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Former Zimbabwe Presidential Candidate Makoni Launches New Party

Former Zimbabwean presidential candidate Simba Makoni announced on Wednesday that he was transforming the Mavambo Kusile Dawn campaign organization under which he ran for the country's highest office last year into a full-fledged political party.

Addressing about 100 people at the party's launch in Harare's Mbare high-density suburb or township, Makoni said his political formation would work to promote a non-violent society and advance human rights, Studio 7 correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported.

But political analyst John Makumbe, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe, commented that while it was Makoni's democratic right to form his own political party, it seemed doubtful that his party would draw off many supporters from the country's two main parties, the Movement for Democratic Change and President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

Elsewhere in national politics, the MDC formation headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai issued a statement demanding that Mr. Mugabe swear in Roy Bennett, designated deputy agriculture minister by Mr. Tsvangirai in February, without further delay.

A white commercial farmer whose Manicaland province properties were caught up in the land reform program begun in 2000, Bennett was arrested on a weapons charge this February at the Charles Prince Airport near Harare and spent a month in Mutare's remand prison.

Mr. Bennett had previously served eight months in prison in 2004-2005 on a sentence that Parliament, then dominated by ZANU-PF, imposed on him for shoving Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa on the House floor during a heated 2003 debate on land reform.

In 2006 Bennett sought political asylum in South Africa after being named in an alleged conspiracy to assassinate President Mugabe during a visit to Mutare.

President Mugabe has resisted swearing Bennett in, insisting that the court render judgement in the case against him first. But the MDC says Bennett should be considered innocent until and unless found guilty. A Mutare magistrate Wednesday set October 13 for his trial.

Bennett told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the long delay showed the ZANU-PF side of the government is not serious about sharing power.

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