Police officers from the CID Chipinge ambushed Bennett as he entered the High Court where Justice Chinembiri Bhunu was expected to give a ruling in the on-going trial in which the former Chimanimani legislator is facing charges of banditry, sabotage and terrorism.
On the new summons Bennett is expected to appear in court facing charges of violating the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) Act after he allegedly failed to declare 92, 289 metric tones of maize to the authorities nine years ago.
“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,” reads part of the summons which were handed to Bennett in front of his lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa.
Mtetwa described the new charges as harassment. “Why would they want to charge him today of a crime that was committed in 2001? This is like prosecution in installments. They are anticipating that he will be acquitted and now they serve him with this,” said Mtetwa after Justice Bhunu had deferred the treason trial to May 10 this year.
Justice Bhunu deferred his ruling on whether to drop the charges being faced by Bennett after the State had closed its case last month. The defence had argued that State had failed to link Bennett to arms that were discovered at a Mutare arms dealer Peter Michael Hitschmann. Justice Bhunu said he had to postpone the matter after encountering problems in preparing the trial’s transcript and the expiring of the legal year’s first term.
Mtetwa successfully applied for Bennett’s reporting condition to be relaxed but lost the bid to have his passport released after the State led by Attorney General Johannes Tomana vehemently opposed the application arguing Bennett could abscond. In his ruling Justice Bhunu said Bennett can make a separate application if he wanted to use his passport to travel outside the country. Bennett said he would not quit his political party because of the on-going prosecutions.
“I am a loyal cadre of the MDC and I will go to whatever portfolio that is assigned to me by President Morgan Tsvangirai and the party. I am now clear that there are certain people who do not want me in the inclusive government but they don’t have a choice,” said Bennett. “I will be appearing again in Chipinge Magistrates Courts on Tuesday. Varikuda kunditongera magwere avakanditorera muna2001 here vakomana,” he said in the vernacular Shona. (They want to charge me for the maize they took from me in 2001).
Bennett faces a possible death sentence if convicted of illegal possession of arms for purposes of committing terrorism, banditry and sabotage.