AG Declines To Prosecute Bennett on Nine Years Ago Charges

Bennett was last week served with fresh summons last week at the High Court where he is on treason trial and he was supposed to appear before a Chipinge magistrate for breaching the Grain Marketing Board Act.

Chief Law Officer Chris Mutangadura in the AG’s office on Tuesday said the AG’s office is no longer pursuing the matter on the grounds that there was no justifiable reason why the matter was not heard in 2001 when the summons were issued.

“We are not going to pursue that matter at the moment. We have told Bennett’s legal practitioners to wait to hear from us on the way forward. What we need to check now is who was holding on to those summons because this is a straight forward case which could have been dealt with back then,” said Mutangadura.

Bennett’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa of Mtetwa and Nyambirai said they approached the AG’s office to intervene after realizing that the trial was not going to go ahead.

“What we did last was to approach the AG (Johannes Tomana) to intervene because we had not been offered the docket and the witness statements.  The AG agreed that there was no need for Roy Bennett to travel all the way to Chipinge when we knew that the trial will not proceed,” said Mtetwa.

She said the AG said he will make a determination after going through the docket which “he is yet to receive from police officers from Chipinge”.

The charges against Bennett arose after he allegedly violated the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) Act for failing to declare 92, 289 metric tones of maize to the authorities nine years ago.

The State alleges that on October 22, 2001 and at Charleswood Estate Chimanimani Roy Leslie Bennett wrongfully and unlawfully was found in possession of 92, 289 metric tones of maize which he did not declare to the authorities in terms of the GMB act.

According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe any person charged with a criminal offence shall be accorded a fair hearing within a reasonable time.

Therefore it is a fundamental breach of a person’s human rights if prosecutions are not brought expeditiously against a person accused of crime. If there is a delay a person accused of a crime may not, for example, be able to call witnesses in his defence.

Meanwhile David Coltart, secretary for legal Affairs in the smaller Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) faction and Education Minister was quoted by the Prime Minister’s Website condemning the move to prosecute Bennett on charges that happened nine years ago.

“In short it is not open to the police to bring charges now when they should have been brought years ago when the crime was allegedly discovered. The police cannot keep charges locked away in a drawer to be brought out at an “appropriate” moment. If a crime has been committed by a person known to the police then charges should be brought immediately against that person. Accordingly the prosecution of Senator Bennett at this late stage appears to be a clear breach of section 18 of the Constitution. The Attorney General has a duty to explain to the public why it is that this prosecution was not brought earlier. If he cannot do so then the public will assume that there has in fact been a breach of section 18 and a denial of a fundamental right to Senator Bennett.”