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Hardliners frustrating release of detainees

Morgan Tsvangirai
(South African DFA)

The Zimbabwe Attorney-General's office is frustrating an agreement reached between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for the release of political activists.

"President Mugabe and myself last week agreed that all political detainees who have been formally charged with a crime should be released on bail, and that those who have not been charged should be released unconditionally," Tsvangirai said at a press briefing in the capital, Harare, on 25 February.

"The Attorney General's office is wilfully obstructing the release of all detainees by abusing the appeal process, and that must stop forthwith."

About 30 activists have been detained for allegedly receiving military training in neighbouring Botswana, which has long been critical of Mugabe and his ZANU-PF government. The charge has been strongly denied by the government of President Ian Khama.

The ZANU-PF hardliners are said to be security chiefs and central bank officials, who fear that the emergence of a transparent government could reveal crimes they have committed.

Roy Bennett, Zimbabwe's deputy agriculture minister designate and treasurer-general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), remains incarcerated on charges of arms possession and banditry, despite being granted US$2,000 bail by the High Court in Harare on 24 February.

The judge also ordered the former white commercial farmer to surrender travel documents and imposed stringent reporting conditions, after receiving assurances from Tsvangirai that he would ensure Bennett did not abscond from Zimbabwe.

The progress of the unity government - which came into force with the inauguration of Tsvangirai as prime minister on 11 February, after a power-sharing agreement was signed on 15 September 2008 - has been far from smooth.

At the press briefing Tsvangirai also called for the continued farm invasions by ZANU-PF supporters to cease, and said Mugabe's unilateral appointments of Gideon Gono as central bank governor, and Gen Johannes Tomana as attorney-general, needed to be revisited, as these were contrary to the power-sharing agreement.

The re-appointment by ZANU-PF of the majority of ministerial permanent secretaries without consultation was also contrary to the terms of the deal. "The announcement of permanent secretaries has no force of law, and is therefore null and void," Tsvangirai said.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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