Roy Bennet, whose jailing was harshly citicised by Europe and caused the MDC to issue a statement over its decision to boycott the Zimbabwean inclusive government, was Friday released on bail. But, far from the hue and cry over his politically motivated persecution, he has become the subject of another equally sensitive issue in the Southern African country.
Ordinary Zimbabweans, and mostly MDC supporters, have slammed the west for their lopsided intervention in Zimbabwean politics crises. They have accused the European Union and the United States of double standards on their intervention with respect to the jailing of Roy Bennett, a prominent aide to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
In Thursday’s statement, the 27-member bloc said it was “deeply concerned” and regretted “that politically motivated abuse persists in the country” in apparent reference to Bennett arrest. This statement was seconded by the United States embassy in Harare, who said that “This is a blatant example of the absence of rule of law in Zimbabwe…”
These strong statements from the west have led some Zimbabweans to suspect that the West is pushing a racial agenda. According to Zimbabwean observers, the recent arrest of 10 Black MDC lawmakers attracted little interest from the European Union, who reacted “mildly”. “When 10 MDC MPs are arrested, no angry statements are issued,” said Monica Sweswe, a student from the university of Zimbabwe.
Indeed, several Zimbabweans have expressed surprise over how mum the EU has been over the detention of an MDC deputy minister, Thamsanqa Mahlangu, who is accused of stealing a mobile phone from a Zanu PF functionary. Tsvangirai has also been accused for not doing enough when his ten MPs were arrested. Besides cancelling a ministerial meeting, Tsvangirai had warned that Bennett’s case threatened the coalition before he announced his party’s boycott of the unity government following Roy Bennett’s imprisonment.
Swedish ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sten Rylander whose country holds the European Union presidency on Thursday said the detention of Bennett was nothing less than provocative given the on-going political processes in the country. “This action — taken just prior to very important donor discussions on Zimbabwe, together with other negative developments recently, such as the implied threats against independent media practitioners and the intense attacks on Finance minister Tendai Biti in his efforts to pave the way for continued macroeconomic reforms and debt relief — does not facilitate the on-going dialogue to normalise relations with Zimbabwe,” Rylander said.
The US embassy acting public affairs officer Andrew Posner said his government is very concerned about the state of the rule of law in Zimbabwe and ongoing politicised arrests and prosecutions. The MDC on its website described Bennett’s imprisonment as “yet another serious attack on the credibility of the inclusive government”. The move would poison both the letter and the spirit of the inclusive government, it said.