28 January 2013

Zimbabwe: African Consolidated Resources a 'Sacrificial Lamb' After Losing Wikileaks Case

The head of a former Chiadzwa based mining company, who was sued over information contained in a previously confidential diplomatic report, is being described as a 'sacrificial lamb' after losing his case.

African Consolidated Resources (ACR) boss Andrew Cranswick was sued in 2011 for US$10 million by the head of the CIO, Happyton Bonyongwe, over previously confidential comments published in a WikiLeaks report, which linked Bonyongwe to diamond looting. ACR property has since been attached for auction to cover these costs.

The comments about Bonyongwe were contained in a diplomatic cable from the US Embassy, created by the then Ambassador James McGee in November 2008. The cable contained details of a meeting between Cranswick and the US embassy, with Cranswick allegedly warning: "High-ranking Zimbabwean government officials and well-connected elites are generating millions of dollars in personal income by hiring teams of diggers to hand-extract diamonds from the Chiadzwa mine in eastern Zimbabwe."

The cable goes on to claim that Cranswick told the US Embassy that Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, Grace Mugabe, Vice President Joice Mujuru, the then Mines and Mining Development Minister Amos Midzi, General Constantine Chiwenga and wife Jocelyn, CIO Director Bonyongwe, Manicaland Governor Chris Mushowe, and several white Zimbabweans, including Ken Sharpe, Greg Scott, and Hendrik O'Neill, are all involved in the Marange diamond trade.

Bonyongwe launched his lawsuit after trying to force Cranswick to pay damages over the information in the WikiLeaks cables, insisting the claims were false and a defamation of his character. A judge last year said this held up in court and ordered Cranswick to pay the US$10 million damages suit.

Bonyongwe is not the first ZANU PF individual to file a lawsuit over WikiLeaks revelations. His lawsuit was filed at the time that Grace Mugabe filed her own US$15 million defamation claim against The Standard newspaper, which also published news articles about the WikiLeaks report. Gideon Gono has also filed a US$12.5 million suit against the same newspaper over the report.

Political analyst Clifford Mashiri said the case against ACR has now set a worrying precedent that will further silence any dissenting voices in Zimbabwe. Mashiri also said that Cranswick has been made "the sacrificial lamb", in a show of "intimidation" by the CIO.

"This could open up the floodgates of cases of alleged wrongdoing because of information in WikiLeaks," Mashiri warned.

He added: "WikiLeaks information should not have any merit in court and this case should never have gone this far. The judgment itself was at fault because Cranswick wasn't there to defend himself."

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