in Zimbabwe feel the same.

Ben-Menashe has said many things. He claims for example, that one of the white men present at the meeting with Morgan Tsvangirai was a CIA agent. He also claims that Morgan said that the British government would have paid him money to kill Mugabe.

Ben-Menashe, who claims to be a "political consultant", claims to have been in the deadly and dreaded MOSSAD in Israel. Ben-Menashe is actually a former Israeli. I use the word former because he has been thrown out of that country and is not allowed to set foot in it.

I asked an Israeli contact of mine what he knew about Ben-Menashe. He told me that the Israelis regard him as a traitor to the Jewish people, and he is viewed with the utmost contempt as an inveterate liar and a proven fraudster.

Here are some excerpts from the Zionist Organization of America, exposing Ben Menashe as a liar and con artist:

Ben-Menashe has been described by the Jerusalem Post (March 6, 1992) as "a notorious, chronic liar." Newsweek - which is hardly sympathetic to Israel - wrote about Ben-Menashe: "Much of what Ben-Menashe says does not seem to check out." (Nov. 4, 1991) Newsweek checked Secret Service logs to see if then-Vice President George Bush could have been in Paris on October 19, 1980, the day Ben-Menashe claims he saw Bush secretly meet with Iranian officials to arrange a delay of the release of the U.S. hostages in Iran; Newsweek found that "on Oct.19, the logs show, [Bush] gave a speech before the Zionist Organization of America at the Capital Hilton [in Washington, D.C.]."

Steven Emerson, the award-winning investigative journalist, has described Ben-Menashe as "an abject liar." Emerson has also pointed out that over the years, Hersh has made numerous demonstrably false claims, including that "he was a commander of the Israeli raid to free hijacked airline passengers at Entebbe in 1976, that he planted a homing device in the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak just before the Israeli attack in 1981... and that he had declined an offer to become head of the Mossad." (Wall Street Journal, Nov.27, 1991)

In November 1990, "ABC News gave Ben-Menashe a lie-detector test" concerning his allegations about Israel and the Iran-Contra affair; "according to Christopher Isham, an ABC producer, Ben-Menashe failed it." (Newsweek, Nov. 11, 1991)

I should mention that Ben-Menashe is not allowed to return to Israel, and he is regarded as a traitor who spreads vicious lies about Israel. Apparently, he makes money out of these activities. Ben-Menashe will tell any lie as long as someone is willing to pay him for it.

During this trial, the lawyer for the defense noted that Ben-Menashe was paid $1 million by Mugabe's government for "work done". But the state refuses to disclose what the nature of that "work" is and whether it may include setting up Morgan Tsvangirai.

The defense lawyer also submitted documents of a London arbitration court ruling that one of Mr. Ben-Menashe's companies had failed to deliver $7 million-worth of promised corn to Zambia. The Zambian government had paid him money but he never kept his side of the deal.

Ben-Menashe portrays himself as a former member of the MOSSAD, but it is highly doubtful he ever held such a position. He had made himself out to be something of a James Bond, but none of it is true.

Ben-Menashe told the court Tsvangirai had agreed Mugabe should be "terminated" within 10 days of the meeting held in Montreal, Canada. A video recording of the meeting is crucial to the prosecution's case.

The video which is being played in court is of a bad quality and in many places one cannot hear what is being said. It appears that the video has been deliberately altered since it was originally recorded. The defense has provided evidence showing this to be so.

Here in South Africa we have had daily coverage of the trial. The general feeling at the end of this first week is that neither side has gained the upper hand. A Western diplomat in Zimbabwe expressed the following view: "I think Tsvangirai and his colleagues are going to use this trial to highlight Mugabe's violent campaign against the opposition, his record on human rights. I think Mugabe's politics will end up in the dock and the president's and the government's image is likely to suffer."

So as you can see, nobody thinks this trial can in any real way threaten Tsvangirai. At the moment Mugabe is engaged in a worldwide campaign to try to clean up his image, and the South African and Nigerian governments are working hard to help him. They recently made public statements saying that Mugabe has been "unfairly criticized" and saying that the England is also to blame for not providing money to buy out white farmers!! All these statements could have come from the mouth of Robert Mugabe himself, and the leading nations of Africa are standing firmly by him just as I predicted in my book, Government by Deception.

But there are other considerations too, which nobody seems to be pointing out. Firstly, a lot of African leaders are more cunning than people take them for. They know they are playing to a pretty dumb audience. They know that many things, which won't fool the international community will in fact fool much of the populace at home. Indeed, Mugabe's real strength comes from the rural areas - from the most backward people of all. They could easily be fooled by this mockery of a trial. The MDC supporters won't be fooled, but I'll bet many of Mugabe's supporters would be only too happy to cling to anything, which clears his name. The South African and other African governments also play the same cunning game. For example, here in South Africa, the whites are absolutely convinced Mugabe cheated during the Presidential elections, however, the African National Congress uses its sway over the media for them to always state that Mugabe "allegedly rigged" the Presidential elections. It is never stated, in our news broadcasts that he did rig it - it is always "alleged" that he may have. This is just a subtle way of trying to clean up after him and to whitewash his image. Our Government officials NEVER say that he stole any elections. In fact, as far as the ANC is concerned he is the rightfully elected leader of that country and they do not entertain nor suggest in the slightest way that he is illegally in power!

So one must remember that he is playing to two audiences, and he knows it. He may deem this to be a worthwhile exercise even as the rest of the world is chuckling at the blatant lies in that court room.

Then there is a second thing that concerns me. It is Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela has been very quiet about Mugabe. Mandela has been attacking President Bush furiously over Iraq (which really is of little relevance to us here), but he is largely silent about Mugabe. There has been a great deal of talking about whether the international cricket matches should be boycotted in Zimbabwe. Then this week, in-between attacking George Bush and the USA, Nelson Mandela said that the cricket in Zimbabwe should go ahead. This finally showed a lot of doubters whose side Mandela really was on because this is a clear vote of confidence for Mugabe. It will probably tarnish Mandela too much if he vociferously defends Mugabe so he tends to stay somewhat out of it and leave most of the work to President Mbeki.

The thing which I have noticed, and which is curious to me, is that Tsvangirai's defense lawyer is George Bizos. Bizos is a Greek South African - he is Mandela's lawyer!! So far, Bizos seems to have done a reasonably good job, but I find it a very curious arrangement. Why did Tsvangirai not use a Zimbabwean lawyer? Why Mandela's lawyer? Could Mandela and his lawyer secretly connive to undermine Tsvangirai's case? This is how Tsvangirai got into trouble in the first place - he used the political consultants which worked for Mugabe and which now turned on him. Is Tsvangirai in danger of being stabbed in the back again, but this time from Mandela?

Then there is the issue of the judges. The judges in Zimbabwe, who are mostly black, have been very good at upholding the independence of the judiciary even in the face of pressure from Mugabe. Time and again, they have come out against his land reform policies, and have ruled them as being unconstitutional (even though the Police seem to ignore much of their rulings!). Then about a year ago, Mugabe replaced a number of judges. So the question is, whether the current judge is loyal to Mugabe.

I can't help wondering if Morgan is in greater danger than he thinks. What I am not sure of is whether Mugabe would dare to go as far as having Morgan found guilty, because I think it will cause extreme outrage in Zimbabwe and maybe even spark serious violence. Already, the MDC is very concerned by the strange death in prison of one of their former MP's and they are sure they can prove that he was murdered. It is possible that a guilty verdict could spark violence. Does Mugabe want violence? At the moment he is trying to improve his image, so maybe not. But, being a communist, he might not care, and may even want to spark off violence so that he can get a "valid" excuse to send in the army to slaughter people en masse. He may want to do this so as to terrorize people into submission, and since he has the weapons, he may not be all that worried about being overthrown.

I was communicating with someone in Harare recently, and he keeps on telling me that there is an expectation that "something big is going to happen" and it will be soon. For several weeks he has been saying that there is a sense that something will happen in March. He will not tell me what it is, and says it is too sensitive to discuss without meeting me in person. I infer, from his statements that he thinks something good may happen - something violent perhaps. My sense is that there may be a lot of plotting and planning going on in Harare. But on the other hand he told me that not a week goes by that he does not hear of another white couple either being murdered of just mysteriously "disappearing into thin air" without a trace. There have been instances where people are seen getting into a car with unknown occupants and they are never seen again. He told me he thinks there is a quiet campaign against white people and that it is getting worse.

Here in Southern Africa we are experiencing the effects of the El Nino and it is very dry and hot day after day. This year promises to be much drier than normal. This will definitely make the Zimbabwe food situation much worse this year.

Many people are saying that 2003 is going to be the year something happens in Zimbabwe. I think they are edging closer to Civil War. This trial, and the next few months, as we head towards the dry winter season promise to be very interesting in Zimbabwe.

"Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact."

Jan Lamprecht grew up on a small farm in Rhodesia. He moved to South Africa after Mugabe came to power and spent a short time in the South African Navy. He ventured into the world of politics after Mugabe began his land invasions in 2000. He is a self-employed IT Consultant in Johannesburg and a regular columnist for Ether Zone.

His new book  "Government by Deception" - Psychopolitics in Southern Africa, is now available for purchase. Click here to read comments by famous Americans who have read the book.

We invite you to visit his website at Southern Africa In Crisis

Jan Lamprecht can be reached at:YEPELRXKOYMY@spammotel.com

Published in the February 11, 2003 issue of  Ether Zone.
Copyright 1997 - 2003 Ether Zone.

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