Bennett faces new charges

2010-03-31 14:38

THE high profile case of the dispossessed former white commercial

farmer and MDC senior official Roy Bennett took a new twist today when he

returned to court for a crucial judgment on his treason trial, only to find

himself faced with new charges.


Bennett is now accused of hiding several thousand tons of maize

many years ago. Initial information was that the former coffee farmer is alleged

to have stashed the maize some time in 2001. He has been summoned to appear at a

Chimanimani court in Manicaland to answer to the charges on April 26.


Bennett, a close aide of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai denies

the charges and says the maize, whose quantities he contests, had in fact been

looted by soldiers and government officials when they ransacked his farm.


Details of the case were still sketchy as prosecutors handling the

case and Bennett’s lawyers were all rushing into the high court for the treason

case and were not able to provide much detail.


It is criminal in Zimbabwe for anyone, including farmers to

withhold maize for any reason. All the maize grown must be sold to the

government-owned and perpetually broke Grain Marketing Board at government

stipulated prices.


Several officials, including senior cabinet ministers, have been

implicated in cases of smuggling maize to neighbouring countries where they sold

it in foreign currency. Although the cases were publicised and evidence

presented none of the officials, including President Mugabe’s nephew Leo Mugabe,

have been prosecuted.


Bennett, the deputy agriculture minister designate, was back in the

high court for a ruling on whether or not he should be put on his defence over

charges of banditry, terrorism, insurgency and sabotage.


At the close of the state case, the charges appeared to be

crumbling like a deck of cards and political analysts said that the new maize

charges could be a desperate way of securing a conviction – at all costs – so

that Bennett is not made a government minister.


Bennett’s lawyers led by renowned human rights defender Beatrice

Mtetwa earlier in the month applied for discharge arguing the state had failed

to establish a prima facie case that Bennett plotted to assassinate President

Mugabe in 2006.


Justice Chinembiri Bhunu was expected to deliver judgment

today.

 

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