Mugabe’s Zanu PF determined to block Bennett’s appointment

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President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party appear determined to challenge a High Court ruling that cleared the treasurer of the Movement for Democratic Change Roy Bennett of terror related charges.

The Zanu PF’s move was aimed at thwarting Bennett’s appointment into the inclusive government.

Bennett was on Monday cleared by Justice Chinembiri Bhunu on all terror charges including an alleged attempt to overthrow the government of President Mugabe. Justice Bhunu ruled that the state had failed to prove their case.

The acquittal paved the way for Bennett to be appointment as deputy agriculture minister.

But Emmerson Mnangagwa, a Zanu PF strongman was quoted by the state owned ZBC radio and television bulletins as saying the ruling was “appealable”.

Mnangagwa, the Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs, said even if the state fails to appeal Mugabe was not obliged to swear in Bennett on the grounds of his acquittal.

He said Mugabe, as the Head of State, could not be pushed by anybody to swear in Bennett as the country’s deputy minister of agriculture.

Mugabe has always insisted Bennett would only be sworn in once he was cleared by the courts.

Meanwhile, one of Bennett’s lawyers, Trust Maanda, told NewsDay he was likely to collect his $5000 bail money together with his title deeds and passport on Wednesday in Mutare.

This comes as Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, welcomed the High Court ruling while meeting US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

“Well, it’s good news. It’s very positive,” Tsvangirai said, in response to a question from Clinton.

“As I’ve always said, he’s not being prosecuted; he’s being persecuted. So I hope that the persecution has ended.”

Clinton then asked: “But there are many other steps needed to restore confidence in the unity government, right?”

“Obviously, obviously. There’s more to do,” was Tsvangirai’s response.

Bennett’s acquittal has also been welcomed by the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), which said it vindicated its position that the charges were trumped up and could not pass in any competent court manned by fair minded persons

“The Judge’s subsequent ruling to acquit Bennett should be welcomed by every peace loving Zimbabwean and the world at large,” the ZPP said in a statement.

“The charges against Bennett had been a major source of disagreement between Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe and now ZPP hopes that the acquittal will ease tensions in the country’s inclusive government by swearing him in as the Deputy Minister of Agriculture.”

However, ZPP said it strongly felt that Bennett should not have been subjected to such a long and tiring trial on a case that has been based on unsubstantiated claims from the state actors.

Bennett was arrested just a few days before the inclusive government came into effect in February last year on charges of banditry, sabotage and terrorism. He has been on trial since October last year.

ZPP is a human rights organisation, which monitors and documents breaches of peace in Zimbabwe.

The organisation aims to help resolve politically related conflicts, and to identify victims and perpetrators of such conflicts with a view of promoting lasting peaceful co-existence within communities.