The latest twist in Zanu (PF)’s bid to keep the popular former commercial farmer out of government will be another big test for the fragile coalition government.
“We certainly respect the right of the state to appeal, it’s their constitutional right,” said Lindiwe Zulu, a member of President Zuma’s three member facilitation team.
“But the acquittal would have indeed moved the process (of resolving outstanding issues) forward,” Zulu told Radio VOP. “We are however still hopeful on the resolution of this issue and we will be engaging the government particularly the Zanu (PF) side of it on the Bennett issue.”
Justice Chinembiri Bhunu refused to put Bennett on his defence on the charges of plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe’s government dating back to 2006.
Bhunu said the key state witness, a so-called IT expert Pekerayi Denchard Mutsetse, was “appalling.”
The state’s case hinged on Mutsetse’s evidence that was supposed to show that Bennett had connections with Mutare based arms dealer Peter Hitschmann.
Bennett’s acquittal had re-ignited hopes that Zanu (PF) and MDC-T will end their squabbles over the implementation of outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
Zanu (PF) now says it does not want Bennett in the inclusive government in any capacity because of his Rhodesian links. But Mugabe had given the trial at the High Court as an excuse for not swearing in Bennett and the appeal is now seen attempt to buy time.
Zulu said Zuma was wating for Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, the three principals in the unity government, to study the report presented to them on April 3 outlining progress made in the talks so far before taking the matter to the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The three principals have failed to meet due to tight schedules which have been involving travelling regionally and internationally.
Zulu, who is part of the South African facilitation team together with former cabinet ministers Charles Nqakula and Mac Maharaj, said President Zuma’s next visit to Zimbabwe depended on the principals’ recommendation to him as the way forward regarding the contentious issues.
“As the South African facilitation team, we are waiting for the principals to meet over the final report submitted to them. Since we left Harare about three weeks, they have not met because of various reasons. When we were last here the three principals were busy attending the World Economic Forum,” she said.
The foreign trips by the three principals have made it impossible for them to hold their weekly Monday meetings.Tsvangirai last week confirmed the principals had not been able to meet, citing tight schedules.
This week he was again away to pick a human rights award in Washington in the United States of America.
Zulu added: “But it is our hope that they meet soon to accept the final report, work on the recommendation of the report and indicate what they intend to do on the outstanding issues.”
She said it would be futile for President Zuma or the facilitation team to visit to Harare when the three principals were yet to meet and deliberate on the final report.
”President Zuma can only come once the principals have met… when he eventually comes, he will be coming to engage but not only after the principals have set the ball-rolling by meeting,“ she said.
While some agreements have been achieved such as electoral and media reforms, the three principals are deadlocked on the fundamental issues of provincial governors, senior government appointments, security sector reform, ministerial portfolios and Roy Bennett.
President Zuma, who would be hosting the soccer World Cup in less than a month, is reportedly under immense pressure especially regionally and internationally, to bring closure to the Zimbabwean political impasse.