AG gets cold feet over charging Roy Bennett with old maize case

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Lawyers representing MDC treasurer General Roy Bennett had to approach the Attorney General Johannes Tomana to intervene to stop their client from travelling to Chipinge to face charges of holding on to maize nine years ago.

Bennett was last week served with fresh summons at the High Court, where he had come for the outcome of his request to be acquitted in his treason trial.

The fresh summons instructed him to appear before a Chipinge magistrate for breaching the Grain Marketing Board Act.

Bennett’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa of Mtetwa and Nyambirai said they had to approach the AG’s office to intervene after realizing that the trial was not going to go ahead.

“What we did last week was to approach the AG to intervene because we had not been provided with the docket and the witness statements. The AG agreed that there was no need for Roy Bennett to travel all the way to Chipinge when we knew that the trial would not proceed,” said Mtetwa.

She said the AG told her he would make a determination after going through the docket which “he is yet to receive from police officers from Chipinge”.

But Chief Law Officer Chris Mutangadura in the AG’s office on Tuesday said the AG’s office was no longer pursuing the matter on the grounds that there was no justifiable reason why the matter was not heard in 2001 when the summons were issued.

“We are not going to pursue that matter at the moment. We have told Bennett’s legal practitioners to wait to hear from us on the way forward. What we need to check now is who was holding on to those summons because this is a straight forward case, which could have been dealt with back then,” said Mutangadura.

The charges against Bennett arose after he allegedly violated the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) Act by failing to declare 92 289 metric tonnes of maize to the authorities nine years ago.

The State alleges that on October 22, 2001 and at Charleswood Estate Chimanimani Bennett wrongfully and unlawfully in possession of maize which he had not declared to the authorities in terms of the GMB Act.

However, the Constitution of Zimbabwe says any person charged with a criminal offence shall be accorded a fair hearing within a reasonable time.

Therefore it would be in breach of a person’s human rights if prosecutions are not brought expeditiously against a person accused of a crime.

If there is a delay, a person accused of a crime may not, for example, be able to call witnesses in his defence.