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A history of treason

President Robert Mugabe.

President Robert Mugabe's 29-year rule in Zimbabwe has been punctuated by treason cases involving his political opponents. It is a charge that can carry the death sentence. IRIN looks back at some of the key cases.

March 1982: Dumiso Dabengwa, former intelligence chief of ZIPRA (the armed wing of ZAPU, political rival of Mugabe's ZANU party), and Lookout Masuku, deputy commander of the new integrated Zimbabwe National Army, are arrested and charged with treason. They are cleared by the courts a year later, but are detained under Section 17 of Emergency Powers regulations.

1982: ZAPU leader and veteran nationalist Joshua Nkomo is charged with plotting a coup against Mugabe. Nkomo is sacked as home affairs minister and flees the country in 1983, remaining in exile for four years.

October 1995: Ndabaningi Sithole, leader of the opposition ZANU Ndonga party, is arrested with two others for allegedly plotting to assassinate Mugabe. Sithole is sentenced to two years in prison but dies while appealing the sentence.

February 2002: Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube, and senior official Renson Gasela are arrested and charged with treason. The state alleges they enlisted the services of a shadowy Israeli "consultant", Ari Ben-Menashe, in plans to "eliminate" Mugabe. Tsvangirai is cleared by the courts in 2004; the charges against the other two men were dropped earlier.

March 2006: Arms dealer Mike Hitschmann and seven others are charged with terrorism and an alleged plot to assassinate Mugabe after an arms cache is discovered. Then MDC treasurer Roy Bennett is implicated in the case. Hitschmann is eventually jailed for firearms offences.

June 2008: MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti is arrested on his return home from South Africa. The state alleges Biti committed treason in a document he authored, outlining his party's post-Mugabe transition strategy. A separate charge of "communicating falsehoods" stems from a statement he made after the controversial 29 March elections. The treason charge is finally dropped in February 2009.

February 2009: Senior MDC official Roy Bennett is arrested and charged with terrorism, on the day he was to have been sworn in as deputy agriculture minister in the new power-sharing government. A terrorism conviction can carry a life sentence.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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