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Rights Lawyer Accuses Zimbabwe AG of Abuse of Office in Roy Bennett Case

  • Ntungamili Nkomo

Chief Law Officer Chris Mutangadura submitted in preliminary appeal papers that High Court Judge Chinembiri Bhunu erred in considering the pieces of evidence submitted by the state in isolation

Lawyers for Zimbabwean Senator Roy Bennett, a senior official in the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, urged the Supreme Court Thursday to investigate Attorney General Johannes Tomana for abuse of office and contempt of court, saying he is pursuing a legal vendetta against Bennett.

Tomana on Wednesday filed a notice seeking permission to appeal a Monday High Court decision acquitting Bennett of charges he conspired to assassinate President Robert Mugabe and topple his former government in 2006.

MDC officials said that this proved the prosecution of Bennett was always motivated by political considerations.

Chief Law Officer Chris Mutangadura submitted in preliminary appeal papers that High Court Judge Chinembiri Bhunu erred in considering the pieces of evidence submitted by the state in isolation from each other. Mutangadura maintained that the totality of evidence supported charges of terrorism and treason against Bennett.

But Bennett defense lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa in papers filed in opposition to the appeal bid said Tomana, whose office this week seized Bennett’s passport, is approaching the Supreme Court with "dirty hands." Mtetwa told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Tomana, who personally tried the Bennett case, should be investigated.

South African sources meanwhile said President Jacob Zuma’s mediation team will engage Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF part on the Bennett case urging it to consider the impact on the crisis resolution process.

President Zuma told the South African Parliament on Wednesday before hearing of the appeal that the judgment had removed a major sticking point between the power-sharing partners in Harare.

President Mugabe has refused to since early 2009 read Bennett into office as deputy minister of agriculture, saying the charges against had to be disposed of first. But ZANU-PF now there is no place for Bennett in government.

Zuma facilitation team member Lindiwe Zulu told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Pretoria viewed the acquittal of Bennett as a step forward and that while the facilitators respect the state’s constitutional right to appeal, they will engage ZANU-PF on the issue hoping it will reconsider its stance.

Developments in the Bennett case this week have highlighted the deep divisions in what is turning out to be something less than a national unity government despite the best efforts of South African President Jacob Zuma and the regional organizations guaranteeing power sharing.

Although President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai have publicly expressed optimism on their transitional arrangement – most recently by Mr.. Tsvangirai in Washington this week – there is increasingly the sense that power sharing has a limited life span and that ultimately only new national elections can resolve matters.

For perspective on where the unity government is headed, we sought the views of ZANU-PF chief parliamentary whip Joram Gumbo and political analyst George Mkhwanazi. Gumbo says the GNU has brought peace and stability, which he says is more important than the outstanding issues that continue to trouble the inclusive government.

In a separate development, the Movement for Democratic Change formation headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says party member Shakespeare Maya, former leader of the National Alliance for Good Governance, has been charged with sedition.

Authorities say Maya incited people to topple Mr.. Mugabe in 2005 at Chitungwiza rally 25 kilometers South of the capital.

Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya says treason and sedition charges are being used to silence and legally entangle Mr. Mugabe’s critics.