Roy Bennett freed, urges reconciliation

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) – Zimbabwean Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) official Roy Bennett was released on bail on Thursday by order of the Supreme Court and he called for forgiveness and reconciliation in the country.

His release after almost a month in jail could ease tension in the power-sharing government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai which faces the task of rebuilding the shattered economy.

Bennett told reporters in Mutare, 300 km (188 miles) east of the capital Harare, he had forgiven those who had imprisoned him and he called for tolerance and reconciliation.

"I have forgiven those who were persecuting me… The spirit of forgiveness should prevail and there should be tolerance and understanding among all political parties for us to move forward," Bennett said.

His comments echo Mugabe’s call on Zimbabweans this week to support Tsvangirai’s efforts to rebuild the country and end violence.

Bennett was set to become deputy agriculture minister in the unity government but was arrested on February 13 and charged with plotting terrorism. Bennett is a senior official in Tsvangirai’s MDC.

A High Court judge granted him bail last week but state prosecutors appealed against the decision. The Supreme Court ordered his release on $5,000 bail on Wednesday.

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Zimbabwe, beset by 90 percent unemployment, hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods, needs Western donors and foreign investors to rescue its economy.

Their help will be conditional on the implementation of fully democratic government and reforms such as reversing plans for nationalisation.

Australia said on Wednesday it would provide funding to Zimbabwe’s new government, the first Western power to announce direct support to the new administration.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has called on the international community to help Zimbabwe out of its economic crisis, saying conditions have become too bad to ignore.

Kikwete, one of Africa’s first leaders to criticise Mugabe, told Reuters in an interview in Tanzania’s capital the country had "come a long way" after forming the coalition government of Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

"People now should go and try to help them." 

Kikwete, one of Africa’s first leaders to criticise Mugabe, told Reuters in an interview in Tanzania’s capital the country had "come a long way" after forming the coalition government.

"People now should go and try to help them," he said.