Police patrol the streets of Mutare earlier as Roy Bennett was expected to appear in court. The MDC Treasurer-General and Deputy Agriculture Minister nominee remains in custody and may appear in court to tomorrow
Zimbabwe news this evening is that Roy Bennett did not appear in court today despite the expiry of the 48 hours at which police are compelled by law to bring him to court or release him.
Morgan Tsvangirai issued a statement a few hours ago demanding that Bennett be released. At the same time, he is clearly not expecting anyone to pay any attention, because the MDC also said it "will be trying to arrange bail......when Bennett is charged." Clearly there is no hope there that he will be released immediately as per the Prime Minister's demand. Voice of America report it here.
Curiously, the police produced a signed warrant and waved it about late afternoon today. The warrant legalised the continued detention of Bennett beyond 48 hours.
Which, of course, begs the question: who is in charge of Home Affairs? The MDC was supposed to have a go first, according to the understanding coming out of the October Summits.
Did I not say this very thing in November as people shouted about how Home Affairs was more important than the lives of Zimbabweans living in Zimbabwe?
Did or did I not point to the Joshua Nkomo analogy? Father Zimbabwe was made Minister of Home Affairs by Mugabe at Independence, after rejecting the titular presidency, which eventually went to Canaan Banana. (By the way Mugabe intended to show his contempt for Lancaster House by installing in the presidency a man whose very name conjured up images of a Banana Republic. That is what he thought of the Lancaster House Constitution)
But I digress.
While Nkomo was sitting at his desk at the Ministry of Home Affairs one morning, an aide came in to inform him of an arrest warrant that had already been executed against Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku. Nkomo naturally asked around about who had signed the warrant without the Home Affairs minister knowing about it. He was effectively told to mind his own business in a face to face meeting with Mugabe.
So, history repeats itself. Today, with an MDC minister of home affairs supposed to take the reins, a warrant has been issued and executed against Roy Bennett, one of the Prime Minister's closest allies.
I doubt the MDC minister of home affairs knows anything about this.
Meantime, though, a drama is unfolding in Harare, where the prosecutors were delayed because of two things: the consultations between Mugabe and Tsvangirai plus the fine-tuning of the government's case against Bennett. They are waiting for instructions.
So the law can wait. Which means that a man's word or command now carries more authority than the laws of the land. This is nothing new.
It is a classic shoot-first-ask-questions-later scenario. Get the man arrested, put him behind bars and then sit down to think what charges you could possibly throw at him and make them stick.
There is growing talk that a bargain is being negotiated and Bennett is the bargaining chip. Mugabe, it is whispered, wants assurances on Gono. But this to me seems like an extreme form of extortion.
Still, despite all the focus on the details of the drama of a Prime Minister affronted, humiliated even, the focus should be on seeing where the future of this government lies. Tsvangirai seems determined to get it to work. This may actually become his downfall, as he repeatedly turns the other cheek.
Soon enough, the powers that be will say to themselves they do not have a Prime Minister, but a welcome mat.
And we can all guess where that will lead.
To get a sense of just how predictable this scenario has been, I refer you to an article I wrote here, entitled: Prime Ministers and Prosecutions.
Who is in charge? What power is being shared? The power to be chauffeur-driven, housed, clothed and fed by taking torn shirts off the backs of peasants in the form of "tax" and forex "licence fees" for roadside tomato-sellers?
For how else is this monstrosity going to be able to pay for itself if donors are saying they will sit this one out?
Perhaps, just perhaps, Zimbabwe has become the sort of nation where, once starving, we are so grateful to see maize meal back on the shelves and some US dollars in our pockets that we forget just what it is that brought us here in the first place.
The question then: is food more important than securing a democratic, incorruptible future state for us and for our children.? Is tyranny better than starvation? It takes a special people to go with the answer that history recommends.
There is an extraordinary meeting of the MDC National Executive tomorrow if Bennett is still not released. Both Biti and Tsvangirai say they will not pull out of government because that is exactly what the "hawks" in ZANU PF want.
So, are there other options? Only one: stay in, play second fiddle. Unless something very clever can be thought of very fast.