• Roy Bennet: Who Is In Charge of Home Affairs?

    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.

3 comments:

  1. Thokozile says:

    Noted some statements in the article which are not correctly presented.The Police in Zim can initially detain a person for 48hrs,after which they have three options, either to take the person before the courts, or to release the person then latter proceed by way of summons, or set him completely free, or if circumstances warrant, apply for a further detention of 48hrs. So a person can be legally detained for 96hrs if a Warrant for further detention is issued. If that is what has happened to Bennet, then the Police are not doing anything wrong.
    I do not think a Minister of Home Affairs can order release of a person held in Police custody, that is or amounts to interfering or obstruction of an investigation, it can be seen as another form of corruption.
    Bennet was not arrested first, put behind bars, then think of what charges. The man had an outstanding Warrant of Arrest, that was issued long back. I think on this one the Police acted within the confines of the law.If the Minister of Home AFFAIRS either MDC or Zanu PF orders release of a detainee, and the Police Commissioner refuses to release the detainee, what will happen? If the Minister of Justice orders prosecution to be stopped and the Attorney GeneraL REFUSES,What will happen? With Augustine Chihuri as Commissioner General and Johannes Tomana as Attorney General,the likely scenario is that they will refuse to be pushed by Politicians, especially from the opposition.They can present strong arguments for their case, or ask the President to fire them or allow them to resign, and have the Politicians run their respective offices, that of Commissioner General and Attorney General. The President will definately never allow this.He will tell whoever Politician that let the man entrusted with their responsibilities carry them without hindrance. After all the President has a record of refusing to be seen interfering with court processes,even those involving his close lieutanants, examples dates back to Edgar Tekere's case of murder of a white farm manager just after independence, he allowed the case to run its course, Commissioner General Chihuri when he was a deputy commissioner had a case before the courts after he ordered disposal of some stolen and recovered motor vehicles that were not claimed from Vehicle Theft squad Southerton, the case went on and on until finalisation by the courts.The Police had to go without a substantive commissioner for a long time because Chihuri was earmarked for the job,Chris Kuruneri is another case, Perence Shiri was tried and convicted after he shot and deflated all the four wheels of a Police vehicle.If the President does intervene in such cases, he never does it directly or order it, it could be through some other people who will abuse their authority to get to an outcome which they know will be in the interest of the President. The Big question now is whether the Prime Minister or some politician should intervene without corrupting the functions and operations of the Police and Courts. It will set a dangerous precedent.

  1. Denford says:

    You are clearly wrong, Thokozile. What warrant of arrest was there for Bennett "that wasissued long back"?

    If there was, this case would have been straightfoward: arrested, charged with the crime that was on the warrant and brought to court.

    As it is, the police have changed charges 4 times now. Clearly, they have no idea what to charge the man with.

    This is cooked up and stibks to high heaven.

  1. Thokozile says:

    Denford, I will dig out the finer details, but I remember you know well, when an arms cache was discovered at Peter Michael Hitschmann, who was a licensed arms dealer, AK47 rifles, FN rifles, two way communication radios, lots of ammunition and Police and Army uniforms were also recovered from various people who were said to be involved, who happen to be ex-army and Police. Roy Bennet was implicated together with a lot of other people.The case was taken to court and charges against majority of them withdrawn, except for Hitshmann, the Police were accused of bungling the investigation by Minister Kembo Mohadi. At the time the charges were withdrawn before Plea, Roy Bennet had already disappeared, he was not set free by the courts and in those circumstances, if a person fails to avail himself for court, a Warrant of arrest will be issued. It is clear he was arrested at the strength of that Warrant. Before he disappeared and later re-appeared in South Africa, he was on initial remand, he had not pleaded yet to the charges. Accused persons are put on initial remand to allow Police to finalise investigations, and decide on the appropriate charges to file.He might be linked to the arms cache, but his role may not be sufficient to file and secure a prosecution on a case of treason. There is really nothing very much improper, when the Police discuss on which is the most appropriate charge to file, either under Fire-arms Act, or the most serious treason, etc. Sometimes the Police might want the most serious which might have less chances of success, but carrying a heavy penalty, or they might opt for an easy option with a less severe punishment, and also easy to prosecute.
    Sometimes the AG's office gives advise on that, and that can be done whilst the accused person is still in detention.Sometimes my arguments tend to be viewed as strongly supporting a particular side, but no, I will only be trying to present a fair and correct version as prescribed by our laws. Lawyers sometimes do misinform clients, they are in business, they want money, they will try everything possible to impress clients. Like the petitions filed in the High court regarding the march elections, mainly from loosing candidates. A judge had to tell that, even a junior law student would have seen that they had no legal standing in a court of law, something the lawyers should have told their clients, but they want money and publicity to attract more clients and make Big names..
    So Denford just try to find out whether it is true or not that there was an outstanding Warrant of Arrest, and also the reasons for having to change the charges might be to find an easy to prove charge, etc. because in such cases one might opt to charge under POSA, Fire-Arms Act, Miscellaneous Offences, etc, the circumstances of the matter may be a violation of all.

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