Mugabe desperate to find evidence of British 'plot'

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The Independent Online

President Robert Mugabe, is said to be living in fear of a British "plot" to kill him and has ordered the Zimbabwe spy agency to do a more "thorough job" of monitoring the activities of the British high commissioner, as a prelude to his possible expulsion.

Intelligence sources say Mr Mugabe is eager to collect evidence to justify expelling Sir Brian Donnelly from Zimbabwe, but has, so far, found none.

His various conspiracy theories against Sir Brian, including one that the high commissioner has spent most of his time preparing the ground for an Anglo-American invasion of Zimbabwe, have not been backed up by any tangible evidence.

But Mr Mugabe believes his Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) is being incompetent and it has not done much to uncover Sir Brian's alleged activities, despite a similar order last year to place him under close surveillance.

Sir Brian is under instructions to advise the Zimbabwean Foreign Ministry when the high commission's diplomats leave the country, an order which also applies to the US ambassador on the movements of American diplomats.

Mr Mugabe has convinced himself that Britain wants to kill him after failing to help the opposition remove him from power in the presidential election last year, sources said. A special task force of CIO officers will now work full time on monitoring Sir Brian.

An intelligence source said: "The President believes Donnelly is up to something no good. He even thinks Donnelly is working with his enemies on a plot to kill him.

"The problem [for Mr Mugabe] is that there is no grain of evidence to justify all these fears. There has been none found, as far as I know. Donnelly is just like any other diplomat."

Mr Mugabe wants to have Sir Brian's meetings with opposition and civic officials monitored. He also suspects that the diplomat might be reaching out to army officials and other people close to him to facilitate an assassination plot.

Asked whether Mr Mugabe might take the drastic action of expelling Sir Brian, even in the unlikely event that he built a case against the high commissioner, one source said: "I wouldn't put it past him."

The sources said a story, probably planted in Mr Mugabe's main mouthpiece, The Sunday Mail, blaming Sir Brian for causing Zimbabwe's crippling fuel crisis, should be seen more as being a result of the regime's frustration over its failure to get hard evidence to back its imaginary theories.

A few days before publication of the story, Mr Mugabe is said to have met his top CIO officials, who report to him directly, for a wide-ranging meeting which also covered Sir Brian.

The high commissioner was accused in the newspaper of causing the fuel crisis to plunge the nation into chaos and ignite internal resentment ahead of the Abuja Commonwealth summit in December.

A Foreign Office spokesman yesterday described The Sunday Mail article as "complete and utter rubbish".

The spokesman said: "It would be laughable if the realities of economic collapse were not so serious for millions of Zimbabweans." Sir Brian has written to The Sunday Mail in the same terms.

An oil industry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "If you can believe the story, then you can believe anything. These are the kinds of reports that make us a laughing stock of the world.

"Let's be serious about solving our economic problems by first getting the basics right."