Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has today called for an emergency crisis meeting for his party to map a way forward after the imprisonment of MDC treasurer-general and deputy agriculture minister-designate, Roy Bennett.
Bennett, a close ally of Tsvangirai, faces charges of possessing weapons for the purposes of insurgency and banditry. He was on Wednesday committed to imprisonment by Mutare Provincial Magistrate Lucy Mungwari pending his trial in the High Court on Monday.
This is despite the fact that his indictment papers were not in order and his lawyers had not been furnished with the documents to allow them to prepare his defence outline.
On Wednesday, President Mugabe snubbed Tsvangirai who had sought a hasty meeting over the controversial imprisonment of Bennett. Tsvangirai cancelled a weekly Council of Ministers meeting scheduled for Thursday and will not be at his office to protest Wednesday’s detention of his top ally.
A livid Tsvangirai, who is under pressure to abandon his softly approach to continued violations of the Global Political Agreement by Mugabe, immediately sought an urgent meeting with the veteran leader, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Attorney General Johannes Tomana to thrash the matter out.
Mugabe has allegedly refused to meet Tsvangirai over the potentially divisive matter. James Maridadi, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson says Tsvangirai had repeatedly sought a meeting with Mugabe. “I can confirm that the Prime Minister was indeed chasing a meeting with the President but could not manage as all avenues of communication were closed,” said Maridadi. “The Prime Minister is keen to have that meeting which he seeks to use
to bring finality and closure to Bennett’s case.”
In a statement on Thursday, the MDC said the arrest of one of its founding MPs was both provocative and vindictive. “MDC views this as an act of machination by Zanu-PF and its sulking cabal planted in various state institutions aimed at persecuting not prosecution,” said the MDC.
“This latest action is deliberately provocative, unnecessary and motivated by hatred of a personality. The MDC takes this matter as a serious attack on the integrity and honesty of the party; it is not acceptable and will not be taken lightly.”
Bennett once served a one-year jail term for assaulting Chinamasa in parliament. Following charges of terrorism, he fled the country to seek asylum in South Africa in 2006 after the police quizzed him over the discovery an arms cache at a house belonging to Mike Peter Hirschman, an arms dealer.
He was on February 13 this year seized by the police and some intelligence argents at the Charles Prince Airport as he was just about to fly back to South Africa to visit his family.
He had just returned to the country when the unity government was being formed. He spent a month at Mutare remand prison and was released on stringent bail conditions.