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MDC Minister Roy Bennett Arrested in Harare

  • Peta Thornycroft

Roy Bennett, the MDC's choice to become deputy agriculture minister, was reportedly seized at a Harare airport Friday, hours before the ministers in the unity government were to be sworn in. His arrest has dampened the spirits of many Zimbabweans looking forward to a period of rebuilding Zimbabwe.

Roy Bennett had been through immigration and had boarded a small aircraft with a flight plan to Nelspruit, an eastern South African town. As the aircraft was taxiing down the runway it was called back.

Meanwhile, legislators were gathering at state house for swearing in of the government of national unity after the ceremony was delayed for five hours.

The MDC said in a statement the delay was the result of in-fighting in ZANU-PF over which of the 22 top party officials gathered for the ceremony, would be formally appointed. ZANU-PF is allowed 15 Cabinet posts and the two MDC parties together, have 16. Eventually it was sorted out as per the political agreement.

David Coltart is the newly appointed education minister and has been handed one of the toughest jobs in the Cabinet. Coltart told VOA his first job is going to be getting teachers back into the classrooms.

"The biggest challenge is to persuade teachers to get back into the classroom, that they are going to be paid a viable, live-able wage, that come the end of February, they will get a pay packet in foreign exchange," he said.

Coltart said the unity government can only succeed if it receives foreign funding. He said Zimbabwe had been destroyed and needed the kind of assistance Germany received after World War II. He said the only way to get teachers back to work was to pay them adequately in foreign currency, which Zimbabwe does not have.

"Well that is where we have to persuade the international community, the IMF, the World Bank, the EU, the United States, and the United Kingdom, that this agreement will be stillborn, unless they come in with some interim help," he said.

Coltart said the main difficulty in raising donor funds was the central bank through which all foreign money has to pass. Coltart said securing foreign currency to pay teachers would therefore require a provision that it be paid in ways that exclude the central bank from the process.

"Assuming that we cannot get a competent person into the Reserve Bank, we will have to devise measures to ensure that western taxpayers money goes to what it was intended for; and that may entail, direct financing of the rehabilitation of the schools infrastructure and some mechanism whereby money can go direct to teachers and not go through this conduit of the reserve bank," he said.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told a jubilant crowd on Wednesday that all civil servants would be paid in foreign currency.

Mr. Mugabe's Cabinet contains all the main players of his previous Cabinet which he recently described as the worst Cabinet in Zimbabwe's history.
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