AG’s office drops maize charges against Bennett

THE Attorney-General’s Office has declined to prosecute MDC-T treasurer Roy Bennett on charges of illegal possession of maize in 2001, saying it was also shocked when plain-clothes policemen from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Chipinge last week served him with summons.

Director of Public Prosecutions in the AG’s office Florence Ziyambi told the Zimbabwe Independent that they dropped the charges against Bennett this week because they did not consider the matter a serious offence.

Ziyambi said her office could not understand why it took nine years for the CID in Chipinge to send its docket to the AG’s Office.

Bennett’s defence lawyers described the attempt to prosecute their client over a nine-year-old case as “immoral” because it was the Deputy Agriculture minister-designate who was robbed of his maize.

Ziyambi said: “We are actually proceeding to withdraw the charges. We have taken into consideration a number of things to make this decision. We took into consideration that the case was kept for a long time before any action was done. We also don’t consider it to be a very serious offence and we are also taking into consideration that the exhibit (92 tonnes of maize) is not available.”

She said her office was now investigating why it took Chipinge CID so long to serve Bennett with the summons.

“We have received the docket from Chipinge and we are looking into circumstances as to why Mr Bennett was not tried despite his availability. We were not aware of the case and were equally surprised when he was given the summons last week,” Ziyambi said. “We did not know about the matter, it was new to us. Our office is actually carrying out investigations to ascertain why it took all this time for him to be served with the summons. We want to find out what was happening. Why he was not tried?”

Meanwhile, one of Bennett’s lawyers, Trust Maanda, said they approached the AG’s office to intervene after they realised that the trial was most likely not going to proceed as they had not been given the docket and witness statements.

Maanda said: “The AG’s Office — (Chris) Mtangadura and Ziyambi — advised us yesterday (Tuesday) that we did not need to go to Chipinge anymore. They gave us the assurance that they were going to withdraw the charges.

“It’s immoral to pursue a case that is nine years old where the person whom they want to prosecute was actually robbed of his maize.”

The MDC-T senator was served with the summons last week at Harare’s High Court after he had arrived for a ruling on whether he should be discharged or put on his defence in the ongoing treason trial.

The allegations were that on October 22 2001 at Charleswood Estate, Chimanimani, Bennett was wrongly and unlawfully found in possession of 92,3 tonnes of maize which he did not declare to the authorities in terms of the Grain Marketing Board Act”.

The summons stated the  amount as 92 289 tonnes.

Bennett said last week he was shocked when he was served with the summons.

He told journalists at the High Court that: “This is absolutely preposterous. The maize was taken from me by the army at gunpoint. The maize was meant to feed my own workers. These were their monthly rations.

“This has really shocked me. It’s painful that they don’t seem to want anyone to survive in Zimbabwe. If they want to remove me from deputy Agriculture minister position and put me somewhere else, I will go. But it is not Zanu PF’s decision to remove me. I can only be removed from that position by (Morgan) Tsvangirai and the (MDC) party. I am working for my party.”

 

Wongai Zhangazha

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