afrol News, 14 February - Zimbabwean opposition leader and presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai is accused of having discussed a plot to assassinate his rival, President Robert Mugabe, in an Australian television documentary. Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) President Tsvangirai today denied all allegations in a statement.
- We reiterate that we have never taken part in any conspiracy to assassinate President Mugabe and have no desire to do so, the MDC statement reads. "We believe in the electoral process and the change of governments through the ballot box."
A special edition of Australian SBS Dateline titled 'Killing Mugabe - The Tsvangirai Conspiracy,' claimed to "present evidence that the opposition leader has had no intention of letting the electoral process take its course. While parading his supposed democratic credentials, Mr Tsvangirai has in fact, been plotting to kill President Robert Mugabe," the SBS presentation of its documentary says.
The allegations come at the most inconvenient moment for Tsvangirai, who just started campaigning for the presidential elections. The serious charges against him could undermine his credibility among Zimbabweans and even make him ineligible. Tsvangirai holds this is a smear campaign by the ZANU-PF ruling party.
The SBS documentary showed an eight minutes black and white sequence, appearing to have been filmed secretly, showing four men discussing political scenarios in Zimbabwe. According to the program, the four men meeting were representatives of a Canadian political consultancy company and a man described in the film as "the MDC's top man," but impossible to identify due to the poor quality of the film. The person allegedly being Tsvangirai talks about what is to happen in Zimbabwe after "the head of state has been eliminated".
Morgan Tsvangirai today confirms he in fact had a meeting with the Canadian consultancy company 'Dickens and Madison' where a Mr Ari Ben-Menashe "from nowhere introduced discussion around the issue of elimination and kept on asking strange questions," moving him to "burst out of their meeting."
According to the MDC, the Canadian consultants had contacted the party last year saying it wanted to help build the MDC's image abroad, where Mugabe was said to be winning the propaganda war through his lobbyist group Cohen and Woods. A high ranking MDC representative had old, friendly contacts with one of the company's employees, facilitating the contact. Dickens and Madison was thus engaged as MDC lobbyists "solely at their own initiative, insistence and request," according to the MDC.
Tsvangirai recalls a total of four meetings being held with the Canadians. "There was no mention of elimination or assassination of President Mugabe by Dickens and Madison" during the first three meetings, Tsvangirai says. The meetings centred on "the need to bridge the communications gap abroad."
- At the fourth meeting, Mr Menashe kept on wandering from the issues discussed previously, Tsvangirai's statement reads, saying he suddenly introduced the issue of eliminating President Mugabe. "It was this stage that I burst out of the meeting for the reason that Mr Menashe was introducing issues, which had nothing to do with the objectives of their engagement as communication lobbyists."
After this secretly filmed meeting, Tsvangirai briefed his party about this "suspicious conduct of Dickens and Madison," and started researching the background of the company and Ben-Menashe.
According to Tsvangirai, his party's investigations established that Mr Menashe had been hired by ZANU-PF "to set up the MDC under the guise that they wanted to be engaged as MDC lobbyists. It was also established that from day one, the group had been working with Mr Nicholas Goche, the Minister of National Security, and Mr George Charamba, the Permanent Secretary in the department of Information and Publicity in the President's Office."
- When these facts became known to the party, the MDC cut off all communication with this group as far back as December 2001, Tsvangirai states, maintaining the "MDC remains committed to peaceful and constitutional change of government."
The government controlled daily 'The Herald' on the other hand establishes Tsvangirai was involved in "a plot to assassinate President Mugabe" in its latest edition.
'The Herald' claims to have a statement issued by Dickens and Madison where they claim that they "were contracted to kill President Mugabe. The Montreal meeting, which they filmed, was to discuss how to install Mr Tsvangirai in power after the assassination." Dickens and Madison however had no intention of fulfilling the contract.
- In early November , in the civilised environs of the RAC club in London, the details of how the deal to kill Cde Mugabe was thrashed out, 'The Herald' informs its readership. "A fee of US$ 500,000 and the promise of future government contracts from Mr Tsvangirai were guaranteed."
No government statement on the issue has yet been released. The government may however charge the MDC leader with treason on the background of the allegations made by Dickens and Madison, thus preventing him from running for president. Tsvangirai however does not take the alleged government "smear campaign" serious as "this assassination story is similar to numerous other baseless stories put out."
Sources: Based on MDC, SBS, press reports and afrol archives
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