Bennett Decision Fast-Tracked

Zimbabwe Riot Police Patrol the Entrance to the High Court before the arrival of Roy Bennett for his terrorism trial in Harare today. Justice Bhunu, the presiding Judge, has now indicated that he is ready with his ruling on the applications brought by the Attorney-General and by Bennett's lawyers. The ruling will be delivered at 11:00a.m. Zimbabwe time tomorrow. It is an crucial ruling with far-reaching implications for the justice delivery system in Zimbabwe.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 09 November 2009

Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, the judge in the terrorism trial of Roy Bennett this afternoon informed Roy Bennett's lawyers that he has reached a decision on the applications brought by them and by Attorney General Johannes Tomana.

Bhunu had earlier today indicated that he would only deliver his ruling on Wednesday.

I am not sure whether Bennett's lawyers should be celebrating or not because of this fast-tracking. Although Judges in Zimbabwe are beginning to assert their independence, the trial of Roy Bennett is one rife with political intrigue. Pressure is no doubt being brought to bear behind the scenes and it would not be a surprise at all if the application by Bennett's lawyers are thrown out.

This is a crucial ruling, make no mistake about it, and it will be delivered at 11:00 a.m. Zimbabwe time on Tuesday (tomorrow) at the High Court in Harare. If Justice Bhunu grants the Defence's application, it will mean that Roy Bennett will walk free, because that decision will have the effect of nullifying Bennett's indictment.

Considering that Mugabe has stated that Bennett will not be acquitted, this would be a huge slap in the face for the tottering dictator and would essentially embolden the whole of the judiciary.

I dare say that, should this unthinkable happen, Zimbabwean justice will never be the same again.

The MDC-Tsvangirai, if they are clever enough and if this application by the defence is upheld, will have an extremely strong leg to stand on in their quest to have Tomana removed from his post. They will be able to argue that he is not competent to hold that office, seeing as he has essentially put his own reputation on the line by personally taking over the prosecution of the MDC-T Treasurer-General.

The MDC would then be able to state boldly that not only is Tomana ignorant of the law, but that he is dangerous to the rule of law in general by displaying such ignorance. The matter will no longer be only about Roy Bennett but about the competence of the Attorney-General to hold his office.

If the application by the Defence is thrown out, however, then all bets are off and this thing will have to be taken right down to the wire.

You can rest assured that the courtroom in Harare will be packed again for the ruling from Justice Bhunu. You will get the latest details here as soon as they are available.


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