Arrested ministerial nominee denied food

February 14, 2009 12:00 am

, JOHANNESBURG, Feb 14 – A Zimbabwe ministerial nominee has been denied food after his arrest for treason marred the swearing in of a new unity government, his Movement for Democratic Change party said Saturday.

"Police detaining MDC treasurer general and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett have denied him food," the party said in a statement.

He was arrested at an airport on the outskirts of Harare on Friday, shortly before the swearing-in of a new unity government by President Robert Mugabe — casting a shadow over the credibility of a power-sharing accord.

"MDC Mutare Mayor Brian James and Manicaland provincial leadership have unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with police to allow them to give him food," the statement said.

Bennet had returned just last month from three years of self-imposed exile in South Africa, where he had fled to escape charges of plotting to kill Mugabe.

He was taken into police custody and charged with attempting to leave the country illegally, but the charge was later changed to treason, according to his party.

Bennett was among the most striking names on new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s cabinet list.

His Charleswood farm was expropriated under Mugabe’s land reforms in 2003, and the following year he was jailed for eight months for assault after he punched the justice minister during a heated debate in parliament on the land programme.

On Friday evening, police fired shots in the air to disperse a crowd of MDC supporters who were gathered outside Mutare police station asking for Bennett’s release, his lawyer said.

His case is expected to go to court on Monday.


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