Bennet charged on “defamatory” story from Zanu PF website

A Zimbabwe high court judge has filed a one-million-dollar defamation suit against Roy Bennett, a key aide of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, court papers showed Thursday

The suit stems from comments attributed to Bennett in the Zimbabwe Guardian news website, saying he did not expect an acquittal in his trial over an alleged ’plot’ to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

“The judiciary is totally compromised, that the very judge that’s trying me is the owner of a farm that he’s been given through political patronage,” Bennett was quoted as saying in May.

“Basically I should expect no mercy and fear the worst,” Bennett said in the report.

In court papers, high court judge Chinembiri Bhunu said the statements were defamatory because they implied that he was “not a fit and proper person to be a judge of this honorable court and to preside over the defendants trial”.

Bhunu said the comments compromised his “integrity as a judge”.

Bennett’s remarks appeared online the day before Bhunu acquitted him of charges that he had masterminded a plot to overthrow Mugabe four years ago.

Prosecutors are now appealing the verdict to the Supreme Court, but no date has been set for a hearing.

Bennett, a former white farmer whose land was seized under Mugabe’s land reform scheme, was Tsvangirai’s pick for deputy agriculture minister in Zimbabwe’s unity government.

Mugabe has refused to swear him in until the Supreme Court clears him of the charges.