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Alert: Roy Bennett Arrested (updates through the weekend)

* Latest update at the top.

Update via MDC Press Release  - Police change charges yet again : Sunday, 11:25

Police in Mutare have yet again changed charges against MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate, Roy Bennett. He has now been charged under Section 61 of the notorious, colonial, Apartheid type law, Public Order and Security Act (POSA)-conspiring to acquire arms with a view to disrupting essential services.

These charges have long been discredited and shown to be fictious. Clearly they are on a fishing expedition, clutching at straws and know fully well that there is no basis, even suspicion, at law to charge Roy Bennett. All these charges are politically motivated, driven by a vindictive and malicious political vendetta against Roy Bennett and the people of Zimbabwe who at this stage want the Inclusive government to get down to the real work of creating conditions for economic recovery and dismantling institutions of dictatorship, rather than attending to the egos of man and women who do not want to accept that change in Zimbabwe is inevitable. As Roy Bennett himself has stated a Zimbabwe of "peace, freedom and democracy in our life time" is possible.

As we have stated consistently, apartheid and fascist laws such as POSA (and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act) must be repealed. They are draconian legislation. A democratic Zimbabwe has no space for such repressive colonial legislation.

Roy Bennett must be released unconditionally and unharmed.

MDC Manicaland Provincial leadership, MDC members and ordinary Zimbabweans of all walks of life spent their second night at and around the police station, keeping a watchful eye. Police had intended to move Roy Bennett to a location they have refused to disclose.

Roy Bennett is in good spirits and says inmates in his over crowded cell have befriended him and have treated him well and with encouragement.

Update via AFP - Treason charges dropped : Sunday, 11:05

The treason charges against Zimbabwe ministerial nominee Roy Bennett have been dropped but replaced with attempt to commit terrorism, banditry and sabotage, his lawyer said on Sunday.

Update via MDC Press Release - Lawyers granted access - the vigil will be maintained tonight: 19:25

Lawyers representing MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate, Roy Bennett have been granted access to their client, Roy Bennett.

They reported that Roy Bennett is strong, solid and resolute. He sends his message to all to remain unwaveringly dedicated to the cause of a just, peaceful, prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe. "Whatever these challenges, if we remain unwaveringly dedicated, we will achieve peace, freedom and democracy in our life time-believe me," he said.

Lawyers say the police are now saying they cannot lay formal charges for now, and will try and work out formal charges on Monday. This clearly indicates that the treason charges are scandalous, frivolous, vexatious and have no basis in law, but are simply politically motivated. These charges have been long discredited and have been shown, like all treason charges leveled against MDC leadership, to be driven by vindictive political motives.

We demand Roy Bennett's immediate unconditional release unharmed. The Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate needs to get to work with the collective leadership to deliver on their mandate to providing food, jobs, education and health to all Zimbabweans, responsibilities we have no doubt he will discharge with distinction.

Assistant Commissioner Mabunda and Chiminda Nahu from the Law and Order Section, both reported to have a direct ear with Robert Mugabe, are some of the people behind the arrest of Roy Bennett.

MDC Manicaland Provincial leadership and hundreds of MDC supporters and ordinary Zimbabweans of all walks of life are still gathered around the police station. The Provincial leadership of the MDC have indicated that they will spend their second night outside and around the police station. They will hold a night vigil surrounding the police station to ensure that Roy Bennett is not secretly removed to a place police are refusing to disclose. They will continue to monitor the situation and provide moral support, as Roy Bennett has been informed of their presence.

Heavily armed police are patrolling the police station, but the situation is calm.

The inclusive government must get down to serious business of addressing the humanitarian crisis, create conditions for economic recovery and dismantle institutions of dictatorship. Abducting, arresting and detaining Roy Bennett, Jestina Mukoko and other human rights activists is against the spirit and letter of the Global Political Agreement and does not give confidence to the Inclusive government and the healing which the country desperately needs. All political prisoners must be released and all parties to the Inclusive government must conduct themselves in a manner that gives confidence to the process we have started.

Update from the MDC - Military Intelligence behind Roy Bennett arrest - 14:23

Via Press release - It is understood that the abduction, arrest and charging of MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett is being planned, directed and operationalised by the Zimbabwe Military Intelligence Directorate (MID), led by one Mzilikazi, and the Special Agency SAS, the torture unit of the army, led by one Manene . General Constantine Chiwenga is also party to it. These people are known for their declared passionate and fanatical hatred of Roy Bennett.

We are also aware of an intent to dump Roy Bennett into Chivero river.

It is futile and ill-considered for anyone to go against the very momentum of history. Change in Zimbabwe is inevitable. Bravado akin to ridding on top of a hungry lion in a time of unprecedented famine, hoping to remain in control of both lion and the natural process of weather is illogical. Any harm on Roy Bennett will be placed squarely on those responsible.

We demand the unconditional release of Roy Bennett unharmed so that he can attend to his normal duties in the party, in government and to his family.

The real issues are creating conditions for economic recovery and dismantling institutions of dictatorship. This is what all parties to the Inclusive government should be focusing on.

Another vehicle which is part of the operation is a Toyota Hilax with registration number ABD1317

In an earlier release, the MDC said:

State-interrogators from Harare are making their way to Mutare where MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister Agriculture designate, Roy Bennett, was being held. They said that lawyers representing Roy Bennett have been told that they can only see him at 1600hrs.

Update - the  MDC have issued a retraction:  11:22

MDC Mutare Brian James has NOT been arrested. He's fine and taking part in the vigil.

Update via MDC Press Release:  10:38

MDC Mutare Mayor Brian James who spent the night at Mutare police station, and attempted to give food to MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett has been arrested at the same police station where Roy Bennett is being held.

Update: Saturday morning

MDC Press Release - Police detaining MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate, Roy Bennett have denied him food. MDC Mutare Mayor Brian James and MDC Manicaland Provincial leadership have unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with police to allow them to give him food.

Hundreds of MDC supporters and members spent the night outside Mutare police station where Roy Bennett is being held, demanding his release. They have also been keeping a watchful eye on all movements around the police station to make sure that police do not remove Roy Bennett from the Mutare police station to one of the torture and interrogation bases in Marondera or Goromonzi as police had attempted to do earlier in the day. The police station is heavily guarded by armed police.

After intially charging Roy Bennett with attempting to leave the country illegally, police have now charged him with treason.

Its is understood that the Chief State prosecutor is making his way to Mutare.

Update from the MDC:  Saturday - 00:23

Police at Mutare police station who have charged MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate, Roy Bennett with treason, say they will keep him at the police station until tomorrow and it is only then that they can take a warned and cautioned statement. The police inability and unwillingness to take a statement from Roy Bennett 11 hours after abducting him clearly shows that these police and state agents are being remote controlled and acting on a remote controlled instruction from somewhere. (Via Press Release)

Update from the MDC -- Bennett has been charged with treason: 21:52

Police have again changed charges on Roy Bennett. They have now charged him with treason. These charges are scandalous, vexatious and without bases in law, but are simply politically motivated, simply intended to justify the continued incarceration of Roy Bennett.

Roy Bennett must be released unconditionally and unharmed immediately. All state institutions must respect the rule of law, human rights, the spirit and letter of the Global Political Agreement and conduct themselves in such a manner that gives confidence to the inclusive government, so that all parties may be able to attend to the real issues of uplifting the lives of the people of Zimbabwe. The restoration of people's freedoms, human rights and democratisation are some of the basic deliverables of the Inclusive government. This theatre of absurdity must end.

Despite the firing of live ammunition in the air and the use of police dogs to disperse hundreds of MDC supporters surrounding the police station, MDC supporters are still at the police station demanding the immediate release of Roy Bennett. (Via Press Release)

Update - Media Statement released by the MDC: 21:30

Roy Bennett must be released unconditionally and unharmed immediately. All state institutions must respect the rule of law, human rights, the spirit and letter of the Global Political Agreement and conduct themselves in such a manner that gives confidence to the inclusive government, so that all parties may be able to attend to the real issues of uplifting the lives of the people of Zimbabwe. The restoration of people's freedoms, human rights and democratisation are some of the basic deliverables of the Inclusive government. This theatre of absurdity must end.

Update from the MDC: 20:44

Hundreds of MDC members and supporters have surrounded Mutare police station, where MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate is being held. There is heavily armed police. Police have charged Roy Bennett with attempting to leave the country illegally. However they keep back tracking and are incoherently inconsistent on what they intend to do and charge him with.  Clearly desperate and clucthing at straws. Three lawyers are now in attendance to represent Roy Bennett.

A second MDC release that came in soon after the one above said:

Police have started firing live ammunition in the air and have brought dogs in an attempt to disperse hundreds of MDC supporters that had surrounded Mutare police station in support and demanding the release of Roy Bennett. Police intend to remove Roy Bennett from the police station to a place they have refused to disclose. The two vehicles that were used by the police to carry Roy Bennett from Prince Charles airport to Marondera and to Mutare police station are back at Mutare police station, this time without registration plates.

Update from the MDC: 19:05

MDC Treasurer General, and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate, Roy Bennett is now in Mutare at Mutare police station. Police attempted to take Roy Bennett to an inaccessible rural police station. About 200 MDC Manicaland Provincial Executive and members barricaded the road and demanded the release of Roy Bennett. Lawyer representing Roy Bennett Mr. Trust Maanda negotiated with the MDC members and police returned to Mutare police station. The police station is surrounded by heavily armed police police. Police have denied Mr. Maanda access to Roy Bennett insisting that they want to interrogate him alone. MDC Mayor for Mutare Brian James is also at the police station.

Update: 18:57

Roy Bennett is now in Mutare. Apparently his movements are being monitored by MDC supporters and the general public. We've been told that crowd is growing in Mutare - we assume at the police station.

Update: 18:35

The passengers who were travelling on the same plane that Bennett was about to leave on before he was arrested have now been allowed to leave Zimbabwe and are on their way to Lanseria, South Africa. Meanwhile, Reuben Barwe has been on the ZBC (state controlled media) talking about the wonderful new cabinet (essentially the same one Mugabe described as the 'worst in history' last year). Not a word mentioned to the people of our country about the fact that a designated Deputy Minister has been arrested and whisked away by state agents.

Update from the MDC: 17:13

Silver Hilax carrying abducted MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate with registration number ABD3595 is currently refueling at Marondera police station and is about to go to Mutare.

Update on SWRadio Africa: 16:52

MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate who was abducted just after 1500hr at Prince Charles airport was last seen being transfered from a Toyata truck with registration number AAP4851 which picked him from the airport into a silver Hilax twin cab with registration number ABD3595 and the car is driving towards Goromonzi which is also a notorious base for torture and interogation. (Note: We received this information too but have since been told its not the case. There's a lot of confusion.)

Update: 16:29

Roy Bennett is being taken to Marondera, not Goromonzi.

Update: 15:51

One of the sources mentioned above just sms'd that he believes that Bennett has been taken to Goromonzi. We assume a police station there. We're still anticipating he should be released, given the information that orders to that effect have been issued by top-dogs.

Update - unconfirmed: 15:45

Two different sources have told us that they believe the instruction to release Bennett was issued by Robert Mugabe. This is unconfirmed.

Update via SW Radio Africa: 15:23

We believe arrest warrants have been issued for election expert Topper Whitehead and MDC MP for Marondera, Ian Kay. We also believe the leaders of the three political parties are in an emergency meeting and the swearing in of the Cabinet is delayed.

Update: 15:16

We've been advised by a reliable source that Manangagwa has issued an order for Bennett's immediate release.

Update from the MDC : 15:06

Roy Bennett, MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate has just been abducted up by Police from the Law and Order section at Prince Charles airport just outside Harare. The police were led by one Assistant Commissioner Nyongwe. He was taken in a white Toyota with registration number is AAP 4851. We understand that they are taking him to Marondera, where there is notorious torture and interogation base, the same place MDC Secretary General, Tendai Biti was taken upon his return from South Africa. (Press Release)

This very short Press Release received from the MDC:

Roy Benett, MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate has just been arrested by state agents - details to follow

Comments

BM says:

On Thursday Mr Bennett told the BBC that he was in hiding as the security services had issued an arrest warrant for him.

The BBC's Andrew Harding in the capital, Harare, says Mr Bennett was in no doubt that Zanu-PF hardliners were trying to scupper the new coalition.

"They want us to walk away from this deal. We've just got to be smarter than them," he said.

from bbc 13.31

Submitted by BM on 13 February 2009 - 3:31pm
Anonymous says:

It is very difficult to find words to describe the insane behaviour of people who just can't seem to do the right thing. While they are looking for the entire nation to put aside their very legitimate greniences against them they will not put aside their petty and peurile spats against Jestina, Ray and others.They have been handed the opportunity to take the easy way out of a mess they have dcreated but insist on taking the difficult route. It is just plain dumb!

Submitted by Anonymous on 13 February 2009 - 4:47pm
Nationalist Nkalanga says:

This is a test for Morgan and Robert. Deal with this decisively or we will forever be held in ransom by these hoodlums. Our Nation deserves better.This is the real test good people cannot keep quite any longer. Now that you are one lets focus our energies on the common enemy, victory is in sight. Just keep your eyes on the ball.

Submitted by Nationalist Nkalanga on 13 February 2009 - 5:25pm
Anonymous says:

@ Nationalist Nkalanga

Your statement ...."victory is in sight. Just keep your eyes on the ball."
...is one heard often before the March 29 2008 elections...It was also heard just before the June 27 run off...it was also heard around the time of the September 15 GPA...

Do you actually see Zimbabwe through the lens of actual reality? I only ask because you then go on to state..."Now that you are one..."
Excuse me what victory? what ball? and who is supposed to be 'at one'?

Bennett is abducted by the security services on the day ministers of government are sworn in? Morgan will exonerate the chefs in charge of the abduction of Bennett(only in Zimb can a Minister be abducted with no police or security service response)

The people holding Bennett are probably lecturing the Deputy Minister of Agriculture about not 'reversing the gains of the land revolution'...Morgan will bluster but do NOTHING...

If Bennett is harmed Morgan wont even sack any of the securocrats in cabinet that Mugabe once described as "the worst cabinet ever"
Welcome to the new Zimbabwe.Nationalist Nkalanga
..TAPINDA SAVE and MDC :-)!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous on 13 February 2009 - 6:10pm
Rab Mwenye says:

Of course this arrest was down to Mugabe. Nothing will change in Zimbabwe until he is off the scene. And I think we all know that.

Submitted by Rab Mwenye on 13 February 2009 - 6:41pm
Jim says:

I called Mutare Central asked if they were holding Roy Bennet, got passed on. Then I said he must be released and that the whole world was watching. They then seemed to deny that they were a police station and that i had the worng number?

Can someone else try a few numbers (i tried the first) and see where you get. I aasume he is at Mutare Central but no idea from the MDC releases...

020 69021, MTE CENTRAL H/CHITEP MUTARE
020 63813, MUTARE CENTRAL H CHITEPO ST MUTARE

Submitted by Jim on 13 February 2009 - 9:49pm
Sally D says:

@Jim -

No answer at the second number. The first number answered by pleasant sounding lady who said that this is not a police station. It clearly is not a private home either and the lady did not sound confused or annoyed as one would expect if this were a private number. So I think it probably is a police station or some kind of official place; she answered, "can I help you".

So anyway, I apologised for disturbing her and said that many of us here in South Africa are very concerned about Mr Bennett as he has an important appointment to keep in Harare; and that this arrest situation IS A DISASTER for Zimbabwe.

It's quite obvious that whatever role Mugabe himself may or may not be playing, during the past week the former JOC have decided to play their own game. A stand off was needed; maybe this is it.

How amazing that the abduction was tracked and that people have been able to mobilise so effectively. Go, Zimbabweans! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Submitted by Sally D on 13 February 2009 - 10:48pm
Henrik says:

Another clear sign of what is to come. If Morgen accepts being PM in a government like this, we are doomed.

Submitted by Henrik on 13 February 2009 - 11:11pm
Anon says:

SA NEWS 24 ...Mugabe promises his sincerity
Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said he will work "sincerely and honestly" with members of the national unity government, including those of the opposition, that he swore into office on Friday. "When I say, I am committed I mean it. When I say I want to work with you sincerely and honestly, I mean it. I want to believe when my colleagues say the same, I should believe it," he said shortly after inaugurating the cabinet. "Let's know each other more. When we get to know each other, we start feeling for each other, having faith in each other having confidence among ourselves," he said. "The people will expect a lot from us. Let's never let them down. It should never be forgotten that the suffering of our people is our suffering. Our failure hurts them and our success yields benefits to them,' he stated. Mugabe, 84, who has been in office since independence from Britain in 1980, was speaking of a national unity government headed by long-time foe Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). "Today has proved that in spite of all the quarrels we are one people. We have one goal, one destiny," Mugabe said. Mugabe's seeming conciliatory remarks came after security agents arrested a top aide to Prime Minister Tsvangirai. (MORGAN / MDC BELIEVE EVERY WORD)

Submitted by Anon on 13 February 2009 - 11:49pm
Malcolm says:

Am I surprised?

Trying to work out who is giving enough rope to hang by, and who is going to be doing the skipping.

Seems to me like someone is doing a bit of baiting and someone is doing a bit of provocation.

Submitted by Malcolm on 14 February 2009 - 12:48am

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