Mugabe brushes off MDC detentions

robert.jpgPresident Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe says he doesn't see why a terrorism case against a longtime rival has made news around the world. Mugabe's first public comments on the charges faced by Roy Bennett show the gulf between his Zanu PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change, two longtime o

"The issue of Roy Bennett is making headlines worldwide. I wonder why?"
Mugabe said yesterday. "This is a court case. Let the courts decide for
themselves." The Movement for Democratic Change, the former opposition
party, says Bennett’s arrest a week ago is part of a plot by Zanu PF
hard-liners to wreck Zimbabwe’s unity government. On Wednesday a judge
ordered that Bennett be held for at least two more weeks pending trial
on terrorism and weapons charges linked to long-discredited accusations
that his party had plotted Mugabe’s overthrow. While Mugabe refuses, at
least in public, to acknowledge the seriousness of the case, MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai has raised it with him in private. The detention of
Bennett and other opposition figures and human rights advocates raises
the pressure on Tsvangirai to convince supporters that joining a
government with Mugabe and his Zanu PF party was not a mistake. Mugabe
has called the unity government a "temporary measure" to stabilize the
country so that new elections can be held.

Tsvangirai had nominated Bennett to be deputy agriculture minister. The
other deputies and junior ministers were sworn in yesterday, among them
five Zanu PF politicians Mugabe had at the proposed last minute .
Mugabe said the extra five would serve as advisers to the president and
the prime minister. The main cabinet consists of 32 ministers sworn in
last week. Mugabe has 15 ministers, one of whom shares control of the
police ministry with one of Tsvangirai’s ministers; Tsvangirai has 14;
and Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a MDC breakaway faction, has three.
This week a High Court judge granted bail under harsh conditions to
four political prisoners in Zimbabwe but the prosecutor immediately
succeeded in getting their detention extended. The arrests also
continued. Harare car dealer "Jumbo" Davidson was arrested and is being
held in Harare Central Police Station, accused of driving Roy Bennett
to the airport last Friday. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has
called for "urgent intervention" in the continued detention of MDC
supporters and other civil rights activists and a photo journalist.
High Court Judge Yunus Omerjee granted bail to four MDC members accused
of organising a series of two minor explosions bombings of police
stations and railway lines. But his order was immediately suspended,
following the invocation of the state’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

No evidence linking any of the detainees to any acts of violence by the
accused has yet been presented to any court. Judge Omerjee granted bail
to four, Chinoto Zulu, Zach-ariah Nkomo, Mapfumo Garut-sa and Regis
Mujeyi, after their lawyers applied for bail at the High Court. The
bail applications of three more, Kisimusi Dhlam-ini, Gandi Mudzingwa,
prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s former personal assistant, and
freelance photo journalist Andrison Manyere, were denied. Judge Omerjee
said the state had not shown any progress in investigations nor
provided further evidence in court implicating them.

Business Day (SA)

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