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Mugabe appoints new minister, after blocking PM’s top aide

HARARE, Oct 10 – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Monday appointed a new deputy agriculture minister, after refusing for more than two years to swear in a top aide of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for the post.

Tsvangirai had named his party’s treasurer Roy Bennett to the post, but he was arrested in February 2009 shortly before he was to be sworn in over accusations that he had funded a plot to topple Mugabe five years ago.

Mugabe initially said he would not swear in Bennett while the case was pending, but he still refused to let him take office even after he was cleared of the charges.

Bennett’s farm was seized under Mugabe’s land reform programme, and he is one of the most vocal critics of the 87-year-old president.

Bennett is now based in South Africa, after he fled the country saying authorities wanted to arrest him on spurious allegations.

Following Bennett’s long absence from parliament, Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) chose a replacement for his senate post.

Mugabe on Monday swore in MDC parliamentarian Seiso Moyo as deputy agriculture minister, ending what had been one of the most bitter feuds within the fragile unity government.

“It is always a pleasure to be appointed and have responsibility,” Moyo said at the swearing-in.

Mugabe also appointed Lucia Matibenga, a veteran trade unionist and MDC lawmaker, as public service minister. She replaces Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, who died two months ago.

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