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Zimbabwe's MDC: Bennett Arrest Political, So Political Solution Will be Found

A senior official of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change said Monday that the arrest of party treasurer Roy Bennett last week just hours before the formation of a national unity government comprising the MDC and the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe would not derail the power-sharing initiative but would be resolved politically.

Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the MDC formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and communications and technology minister in the new government, blamed the arrest of Bennett on elements he said were intent on sabotaging the unity government.

Other party officials said they have asked the unity government to come into play in the new crisis to make sure that Bennett is quickly released.

Tapped by the Tsvangirai MDC to become deputy agriculture minister, Bennett was arrested on Friday at an airport outside Harare and taken to Mutare, Manicaland.

Bennett represented the Chimanimani, Manicaland, constituency from 2000 to 2005, and in 2004 physically clashed with Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa in parliament, for which he was found guilty of contempt of parliament and sentenced to 12 months in prison of which he served eight. When the government in 2006 accused him and other MDC officials of conspiring to assassinate President Mugabe, Bennett fled to South Africa.

MDC sources said Bennett returned to Zimbabwe to take up his ministerial appointment only after receiving assurances from South African officials he would not be pursued.

Bennett was expected to appear in court in Mutare on Monday, but his lawyer said that no hearing was held because state prosecutors did not arrive from Harare.

Lawyer Trust Maanda, representing Bennett, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his client is accused of acts of terrorism, insurgency and banditry.

Party spokesman Chamisa told VOA reporter James Butty that while Bennett is the innocent victim of those who are seeking to undermine the fledgling unity government, a political solution will be found in due course as the government finds its feet.

The South African-based Save Zimbabwe Campaign held a mass meeting at Witwatersrand University Monday urging African civic organizations to step up campaigning for true democracy in Zimbabwe despite the formation of the unity government.

Campaign leader Kumi Naidoo said the Bennett arrest proved that Zimbabweans have been deceived as to the nature of the unity government, as Benedict Nhlapho reported.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...