Politics

MDC finally cold-shoulders Zanu-PF after Bennett is told to report to the big house

By Branko Brkic 16 October 2009

MDC leader and prime minister in the unity government, Morgan Tsvangirai, says his party will "disengage" with Zanu-PF. Not withdraw from the (now ironically named) unity government, but "disengage". The order that Roy Bennett go to jail was the last straw, but the momentum has been building for months.

It comes as no surprise that former white farmer and agriculture-minister-in-waiting Bennett is going back to jail over terrorism charges, but it leaves a very bitter taste. It also shows that Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF has no intention of sharing power with arch-rivals the Movement for Democratic Change in the country’s unity government. It took a lot of blood and tears to get to that point in the first place, but Mugabe and his allies continue to speak with forked tongues, doing everything in the their power to make their opponents sweat every milestone.

Tsvangirai himself is no stranger to the tactics being used on Bennett. Ahead of 2002 presidential elections, a video tape came to light which allegedly showed Tsvangirai discussing how to assassinate Mugabe with a Canadian consultancy, run by an Israeli who apparently worked for the Zimbabwean government. Tsvangirai was acquitted of treason, but for 20 months he faced the death penalty. He was charged with treason for a third time in 2003, after calling for mass protests to oust Mugabe, and in 2008 was beaten to a pulp by police in violence surrounding a hugely disputed general election.

Tsvangirai blames Bennet’s arrest on Mugabe allies in the police and military, who see the power-sharing agreement as a threat to their existence. Bennett is being held by police in Mutare, a town in the east of the country. He is charged with taking part in a plot against the government and with breaching immigration laws after he fled to South Africa some years back. He was initially told he would be charged with treason, relating to his alleged possession of weapons in 2006.

Tsvangirai has offered to act as guarantor for Bennett if his bail application is granted, and has asked for Bennett to be released into his personal custody. He says Bennett’s safety is guaranteed by the South African and Zimbabwean governments, and that his arrest raises a lot of concerns.

READ MORE: AFP, Reuters (timeline), ZimOnline 

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