Judge held for granting Bennett bail – claim

HARARE – Zimbabwean police have arrested a magistrate who tried to release a senior politician while his case was still before the country's highest court, a police spokesman said on Friday.

Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court on Thursday granted prosecutors the right to appeal against a ruling by a High Court judge to grant bail to Roy Bennett of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is in government with President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF.

Livingstone Chipadze, a magistrate who refused to drop terrorism and banditry charges against Bennett two weeks ago, had tried to process the High Court’s bail ruling before the Supreme Court had heard the state’s appeal, police said.

Bennett, who had been set to become a junior minister, was arrested on February 13 and charged with plotting terrorism, which carries a possible life sentence. He will remain in custody until a hearing date is set.

"He (Chipadze) was picked up yesterday for criminal abuse of office," said police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena.

Bennett’s arrest is an early test for the new government in which ZANU-PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) share power.

The new government faces an array of crises: food and fuel shortages, the world’s worst hyperinflation, and a cholera outbreak in which nearly 88,000 people have been infected, with nearly 4,000 killed, according to the World Health Organisation.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank are expected in Zimbabwe next week to review the country’s economic situation and discuss policies to address the humanitarian crisis.  

South Africa is considering opening a credit line to help neighbour Zimbabwe rebuild its shattered economy after years of political and economic crisis, the Financial Mail reported on Friday.

It quoted Finance Minister Trevor Manuel as saying a credit line made sense given that most of the goods needed to restock bare stores in Zimbabwe would be bought in South Africa.

While a credit line will not solve the country’s funding problems, it will allow private banks to lend money to wholesalers, retailers and producers to purchase goods using credit, and ultimately give millions of poor Zimbabweans easier access to essential products.