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Journalist defends Tsvangirai tape

Mark Davis
Reporter Mark Davis: Standing by the videotape "100 percent"  

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Mark Davis is a reporter from Australia's Special Broadcasting Services (SBS) which first broadcast a video showing Zimbabwe's Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai allegedly plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

He talked to CNN's Michael Holmes about the authenticity of the video footage from the Montreal meeting with lobbyists Dickens and Madson and the other key figure in the affair, "fixer" Ari Ben Menashe.

Holmes: First of all, do you believe after your dealings with this tape that Morgan Tsvangirai has been set up?

Davis: If he's been set up, it's certainly not from the beginning. By the time this meeting is recorded, clearly Dickens and Madson have either decided that they will give this information to the Zimbabweans or it is certainly at the forefront of their minds.

But this is at the end of a three month process. There have been two meetings with Tsvangirai personally attending in London with Dickens and Madson, a contract signed, money is paid and most importantly this tape is the record of this Montreal meeting.

It is not a matter of speculation. It is not a matter of can you believe Ari Ben Menashe's word as to what occurs at this meeting. It is beyond dispute what occurs at this meeting and to us, that is the basis of our confidence of running this story in the first place, it goes back consistently to the tape.

Holmes: What's your view about the authenticity of the tape? I've read a very extensive transcript from the SBS Web site but there have been allegations it's been tampered with, that the audio has been edited, re-edited. And Morgan Tsvangirai says of course that he's been taken out of context. Your view?

Davis: This is nonsense. For the first four days after we broadcast this opposition spokespeople said the entire broadcast was a fabrication, that of course Tsvangirai wasn't there, that the video must have had an actor in it, etc, etc...

These questions were coming to us from print journalists who hadn't seen the tape.

Tsvangirai confirms the tape himself. He confirms he was at the Montreal meeting. He confirms there is a contract and most recently on South African television, he confirms the tape. He starts speaking about the specific quotes and now he's moved the argument to context.

Lobbyist Ari Ben Menashe has a
Lobbyist Ari Ben Menashe has a "reputation" says Davis  

That's very proper of him. I have no objection to that. I can argue context until the cows come home because I've got the entire tape.

So let's get rid of the notion that the tape is somehow a forgery. It is available for inspection. Very interestingly no media organisation has asked us to see it nor have any foreign affairs officials or State Department officials .

There is no question we stand by that tape 100 percent.

Holmes: You know Ari Ben Menashe as do I, I had dealings with him at the same time as you did in the early 1990s, he's got a fairly chequered past and much of what he says can't be relied on and certainly can't be proven to be true even if you did want to rely on it. What do you think his motivation is here?

Davis: On this I'll have to say perhaps he's right, he says it's a mixture of altruism and that he's not an assassin despite what his reputation might be, which is a very interesting point...

Holmes: He's not the altruistic type, though is he, Mark.

Davis: He says he's not an assassin, put it that way. He says he was approached to do a kill and whatever he's done in his past and whatever activities his company engage in they don't do kills. So I'm sure he turns that to his financial advantage.

As we stated, he has now a contract with the Zimbabwean authorities. He didn't then, he has now. So clearly there has been an exchange of information for contracts.

But the point with Ari Ben Menashe is this, he is as you know, and every journalist on earth knows, and every person involved in the political scene in Africa knows, a man of some notoriety.

What is Morgan Tsvangirai doing approaching him? Now, if he denies that he approaches him which is in dispute, what is he doing meeting with him three times over three months paying him money?

Presumably he says because he needed a political consultant or a lobbyist. Is this what Ari Ben Menashe's reputation is? What is he doing with him meeting with him three times?

Indeed, what is he doing meeting with him for an hour and a half while very explicitly the discussion continues that Mugabe is to be assassinated and the army will enter a power-sharing agreement that is described with Morgan Tsvangirai to effectively overthrow parliament and overthrow the vice-president?

Holmes: Knowing Ari Ben Menashe they are good questions ...




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