Zimbabwe Attorney General Takes Personal Charge Of The Prosecution Of Roy Bennett

Harare, Zimbabwe, 19 October 2009

In a shocking and virtually unprecedented move, the Zimbabwe Attorney General, Johannes Tomana has taken personal charge of the prosecution of Roy Bennett and appeared for the State today in court where the Defence was seeking to have the trial of the MDC Treasurer-General postponed.

Tomana's move means that Mugabe and ZANU PF are now taking the gloves with regards to Bennett. They did not expect him to be given bail, but he appeared before one of the most impartial judges in Zimbabwe today, Justice Hungwe, who granted him the bail under the same conditions as he has been since his arrest earlier this year.

Tomana appeared personally in court leading the prosecution that also includes Michael Mugabe, the law officer in the AGs office who has been leading the prosecution of Bennett up until today.

But, to show just how serious this matter has now become for ZANU PF, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Florence Ziyambi, has also been brought onto the Prosecution team to assist Tomana.

Tomana opposed the postponement of Bennett's trial from October 27 , a date in which the prosecution had settled, to another date. However, after discussions with Beatrice Mtetwa and other members of Roy Bennett's Defence team, he relented and agreed to have the trial postponed to November 9 this year.

It is impossible to overstate the significance of the Attorney General of Zimbabwe tying himself up in court to prosecute the treason trial of Roy Bennett. It signals ZANU PF and Mugabe's determination to ensure that Bennett goes straight from the courtroom to jail. Otherwise the AG would not have put his personal reputation on the line like this.

This escalation shows that Mugabe has as good as written off any reconciliation with Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC, who all along have been pushing for the dismissal of this very same Attorney General.

Initially, upon hearing the news, I immediately suspected that Mugabe had ordered this in order to compromise the MDC by having the Attorney General preside over the acquittal of Roy Bennett, which would then have helped to sweeten relations between the AG and the MDC.

However, after speaking to one senior minister from ZANU PF as well as three members of the Politburo, including a retired senior military men, it was clear that the opposite was true. This is simply a case of Mugabe behaving badly. Very badly.

He will not relent on Bennett, whom he told Arthur Mutambara will never be acquitted. Bringing out his big guns ensures that this is done.

The Judge who presided over the hearing today is an unknown quantity, which means we can not predict, like we correctly did with Justice Hungwe last week, which way the court is likely to lean. This is despite the fact that Hitschman, who is a main witness in the Bennett trial, has already been acquitted of the same charges Bennett now faces.

Getting a conviction on Roy Bennett (the charge is treason) is going to be a tough call, as is the case with all treason trials. The best the State can hope for is to convict him on weapons charges, which carry a lesser penalty.

But the introduction of Tomana into the picture means all bets are off. The State's interest in this matter has now been heightened considerably, especially in light of the fact that Tomana is widely known to be in the camp of the hardliners in ZANU PF who are against any sort of progress with regards to the Inclusive Government.

This, therefore, is the hardliners' last roll of the dice.

It is not going to be pretty.


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