Roy Bennett the odd one out


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Roy Bennett was the only ministerial level official not sworn in when President Robert Mugabe swore in the expanded inclusive government which included five more deputy ministers and five more ministers of state who were not agreed upon in the Global Political Agreement.

Bennett had been nominated deputy Minister of Agriculture by his party, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. He was the treasurer of the party.

He was arrested few days before the swearing in ceremony on charges related to the 2006 discovery of arms in Mutare.

Bennett fled the country and had been in exile since 2006. He returned to the country in 2009 to witness the formation of the inclusive government and was arrested when he tried to leave again when he learnt that police were looking for him in connection with the arms charges.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09HARARE142, ZIM NOTES 02-20-2009

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

09HARARE142

2009-02-23 07:16

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO9455

RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0142/01 0540716

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

R 230716Z FEB 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4080

RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 2208

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2646

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2768

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1242

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2037

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2393

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2817

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5245

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1938

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000142

 

AF/S FOR B. WALCH

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR

TREASURY FOR D. PETERS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN

COMMERCE FOR ROBERT TELCHIN

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O.12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM ECON ZI

 

SUBJECT: ZIM NOTES 02-20-2009

 

———–

1. SUMMARY

———–

 

Topics of the week:

 

– On the Political/Social Front PM, MFA Brief Diplomats and

Donors…

– New Ministers and Deputies Take Office…

– UN Visit…

– USAID Employee’s Hearing Delayed – Again …

– Political Prisoners Remain in Custody…

– More WOZA Arrests…

– Cholera Response Assessment…

– British “Evacuation” Raises Eyebrows…

– Prices Keep Falling…

– Civil Servants Start Receiving Hard Currency Vouchers…

– Budget, Monetary Policy up for Review…

– Trading Resumes on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange…

– Reserve Bank Suspends Steep Licensing Fee…

– Harare’s Landline Network in Shambles…

 

—————————–

On the Political/Social Front

——————————

 

2. On the Political/Social Front PM, MFA Brief Diplomats and

Donors… Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai briefed donors on

Zimbabwe’s economic situation and presented emergency and short-term

economic plans. He announced that civil servants would be paid in

forex. Donors pointed out, and Tsvangirai acknowledged, that

developmental assistance would depend on compliance with the

principles of reengagement. See Harare 135. Foreign Minister

Mumbengegwi briefed diplomats this week. His focus was on the

lifting of sanctions as crucial to Zimbabwe’s economic development.

See Harare 136.

 

3. New Ministers and Deputies Take Office… On Thursday, President

Mugabe swore in 20 deputy ministers (five more than contemplated by

the Global Political Agreement (GPA)) and five ministers of state

who were not agreed to in the GPA. With five ministers of state

added last week to the cabinet when ministers were initially sworn

in, there are now 41 cabinet ministers vice the 31 provided for in

the GPA. The political agreement resulting in this will obviously

place an additional burden on Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped coffers.

Notably, Roy Bennett, who remains in custody in Mutare, was not

sworn in as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.

 

4. UN Visit… Assistant Secretary General Catherine Bragg will

lead a joint UN mission with representatives from UNICEF, WHO and

WFP to Zimbabwe February 21 to 25. The mission’s objectives include:

gaining a better understanding of the humanitarian situation,

response, and the operational challenges faced by humanitarian

actors, while exploring methods of improving UN support. The mission

will work with relevant government authorities to advocate for a

less polarized humanitarian environment and unhindered access of

humanitarian assistance.

 

5. USAID Employee’s Hearing Delayed – Again… Frank Muchirahondo –

charged with the attempted murder of the chief of Zimbabwe’s Air

Force – was to have had a court appearance before the Bindura

magistrate Thursday for his attorney to request a trial date and

receive the charging documents from the prosecutor. As was the case

on February 12, yesterday’s court date was postponed – both the

Qon February 12, yesterday’s court date was postponed – both the

magistrate and the prosecutor were no-shows. The court date has been

rescheduled to February 24. The Embassy continues to try to work a

resolution to this case through back channels.

 

 

HARARE 00000142 002 OF 003

 

 

6. Political Prisoners Remain in Custody… A magistrate in Mutare

dismissed a charge against Roy Bennett of illegally trying to leave

the country, but upheld a charge of illegal possession of arms for

purposes of sabotage and denied bail. His lawyers are appealing the

denial of bail to the High Court while a group of several hundred

MDC supporters maintains a 24-hour vigil outside the Mutare police

station awaiting his release. Separately, 5 of the 18 original

abductees in State custody are now in Avenues Clinic receiving

medical care, after numerous court orders. The High Court granted

bail to four of the seven men accused of bombing police stations,

but the State appealed. Of the 32 original abductees, 18 are still

in custody, 10 are missing, one escaped to South Africa, and three

have been released. In addition, the three white men arrested on

January 3 for allegedly training insurgents at an adventure camp

outside Harare remain in custody after being denied bail in the High

Court this week. See Harare 130.

 

7. More WOZA Arrests… On February 14, WOZA held its annual march

in Bulawayo, handing out Valentine’s Day cards and roses to police,

bystanders, and journalists. Approximately 800 men and women joined

the protests which were scattered around town. Frustrated police hit

many innocent bystanders and protesters, but there were no serious

injuries. 10 were arrested – 7 WOZA women and 3 observers from a

community radio station. The 10 were held in the jail’s filthy

conditions without warrant until Tuesday when 6 relented and paid

fines for blocking traffic. The other four were released on bail and

charges against them were dropped on the 19th. The group reported

overflowing toilets and maggots in the overcrowded cells.

 

8. Cholera Response Assessment… Between February 8 and 14, the

WHO reported a slight increase in new cholera cases and a slight

decrease in cholera deaths compared to the previous week, consistent

with regular increases in the weekly numbers of new cholera cases

recorded throughout January. As of February 17, cholera has caused

more than 3,700 deaths out of more than 78,000 reported cases,

according to the WHO. Preparations are underway for a United Nations

Interagency Real Time Evaluation, which will assess the overall

relevance, effectiveness and coherence of the humanitarian response

and provide feedback to facilitate planning and implementation.

 

9. British “Evacuation” Raises Eyebrows… This week the British

Embassy announced its “Zimbabwe Resettlement Plan” – many months in

the works – to help its senior citizens leaving Zimbabwe access

social services immediately upon return to the UK. Usually,

returning Brits must wait several months to access assistance. The

Herald called the plan an “evacuation” and painted it as a slap in

the face to the new government. The Herald also reported that

Tsvangrai called British ambassador Andrew Pocock to complain that

QTsvangirai called British ambassador Andrew Pocock to complain that

the British government’s actions would dent international confidence

in Zimbabwe.

 

———————————-

On the Economic and Business Front

———————————-

 

 

10. Prices Keep Falling… Independent monitors found that prices

of most basic commodities continued to fall in US dollar terms this

week. A local private institution that monitors 25 imported and

local products found that on average prices fell from US$70.63 to

US$70.13. The EC Delegation, which monitors 18 items in the low

income food basket, registered a 6% drop in prices in the same

period. The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe estimates that a family of

six requires a minimum monthly income of US$288.

 

11. Civil Servants Start Receiving Hard Currency Vouchers… Civil

servants began receiving allowances worth US$100 per month in

vouchers this week; their actual salaries will be deposited into

 

HARARE 00000142 003 OF 003

 

 

their accounts in local currency. As of February 19, civil servants

who had received vouchers were redeeming them for either goods at

selected supermarkets or for cash at banks. The vouchers indicated

which shops and banks civil servants could use. Our banking contacts

indicated that civil servants have received explicit instructions to

redeem the vouchers for cash at banks and to open foreign currency

accounts. With effect from March 2009, foreign currency denominated

salaries for civil servants will be deposited into these accounts.

We will monitor and report on the sustainability of this

arrangement.

 

12. Budget, Monetary Policy up for Review… Deputy PM Arthur

Mutambara advised businessmen this week not to base their planning

on the recent budget and monetary policy statements as they were

under review and subject to fundamental changes.

 

13. Trading Resumes on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange… Trading in

foreign currency got off to a slow start on the Zimbabwe Stock

Exchange (ZSE) on February 19, after nearly three months of

suspension. A mere 3,000 shares in one company changed hands at US1

cent per share, as the market struggled to find the fair value for

shares previously traded in local currency. Liquidity constraints

arising from foreign currency shortages will likely put a damper on

trading volume in the short term.

 

14. Reserve Bank Suspends Steep Licensing Fee… Faced with most

shops inability to pay the exorbitant US$1,000/month licensing fee

for trading in foreign currency, the RBZ suspended the requirement a

week ago.

 

15. Rich Platinum Reserves, but Speculation with Claims…

Zimbabwe’s rich platinum resources contributed a third of the

country’s exports in 2008. But ground surrendered by international

mining companies in exchange for empowerment credit in the past

years has ended up in the hands of rogues and speculators rather

than serious developers. See Harare 141.

 

16. Harare’s Landline Network in Shambles… Embassy communications

specialists have learned that South African and, most recently, New

Zealand telcos have poached many of TelOne’s (Zimbabwe’s fixed-line

parastatal) remaining few technicians. In addition, fuel was

unavailable for service calls, and the few remaining company

vehicles were no longer being serviced for lack of motor oil and due

to the risk of parts going missing during off-site maintenance.

 

—————–

Quote of the Week

—————–

 

17. “Don’t ever fool yourselves. We are not going to be naove to

believe that it’s going to be smooth. This is a transition and there

are transitional obstacles that you need to overcome. And overcome

we will. Step by step we will make those incremental gains.” —

Morgan Tsvangirai speaking at an MDC 10th anniversary celebration on

February 18.

 

18. “If Morgan Tsvangirai has no power to protect his top

leadership, the rest of the country is in big trouble because

Qleadership, the rest of the country is in big trouble because

nothing is going to change.” — Heather Bennett speaking of her

husband Roy’s continued detention on February 17 with SW Radio.

 

 

MCGEE

 

(3 VIEWS)

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The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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