Roy Bennett’s acquittal a test for President Robert Mugabe’s integrity

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The Movement for Democratic Change is pressing ahead for the appointment of its treasurer Roy Bennett as deputy agriculture minister after his acquittal on terror charges Monday.

All along the MDC had insisted Bennett had been facing “trumped up” terror charges, which Justice Chinembiri Bhunu said the state failed to prove.

“The accused is accordingly found not guilty,” said Justice Bhunu.

Now the MDC is taking up President Robert Mugabe, 86, on his word that Bennett would only be allowed to take up his position as deputy agriculture minister after the courts had cleared him.

MDC Spokesman Nelson Chamisa said after Bennett was freed that his party expected Bennett to take up his deputy minister position “tomorrow”.

The issue of Bennett’s arrest and subsequent trial had been a contentious matter in the government of national unity. The MDC insisted the allegations were a farce and meant to keep Bennett at bay.

Bennett was a victim of Mugabe’s land reform. His once-thriving Charles Estates farm in Chipinge was forcibly taken over by the government several years ago.

Fears in Mugabe’s Zanu PF party were that Bennett could reverse “land gains” if he was allowed to become deputy agriculture minister.

Last month Zanu PF told SA President Jacob Zuma in a report that is was uncomfortable with Bennett taking up the said portfolio.

There were suggestions that he could be offered an alternative ministry as a compromise – but with the court case out of the way the MDC was now insisting on the initial position.

The Attorney General Johannes Tomana, himself a subject of scorn for the MDC, conceded defeat saying: “It’s a high court decision …that’s the way of showing justice.”

Bennett’s bail of $5 000 was expected to be returned to him along with his passport and title deeds that had been held by the state.

Tomana made no indication that the state would appeal Justice Bhunu’s ruling.