Mugabe wont return Bennet’s passport

ZIMBABWE - Harare - Zimbabwe’s attorney general is refusing to hand back the passport of Roy Bennett, a senior Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party official, five months after it was confiscated when he was accused of sabotage.

The white former farmer is the No.3 in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party and Zimbabwe’s deputy agriculture minister-designate.

He is also one of about 50 MDC officials to have been prosecuted since Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe formed a unity government in September.

Bennett was arrested hours before he was due to be sworn in and held in jail for three weeks as police and lawyers for the state ignored court orders for his release on bail.

His passport was seized as part of his bail conditions but Bennett needed to travel to South Africa “on urgent private and party business,” said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

Bennett appealed to the High Court to order the return of his passport. A judge said he had “a good case,” but turned the application down on the grounds that it was “not urgent”.

In his application, Bennett said Attorney General Johannes Tomana, an ally of Mugabe’s, was “clearly motivated by spite” as the administration of justice would not be threatened by his release.

“They are playing political tricks,” said Chamisa. “It’s a clear manifestation of their machinations to use the law to frustrate our leadership.”

No Zanu-PF officials have been prosecuted for the wave of violence in 2008, according to lawyers.

The affair over Bennett’s passport is expected to increase the tensions between the MDC and Zanu-PF in the interim government, where Mugabe has refused for five months to agree to rescind a string of unilateral appointments, including that of Tomana, and has blocked democratic reforms.

Mugabe and his party were beaten in largely peaceful elections in March 2008 but then launched a bloody campaign for the run-off presidential vote in which about 200 MDC supporters were murdered.

He was declared the winner after Tsvangirai withdrew over the violence. Last week Tsvangirai was loudly cheered when he said at a meeting in Zimbabwe that he envisaged a country “where incumbents stand down gracefully if they lose an election”.

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