The matter now awaits endorsement by the MDC’s National Council. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to hold a press conference to reveal the outcome on Friday.
A senior official in the Prime Minister’s office told the UK based Zimbabwean radio that ZANU PF has pushed the patience of the MDC too far with the latest treatment of Roy Bennett. The MDC Treasurer General, who is facing charges of possessing weapons for the purpose of terrorism, was on Wednesday sent to prison again, pending trial in the High Court.
ZANU PF has been criticised over this action, with observers saying this is a clear sign that shows ZANU PF has only contempt for the Global Political Agreement.
If the party’s National Council endorses this move, it is understood the MDC is not going to pull out of the inclusive government as it will continue to run its ministries, but will disengage from Cabinet and the Council of Ministers and suspend any forums with ZANU PF.
The official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said; “There is now a constitutional crisis. ZANU PF has pushed and pushed and enough is enough. This was the shortest meeting the Standing Committee has ever had and the vote was unanimous. There was not one dissenting voice.”
However, the MDC’s proposal to suspend engagement with ZANU PF has been met with mixed reactions. Those in favour say there was momentum growing within the MDC, against the party continuing to do nothing in the face of ZANU PF’s unwillingness to share real power. But critics say if this impasse drags on Zimbabwe might find itself in unfamiliar territory, with two parallel government structures.
The chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, Dr Lovemore Madhuku, believes the MDC is losing direction. He said: “This is a senseless position. It doesn’t make sense. It has no meaning if you are still in government that is engaging ZANU PF because that government is an inclusive government. There is no concept of running a ministry which is different from being in government.”
The outspoken civic leader said: “This is all part of the thinking that the Zimbabwean public and everyone else is still so gullible to keep hearing these antics. They (MDC) must make up their minds, either they are in government or they are completely out of it. There is no concept of a half-way house.”
The MDC say the Prime Minister had on Wednesday called for an urgent meeting to discuss the Bennett issue with Mugabe and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, but ‘the lines of communication were closed to them.’
Unconfirmed reports say Mugabe is threatening to dissolve cabinet and parliament and call elections.
Meanwhile a delegation of senior MDC officials were denied access to Bennett when they tried to visit him at the remand prison in Mutare on Thursday. The Deputy Minister of Local Government Sisel Zwizwai, Mutare Mayor Brian James, Senator for Nyanga and provincial spokesperson for Manicaland Patrick Chitake and MP for Makoni Pishai Muchauraya were told to get clearance from police headquarters before they would be allowed to see him. The Mutare Mayor told SW Radio Africa: “I think it is quite irregular that we have been denied access to see Mr Bennett.”
Bennett’s lawyers are expected to file an urgent bail application in the High Court on Friday. The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said in a statement: “An urgent explanation must be provided to the public by those who have caused and contributed to Bennett’s renewed persecution and that the matter must be resolved immediately by the national and regional political forces responsible for this travesty of justice to ensure that his safety, security, and fundamental rights and freedoms – which are being assaulted and perpetuated through the abuse of the law – are restored.”
The ZLHR said it is even more disturbing that this travesty of justice is occurring under the eyes of the SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao, who is currently in Zimbabwe.
SADC are the guarantors of Zimbabwe’s unity agreement, but have so far been very disappointing in their apparent unwillingness to bring Mugabe into line and pressure him to abide by the power sharing agreement.