“I won't be shaken by cheap political gymnastics” – Bennett

Embattled Deputy Agriculture Minister-Designate Roy Bennett has vowed not to give up politics despite his continued ‘persecution and harassment.’

“I am here for as long as I can serve my country, my people and my party to the best of my ability. Basically, I am here until we achieve the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe,” said Bennett in an interview on Saturday, quashing any likelihood that he would leave politics soon.

He added: “I have often thought of it (quitting) and it is an easiest thing to do, by the way. But if you have a constituency you have stood in front of and together you have suffered, there is no easy walking away from that constituency. So basically I am there until we return democracy and freedoms to Zimbabwe and I want to tell Robert Mugabe that, I won’t be shaken by cheap political gymnastics.”

Bennett, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) treasurergeneral, was speaking after the State represented by Chris Mutangadura had consented before Justice Lavender Makoni at the High Court in Harare to postponing his trial to allow the defence time to prepare for the trial. The trial was supposed to resume this Monday in Mutare at the High Court in Circuit.

His lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, a member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said the defence wanted time to prepare for the trial.

“The High Court rules are very clear that there must be at least 10 working days of notice before the trial commences,” said Mtetwa. “We really want him tried, but we want everything to be done in terms of the law.”

“We consented because we did not give the defence the mandatory period of 10 days,” State lawyer, Mutangadura, told journalists outside the High Court.

Bennett is facing charges of being illegally in possession of weapons with the intention to commit insurgency, sabotage, terrorism and banditry which carries death sentence and another charge of inciting to committing insurgency, sabotage, terrorism and banditry which carries a life imprisonment sentence.

A High Court Judge in Mutare will on Monday decide Bennett’s trial date following these developments. But Bennett says the charges are trumped up and he will be acquitted. He accused Zanu PF of being behind the plot of fabricating charges.

He added: “Evidence is there. We know we are dealing with selective justice system and selective rule of law. It is part of the struggle and standing up for what is right. I have to be annoying someone so much for that persecution to continue. I have to say it must be President Robert Mugabe, himself.

“He has serious issues with me and has serious racial problems. The fact that I have a constituency and that I have a following annoys him immensely he would want to discredit me and get me out of the way.” Bennett was arrested in February and was granted a US$5 000 bail by the Supreme Court in March.

He was ordered to surrender his passport and titles deeds of one of  his properties and not to interfere with witnesses. His trial was supposed to start last week on Tuesday at the Magistrate Court, only to be told on the day that the State was applying to indict him to the High Court. The application was granted the following day by Magistrate Lucy Mungwira and he was committed to prison.

On Friday, Justice Charles Hungwe reinstated his bail granted by the Supreme Court in March, resulting in his release. “It is good to be out again, it is not a nice place (prison) to be. There are a lot of lice,” said Bennett. He said he had hoped that with the transitional government in existence he would not continue to be ‘persecuted and harassed”.

Asked why that was still happening, Bennett said: “Only ZANU PF can answer that. I have no idea. One would think that with the coming of the transitional government all this persecution and victimization would stop, but it would appear that they continue. The best for this is to get a trial and eventually for the matter to get over and done with.”

On prison conditions, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture- Designate said: “I noticed a marked improvement in prison, since I was last there, thanks to organizations like Doctors Without Borders (France) which provided blankets, food and medical supplies to the inmates.

“There are now ARVs for inmates who are HIV positive. There are three meals now, thanks to the humanitarian assistance which has come since the formation of the coalition government. One of the reasons, we in the MDC went into the transitional government was to bring humanitarian aid to the suffering people and eventually change that is tangible.”

He said : “Part of the persecution against me is not against me personally but it is against the MDC because I stand for the party in everything I do. I am happy to step aside the moment the people say I am the problem.”

“I am only there to deliver change to my comrades and my people. I am a small cog where there are many outstanding issues where ZANU PF and President Mugabe have treated us as a junior partner, given us absolutely no respect. At some point, we had to stand up,” he added.

This article was published in Edition 17 of The Legal Monitor, released today by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Edition 17 can be downloaded at this link here. Also see Edition 16 and Edition 15.