The Zimbabwean Office of the Attorney General said it will not move ahead with prosecution of Senator Roy Bennett on charges that he held illegal stocks of maize in 2001 until it can determine why those charges were not brought until nine years after the alleged fact.
Bennett, treasurer of the Movement for Democratic Change formation headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, is currently standing trial on charges he plotted to overthrow the previous government of President Robert Mugabe in 2006.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told VOA that the party has written to South African President Jacob Zuma protesting what the party considers the political persecution of Bennett, a former commercial farmer whose farm was seized under land reform.
Bennett's situation figures prominently in talks among the Harare unity government parties. President Robert Mugabe has refused to swear him in as deputy minister of agriculture unless he is cleared of treason.
A high court judge is to issue a ruling May 10 as to whether the charges should be dropped.
Bennett was summoned April 6 to answer charges he possessed 109 tonnes of maize on his Chipinge farm in October 2001 before it was taken over.
Attorney general Johannes Tomana told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Bennett’s prosecution is not political, contrary to what the MDC alleges, and that his office wants to ascertain the merits of the case before deciding how to proceed with it.
National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku, a University of Zimbabwe law lecturer, said the state conjured up the maize charge as a fallback in case the treason charges collapse in court.
Meanwhile, an adviser to President Jacob Zuma said a report on the state of negotiations in Harare has been received by Mr. Zuma and aides who have been working to break the Harare deadlock.
Lindiwe Zulu, a member of South Africa's facilitation team, said she could not disclose the contents of the report, but said it will be closely studied by her team and Mr. Zuma before mediation resumes.