Bennett’s lawyers want AG investigated

HARARE – Lawyers representing MDC treasurer-general Roy Bennett made an application to have Attorney General (AG) Johannes Tomana investigated for his conduct in handling the MDC official’s terrorism indictment process.

Bennett, who is accused of possessing weapons for the purposes of committing banditry, insurgency and terrorism – charges he denies – is currently on a US$5 000 bail.

Lead defence lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa of Mtetwa and Nyambirai told the court that the AG’s conduct was not worthy of a chief law officer and therefore he should be investigated.

The state wants to bring arms dealer Peter Michael Hitschmann to testify against Bennett, but the defence said it has since established that what he wants to say is different from what is recorded in his witness account.

Tomana had maintained that the evidence by Hitschmann be made to stand despite an affidavit he signed claiming that he would not be able to testify in the Bennett case.

“The failure by the AG to address this issue shows that he has no clue how he is going to get the evidence from Hitschmann. This is not a game; it is a serious matter that involves somebody’s life. We want the evidence by Hitschmann to be struck off as it will not help the state case,” said Mtetwa.

She said it was in the public domain that Hitschmann was not going to give a testimony against Bennett and on that basis they were now applying for the court to refer the AG and his team of officers to the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) for investigation.

“It is conduct that is not worthy an AG to proceed with a case when there is an affidavit that is against what is in the state papers. When the AG appears before the court he is just like any other law officer. So we are applying to this court to refer such officers to the LSZ and direct that an investigation be carried out to show that they handled themselves impartially,” said Mtetwa.

She argued that an accused person could, in terms of the law, properly ask for the court to refer “dishonourable law officers” to the LSZ.

“An AG is an AG for all of us. He is an AG for Roy Bennett and for anybody who is in Zimbabwe. The administration of justice would be put into disrepute if the evidence of Mr Hitschmann is allowed to stand,” added Mtetwa who was assisted by human rights lawyer Trust Maanda.

Earlier on Tomana had made an application to have the defence outline struck off and a fresh one prepared as it purported to seek to quash the indictment and the state case.

“Besides attempting to be a plea of not guilty, the defence outline is an application to have the state case struck off. The document also challenges the evidence of state witnesses. This is a serious matter which must be accorded the seriousness it deserves,” said Tomana who was flanked by law officers Florence Ziyambi and Chris Mutangadura.

Tomana also accused the defence team of using “temperament language” in their defence outline and therefore it should not be considered.

High Court Judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu reserved his ruling to Wednesday where he will consider all the applications made by both teams.

Smartly dressed in blue suit, a striped shirt and a matching tie, Bennett sat quietly following proceedings.

Bennett is a former white farmer who was named by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for the post of deputy agriculture minister in the country’s power-sharing government.

President Robert Mugabe has refused to swear in Bennett to his ministerial post citing the charges against him.

Bennett was arrested a few hours before ministers for the power-sharing government were sworn in last February accused of banditry and terrorism – charges Tsvangirai has repeatedly said are politically motivated and are undermining the unity government.

He was released on bail in March only to be rearrested last month and his detention at Mutare remand prison threw Zimbabwe’s fragile coalition government in turmoil. – ZimOnline