Bennet is off hook

DETAINED: Roy Bennett, a senior member of the MDC, is held in custody in Mutare since his arrest on Friday. 13/02/09. Pic. Denis Farrell. © AP.
DETAINED: Roy Bennett, a senior member of the MDC, is held in custody in Mutare since his arrest on Friday. 13/02/09. Pic. Denis Farrell. © AP.

HARARE - An MDC official has been charged with planning terrorism and insurgency just days after the opposition joined in a unity government with President Robert Mugabe.

HARARE - An MDC official has been charged with planning terrorism and insurgency just days after the opposition joined in a unity government with President Robert Mugabe.

The development threatens the credibilty of the new goverment, whose formation after long negotiations was aimed at leading Zimbabwe out of a political and economic crisis.

MDC treasurer general Roy Bennet is expected to appear in court today to face the charges, his lawyer Trust Maanda said yesterday.

Bennett, who was meant to be deputy agriculture minister, was arrested before new ministers were sworn in on Friday.

"They have now preferred charges of insurgency or attempting to commit acts of insurgency, terrorism and banditry," Maanda said.

Bennett is accused of being involved in funding for arms and explosives to be used to sabotage essential services, Maanda said. Bennett has denied the charges and believes they are politically motivated.

While the MDC has condemned Bennett's arrest, it has not indicated if it would take any strong action that could endanger the unity government formed after months of deadlock over implementation of a September power-sharing deal.

Bennett is being held at a police station in Mutare, the MDC said.

He had been living in exile in South Africa after fleeing Zimbabwe two years ago because police wanted to question him in connection with the discovery of an arms cache. Police officials have not been available for comment.

Foreign investors and Western donors want concrete signs of stability in Zimbabwe. They have made it clear that funds will not flow to the nation until a democratic government is created and economic reforms are made.

Political tensions are not the only concern. Both Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai have named party stalwarts to the cabinet rather than technocrats seen as having the expertise Zimbabwe needs to escape its crisis.

Zimbabweans face unemployment above 90 percent and prices that double every day. Half the 12 million population needs food aid and a cholera epidemic has killed more than 3 000 people. - Reuters

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