Will terrorism acquittal of MDC's Roy Bennett salvage Zimbabwe unity government?
Roy Bennett, a white commercial farmer and top figure in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was acquitted Monday of terrorism charges. He's offered to lower his profile, but can that boost prospects of Zimbabwe's unity government?
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The only way Zimbabwe will resolve the current political impasse, she says, is if it is forced to do so by other African states, under the umbrellas of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community. “The only time ZANU-PF has compromised is when the [African Union] and [Southern African Development Community] had the same message, that you need to form a government of national unity,” says Smith-Hohn.Skip to next paragraph
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The AU and SADC need to send Mugabe the unified message that he must cooperate with his coalition partners if he wants sanctions lifted, says Smith-Hohn.
SADC’s current mediation process, led by South African President Jacob Zuma, seems to have stalled, but it has recently been joined by Congolese President Joseph Kabila, a close friend and supporter of Mugabe.
Whether this new energy by SADC will give a helpful shove to the mediation remains to be seen, of course, and Smith-Hohn warns that SADC remains deeply fragmented over whether to start speaking tough to Mugabe.
“[Mr. Kabila] is a longtime associate of Robert Mugabe, and he trained in Zimbabwe and has personal ties with Mugabe, so whether his involvement in the mediation is helpful or not is hard to say,” says Smith-Hohn. But removing Bennett as a negotiating point could help move the process forward, she says. “What is ZANU-PF going to do in return? That, we will see in the next few hours or days.”
Will Bennett stay or go?
There's also some question as to whether Bennett really will agree to step aside. He appeared to contradict his earlier message this weekend on Monday by saying: "Mugabe has to swear me in now. My party has made it very clear that they expect nothing less."
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa affirmed this Monday, indicating that the MDC wants to test what Mugabe will do before deciding how prominent Bennett's future role should be.
"We have been vindicated. This was not prosecution but persecution," Mr. Chamisa said. "We are expecting that the natural thing will happen, that we will wake up with Bennett as deputy agriculture minister."
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