Witness gives ‘mercenary’ case new twist

Dumisani Muleya

THE court testimony of a key state witness in the trial of 70 suspected mercenaries last week supports the accused’s plea that they were not involved in the alleged Equatorial Guinea coup plo

t, defence lawyer Jonathan Samkange has said.


Samkange said the evidence given by Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) group marketing manager, Goliath Hope Mutize, helped his case. He said one of the accused, Simon Mann, had consistently said the men were going to guard mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo and not to overthrow the Equatorial Guinea leader, Teodoro Obiang, as alleged.


“We did not cross-examine the state witness because his evidence was like that of a defence witness,” Samkange said. “There is no evidence to prove the allegations against the accused.”


Mutize, an Air Force of Zimbabwe group captain presently attached to ZDI, was closely involved in the sale of weapons by the state arms firm to Mann and Nick du Toit, who is now detained in Equatorial Guinea with 14 others accused of the same crime.


In his testimony Mutize said the arms deal started after he was briefed by ZDI general manager Colonel Tshinga Dube on February 10 that he should deal with Mann and Du Toit.


Mutize said Mann told him he wanted arms to protect a mine near the town of Isiro in the DRC, while Du Toit said he wanted to supply DRC rebels. The two had a certificate to buy arms which belonged to a Virgin Islands-registered firm, Military Technical Services, issued by Armaments Corporation of South Africa Ltd on December 12, 2002.


Mutize said he gave Mann and Du Toit quotations at Cresta Lodge in Harare where they were staying. The two promised to make a down payment of US$90 000 the following day.


Someone named James Kershaw flew into Harare aboard a South African Airways flight, SA 024, on February 11 to make the down payment of US$90 000.


Mutize said Mann and Du Toit came back to Zimbabwe on February 18 in a bid to collect the arms but they failed after their plane developed a fault.

He said they then left on February 19. Before that Mann had paid the balance of US$90 800 to clear the total of US$180 800 for the arms.

Mann came back on March 6 with two colleagues to try to collect the arms. A plane to carry the arms was to arrive the following day. Mutize said on March 7 he told Mann and his colleagues to remain at Cresta Lodge where they were to be collected by ZDI factory manager, Joseph Muchapondwa, to link up with the plane at Manyame Airbase.


He said Muchapondwa dropped them at Manyame as the plane arrived after refuelling at Harare airport. Mutize said the suspects were then arrested while they were inspecting the arms in a truck before they could be loaded on to the plane.


He said he was also arrested although he was subsequently released. But Mutize did not say whether or not the whole drama was a sting operation. Samkange said the testimony was helpful to his case.