Bennett Lawyers Protest Against Fresh Persecution

A state run local daily recently reported that Bennett could face perjury charges for allegedly giving a false address in his warned and cautioned statement in his terrorism docket.

It alleged that because of the false address supplied by Bennett it had made it difficult for the Deputy Sheriff to serve him with papers in a case in which he is being sued by High Court Judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu for defamation.

But Bennett’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa on Thursday dismissed the state media report false and part of a sustained campaign to persecute the former Chimanimani legislator.

“We have noted, with great concern, the spreading of demonstrable falsehoods in the media where it is being alleged as fact that our client gave a non-existent address in his criminal trial,” read part of a letter to Bhunu’s lawyers of Chikumbirike and Associates.

“We are surprised at these falsehoods as the police in fact visited those premises and were satisfied that our client was residing there at at the time. It is therefore not only false, but mischievous to suggest that the address does not exist. We believe that this part of the calculated and orchestrated campaign by the state media, a certain political party and those associated with it to persecute our client.”

Bhunu’s lawyer George Chikumbirike had been in a quandary after failing to serve the summons on Bennett and had been contemplating sending them to South Africa where is currently based or publishing them in newspapers.

Mtetwa also indicated that Bennett has now authorised her to accept service of the summons.

The High Court Judge’s lawyers are suing Bennett for alleged defamation arising from an interview he allegedly granted to a British online newspaper before his acquittal.

Bhunu says the damages he is suing for resulted from wrongful and defamatory words which were uttered by Bennett during an interview he allegedly granted to a journalist from the Guardian newspaper of the United Kingdom, which he granted on or around 9 May 2010, before Bhunu delivered his judgment acquitting the former Chimanimani commercial farmer.

Justice Bhunu’s lawyers allege that the remarks were published on 24 May 2010 by an online newspaper, the Zimbabwe Guardian Newspaper, which they claim enjoys wide distribution on account of being available on the internet free of charge.

Bennett is alleged to have stated that; “To know that the people that are doing it will stop at absolutely nothing to achieve their ends and that there is a selective application of the rule of law, that the judiciary is totally compromised, that the very judge that’s trying me is the owner of a farm that he’s been given through political patronage, that all the appointments have been done through the Ministry of Justice on a political basis…basically I should expect no mercy and fear for the worst.”

Bhunu said Bennett’s alleged statement was wrongful and defamatory of the Judge in that they were intended to convey and were understood by the readers of the Guardian Newspaper to mean that the Judge was not a fit and proper person to be Judge of the High Court and to preside over his trial.

The High Court Judge also claim that Bennett’s alleged statements showed Bhunu as a conscious and willing tool, who was selected to preside over the former legislator’s trial by persons that will stop at absolutely nothing to achieve their ends by a selective application of the rule of law.

Bhunu claimed that Bennett’s remarks alleging that the Judge’s judicial integrity had been compromised by the allocation of a farm through the land reform programme were meant to mean that his appointment was not based on merit but political patronage and connections.

Bennett, who is Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s pick for the portfolio of deputy agriculture minister, which has not been filled since February 2009 when Tsvangirai and President Mugabe formed a coalition government, was acquitted by the High Court in May after undergoing trial on terror related charges.

However, the Attorney General (AG) Johannes Tomana has since appealed against High Court Judge, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu’s decision to acquit him.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku recently reserved judgment after hearing submissions from both the State and Bennett’s lawyers.