Emergency National Council meeting could decide on Bennet arrest – Biti

HARARE – Zimbabwe's MDC has yet to decide how to respond if one of its senior officials is not freed from jail, but an economic crisis discourages the party from quitting the unity government, a top party official said on Monday.\r\n

MDC Treasurer General Roy Bennett is expected to appear in court on Monday morning to face charges of planning terrorism and insurgency, just days after a cabinet was sworn in, his lawyer, Trust Maanda, said.

The development threatens the credibility of the new administration with President Robert Mugabe, whose formation after long negotiations was aimed at leading Zimbabwe out of a political and economic crisis.

Asked if the MDC would pull out of the government if Bennett and other political prisoners were not released, Finance Minister Tendai Biti of the MDC told South Africa’s Talk Radio 702:

"We will have to call an (emergency) meeting of our national council and decide. … You have to sympathise with people that have no other hope other than this experiment. That alone is a force that will make you take a lot of nonsense for their sake."

Foreign investors and Western donors want concrete signs of stability in Zimbabwe. They have made it clear that funds will not flow until a democratic government is created and economic reforms are made.

Bennett, who was meant to be deputy agriculture minister in the new administration, was arrested before new ministers were sworn in on Friday.

He had been living in exile in South Africa after fleeing the country about two years ago because police wanted to question him in connection with the discovery of an arms cache in eastern Zimbabwe. 

He is accused of being involved in funding for arms and explosives to be used to sabotage essential services, Maanda said. Bennett has denied the charges and believes they are politically motivated, he said.

The MDC said treason charges against him have been dropped.

Bennett is being held at a police station in the eastern city of Mutare, where he is expected to appear in court, his lawyer said.

Police have not been available to comment on the case. Reuters