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Bennett appeals for release

Gift Phiri

THE lawyer representing jailed opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) legislator Roy Bennett, Advocate Eric Matinenga, has filed an urgent chamber application in the

High Court seeking his release.

The ruling Zanu PF last week used its majority in parliament to impose a one-year jail term with hard labour on the Chimanimani MP for shoving Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa during a debate on May 18.

The Zanu PF-dominated parliamentary privileges committee recommended, after investigation, that Bennett be sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, with three months suspended on condition of good behaviour.

An attempt by the MDC to challenge the committee’s report in court was blocked by the Speaker of parliament, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who issued an order in terms of the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act barring the courts from hearing Bennett’s case.

“As you are aware we made an application seeking to bar presentation of the report in parliament but that application was refused by Judge (Yunus) Omerjee on the basis that the Speaker had issued a certificate,” Matinenga said.

“An appeal has now been noted against the judgement by Judge Omerjee. In addition to noting of appeal, I have also filed an urgent application with the High Court that Mr Bennett be released from prison pending the determination of the appeal against Judge Omerjee’s judgement.”

Matinenga said he had also instituted review proceedings against the parliamentary findings of contempt and the sentence imposed.

“We are also in the process of approaching the Supreme Court to seek the determination as to whether the exercise of the judiciary function by parliament in a manner that it did, is constitutional,” Matinenga said. “We are waiting to argue the application before a judge of the court.”

Bennett pushed Chinamasa to the floor after extreme provocation. Chinamasa referred to Bennett’s ancestors as “murderers and thieves” who stole Zimbabwe’s land from blacks. Bennett is the first MP to be jailed for contempt of parliament outside the judicial process.

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