Mugabe Was Once My Hero, Opposition Leader Tells Court

Article excerpt

MORGAN TSVANGIRAI, the Zimbabwe opposition leader, denied charges yesterday of plotting to kill President Robert Mugabe, a man he said he once regarded as "a hero".

Taking the witness stand for the first time since going on trial for treason nearly a year ago, Mr Tsvangirai told a packed Harare court that he would not wish to see Mr Mugabe removed from power in an assassination.

The case against Mr Tsvangirai, who faces the death penalty if convicted, is based on a video tape, made by a Canadian-based political consultant, in which Mr Tsvangirai allegedly discusses Mr Mugabe's "elimination" shortly before the 2002 presidential election.

Mr Tsvangirai has accused Mr Mugabe's state security agents of tampering with the video to frame him. The resumption of proceedings against him has dampened hopes of any political negotiations between the ruling party and Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Mr Tsvangirai told the court he had revered Mr Mugabe when the Zimbabwe leader led his forces in ousting the former apartheid regime of Ian Smith. "I regarded Mr Mugabe as my hero, and the hero of the liberation struggle", he said.

Asked if he ever plotted to kill Mr Mugabe or overthrow his government, he replied: "No, my Lord." He said after independence in 1980, he joined the ruling party and held the rank of "political commissar" in the party branch at a small mine he worked at in central Zimbabwe. But he became disillusioned and let his membership lapse in 1985 when the government introduced legislation that proscribed free trade union activity. …