SA will not dispute allegations against Roy Bennett

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pretoria - South Africa will at this stage make no judgement on the validity of allegations against Zimbabwe's Agriculture Deputy Minister-designate Roy Bennett.

"The court of law is in a better position to make that judgment ... lets just hope that the legal process will be seen by everybody as being transparent and that the outcome will be fair," said Director General in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation Ayanda Ntsaluba on Tuesday.

Bennett was meant to go on trail in Mutare on Tuesday in a case that has attracted worldwide attention. Media reports indicate that state prosecutors did not turn up, forcing the case to be postponed.

According to the state, Bennett was found in possession of weapons of war with the intention of committing sabotage, terrorism, banditry and insurgency. He was also accused of not presenting himself to an immigration officer when he tried to leave the country through Charles Prince Airport in February.

He has denied both charges and is keen to prove his innocence at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has called for the case to be allowed to proceed in the regional court. It believes the charges against one of its founding legislators are trumped up.

President Robert Mugabe has refused to appoint Bennett as deputy minister claiming the charges are serious and he might be found guilty.

The continued failure by Mugabe to swear him in is among the most contentious issues that have been taken for adjudication by SADC, the brokers of Zimbabwe's unity government.

Ntsaluba said the country should bring finality to the case so that it can clear up some of the long standing issues in that country's unity government.

Zimbabwean media quote Bennett's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa for having urged the magistrate to dismiss the case.

She said the fact that prosecutors did not arrive meant they acted as if court laws did not apply to them.

The magistrate said she would give the state the benefit of the doubt and postponed the trial.

A close ally to MDC president and the country's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Bennet was arrested in February.