World News

Zimbabwe to set up WikiLeaks commission

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s attorney general plans to set up a commission to investigate possible treason charges against locals over briefings with U.S. diplomats reported in confidential State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.

The move appears to be targeting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, following state media reports that hawks in President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party wanted an official probe into Tsvangirai’s briefings with the U.S. ambassador in Harare.

In comments cited in one U.S. State Department cable obtained by WikiLeaks, Tsvangirai appeared to suggest that his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was not genuine in calling for the lifting of Western sanctions against ZANU-PF.

Attorney General Johannes Tomana said on Saturday he would appoint a team of five lawyers to establish whether reports in the WikiLeaks amounted to any breach of the constitution.

“The WikiLeaks appear to show a treasonous collusion between local Zimbabweans and the aggressive international world, particularly the United States,” Tomana said in a statement.

“With immediate effect, I am going to instruct a team of practicing lawyers to look into the issues that arise from the WikiLeaks.”

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Tomana on Tuesday, saying his actions undermined the country’s democratic institutions.

Tomana said the sanctions were an attack on the office of the Attorney General and the constitution of Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai has refused to be drawn into the WikiLeaks spat. His aides say he is not guilty and describe the controversy as a personal attack on the prime minister.

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF said last week the government should craft a law that makes it a treasonable offence to call for sanctions.

Tsvangirai’s MDC has said the government should investigate charges arising from WikiLeaks documents that senior officials close to Mugabe, including his wife Grace, have benefited from illicit diamond trading from the Chiadzwa mine in the eastern part of the country.

The WikiLeaks reports have added to tensions in Zimbabwe’s unity government formed last year by Mugabe and Tsvangirai, with ZANU-PF charging that the U.S. cables have vindicated its claim that the MDC is working with the West to oust Mugabe.

WikiLeaks has released several U.S. cables on Zimbabwe, including one on a senior Tsvangirai ally seeking Washington’s support to establish a fund to buy off the country’s security service chiefs, who are loyal to Mugabe and ZANU-PF.

Another cable showed former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan offered Mugabe a deal to step down and live in a safe haven, which the 86-year-old leader rejected.