Friday, October 16, 2009

Western-backed MDC-T Threatens to Split Inclusive Government Over Arrest of Former White Farmer for "Terrorism"

Zimbabwe PM suspends government meetings

08:17 AEST Fri Oct 16 2009

Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has suspended a cabinet meeting amid fresh doubts over the country's unity government following the detention of one of his top aides on terrorism charges.

Roy Bennett's detention ahead of his trial next week also prompted sharp criticism from Western powers, which called for an end to what they said was harassment of Tsvangirai's supporters.

There had already been deep concern over whether longtime arch-rivals Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe could work together in the unity government, and Bennett's detention seemed to pose another serious threat.

"The prime minister has suspended the council of ministers' meeting and any government appointments until the Bennett issue is resolved," an official in Tsvangirai's office told AFP on Thursday.

Bennett, Tsvangirai's pick as deputy agriculture minister, was sent back to jail on Wednesday before his trial on Monday in a ruling his party said was a serious attack on the credibility of the inclusive government.

The Movement for Democratic Change party treasurer, accused of possessing arms for the purposes of banditry, terrorism and inciting acts of insurgency, had been free on bail since March.

He was arrested on February 13, the day the unity government was sworn in.

Washington has demanded Mugabe "end the harassment" of the former opposition, including Bennett.

The European Union presidency, held by Sweden at present, called the court's decision an act of "politically motivated abuse".

It "indicates a lack of commitment to the letter and spirit of the Global Political Agreement (GPA)," which allowed for the formation of the unity government.

British ambassador Mark Canning said it showed "limited" political progress by the government, despite advances in the economy.

"The progress, of course, on the political front as we see from the current developments relating to Mr Bennett has been far more limited," he told journalists.

Bennett, a feisty white former coffee farmer whose land was expropriated under Mugabe's land reforms, was arrested on his return from South Africa, where he fled after being implicated in an alleged plot to kill the veteran leader.

Mugabe must stop harassment - US

The US has called for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to stop "harassing" his rivals, a day after a senior politician was imprisoned.

The state department said the jailing of Roy Bennett was a "blatant example" of a lack of the rule of law.

Mr Bennett, an aide to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, faces trial over an alleged plot kill Mr Mugabe.

Mr Tsvangirai has begun a boycott of his offices and cabinet meetings in protest at Mr Bennett's imprisonment.

The prime minister's Movement for Democratic Change party says the charges are politically motivated and untrue.

Analysts say the issue threatens to split the unity government Mr Tsvangirai formed with Mr Mugabe in February.

State department spokesman Robert Wood joined a chorus of international disapproval that has followed Mr Bennett's jailing.

"Mugabe has to end the harassment of the opposition, including Mr Bennett," he said.

The EU also said it was "deeply concerned" that "politically motivated abuse persists".

Terrorism charge

Mr Tsvangirai's spokesman, James Maridadi, said the prime minister had tried to contact Mr Mugabe to discuss the issue, but had failed.
Former coffee farmer
2000: Elected MP
2004: Jailed after pushing minister in parliament
2006: Accused of plot to kill President Mugabe
2006: Fled to South Africa
2009: Nominated as deputy agriculture minister; arrested

"The Council of Ministers [cabinet meeting] has been cancelled," he told South Africa-based ZimOnline news website.

"The prime minister has suspended his coming to the office until the issue of Senator Bennett is resolved."

Mr Bennett, who is Mr Tsvangirai's nominee for deputy agriculture minister, is due to stand trial on 19 October on charges of terrorism, insurgency, sabotage and banditry. If convicted he faces a life jail term.

He was initially arrested and jailed in February, on the day ministers in the coalition government were sworn in.

He was released in March but judges revoked his bail on Wednesday.

Mr Bennett, a white farmer whose land was seized under Mr Mugabe's land reform programme, fled to South Africa in 2006 saying he feared for his life, before returning to serve in the government.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/10/15 20:31:05 GMT

October 16, 2009

Britain to Give Zimbabwe $100 Million


HARARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) — Britain said Thursday that it would provide $100 million in aid to Zimbabwe this year, its largest annual donation to the country, to help the new unity government and to ease a humanitarian crisis.

“We thought the formation of the inclusive government was a significant step,” the British ambassador, Mark Canning, told reporters. “The U.K. wants it to succeed. We are not holding back and will be supporting it to the tune of $100 million this year.”

“We don’t want it to fail as a result of lack of financial support,” he said.

Relations between Britain and Zimbabwe have been strained for a decade, with London accusing President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe of disastrous policies, including the often violent seizure of farms owned by whites, electoral fraud and human rights abuses.

But the formation of a power-sharing government by Mr. Mugabe and the leader of the opposition, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, has raised hopes for improved ties.

Mr. Canning said the aid would be used to restore vital services like water, sanitation, health care and education — which have virtually collapsed after years of neglect — as well as to provide food aid, seeds and fertilizer to poor households.

Western donors have been reluctant to give substantial development aid to Zimbabwe until they see more evidence that reforms are being enacted.

Dave Fish of Britain’s Department for International Development said Britain was not yet giving money directly to the unity government.

“We would expect significant developments on the political front before we deepen support or even provide funding directly through the government,” Mr. Fish said.

“We expect respect for human rights and international obligations, policies that help the people and the ability to manage donor funds transparently. In those three cases, Zimbabwe failed the test.”

The unity government has faced problems from the start, with Mr. Tsvangirai’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change, accusing Mr. Mugabe of undermining his pact with it by refusing to reverse senior appointments that he made without consulting the opposition.

On Wednesday, Roy Bennett, a senior member of the Movement for Democratic Change, was detained after being indicted on terrorism charges, prompting an angry response from his party, which says its members are being persecuted through the courts.

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