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Tensions in Zimbabwe Unity Government Now Revolve Around Bennett Treason Case

Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also ZANU-PF legal secretary, was quoted by a party publication as dismissing MDC accusations ZANU-PF is working in league with Tomana to bar Bennett’s Cabinet appointment

The main partners in Zimbabwe's national unity government - the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF - continue to trade barbs over the legal position of Tsvangirai aide Roy Bennett amid fears that his case could become stalled in the Supreme Court.

A Harare High Court judge last week declared Bennett innocent of charges he conspired in 2006 to assassinate Mr. Mugabe and overthrow his government, but Attorney General Johannes Tomana's office has indicated its intention to appeal that judgment. The MDC in turn has accused ZANU-PF of judicially persecuting Bennett, demanding that Mr. Mugabe swear him in as deputy minister of agriculture after 15 months of delay due to the treason charges.

But Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also ZANU-PF legal secretary was quoted in a party publication as dismissing accusations ZANU-PF is working in league with Tomana to bar Bennett’s appointment.

"As a Party we respect the independence of the judiciary and in any case, the matter before the courts is between the State and Bennett," Mnangagwa was quoted as saying by The People's Voice.

Bennett lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said the Supreme Court has not responded to the notice of intention to appeal filed by the state or the statement opposition filed by her legal team on behalf of its client. The legal and parliamentary affairs group Veritas said in an advisory circulated this week that the hearing could take place within two weeks.

If an appeal is allowed and it is successful, “the Supreme Court could send the case back to [High court] Justice Bhunu to continue the trial or order a new trial before another judge,” the Veritas note said.

Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku, also chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the state’s appeal will not be granted automatically.

Meanwhile, the Crisis In Zimbabwe Coalition says violence continues to occur around the country against members of the MDC, while liberation war veterans and militant ZANU-PF supporters are intimidating and pressuring citizens to support the so-called Kariba Draft of the constitution as the basis for a revised basic document.

The civil society umbrella group said MDC supporter Abigail Bamhare was beaten by ZANU-PF youths in the Harare suburb of Epworth early this month, while in Gwanda, Matabeleland North, a municipal housing director by the name of Mdlongwa was assaulted by ZANU-PF youth last month for allegedly insulting President Mugabe.

The Crisis Coalition has been holding meetings on the new constitution around the country. It says war veterans and ZANU-PF youth are threatening people if they do not endorse the Kariba Draft constitution which ZANU-PF favors.

Crisis Coalition Programs Manager Pedzisayi Ruhanya told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that although the violence is nowhere near levels seen after the 2008 elections, the situation could deteriorate if nothing is done.

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