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25th Mar 2008, 22:50
Tsvangirai Pilot Arrested At Charles Prince Airport

SW Radio Africa (London)

25 March 2008
Posted to the web 25 March 2008

By Tichaona Sibanda

A helicopter pilot hired from South Africa to fly MDC Presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai to campaign rallies in remote areas of the country, was arrested in Harare on Tuesday.

Brent Smythe, a 28 year-old South African pilot was picked up from Charles Prince airport, about 15 kilometres west of Harare, at 7.30am with three other people, including a senior MDC official. At the time of the arrest Smythe was carrying out pre-flight checks, in preparation to fly Tsvangirai to the South East of the country. He was taken to Harare central police station and no reason has been given yet as to why he is in police custody.

Police also impounded the helicopter, a four-seater Robinson R44, which has a range of 700km. Roy Bennett, the treasurer-general of the MDC, confirmed to us from Johannesburg that he had chartered the helicopter to help Tsvangirai access remote areas. This was also not the first time they had run into problems.

'Brent flew to Zimbabwe on Saturday to do charter flights for Tsvangirai first in Matebeleland region. His flight plans were approved and everything was fine and so he landed in Bulawayo. As soon as they saw who the passenger was they prevented him from flying Tsvangirai, making a lot of excuses that he had filed his flight plans late,' Bennett said.

Because of this Tsvangirai was unable to address several rallies lined up in the region. Smythe then proceeded to Harare to await his next assignment.

According to Bennett, he had filed his flight plans for Tsvangirai's trips three days in advance, instead of two as required by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe. Bennett added; 'Smythe was undertaking perfectly legal flights and all his paper work was in order. This shows the level of harassment by the regime but no amount of intimidation can force Zimbabweans from effecting change in the country.'

Wessel van der Bergh is the owner of Aviation towards Success (ATS), the helicopter charter company. He said Smythe sent him a text message saying he was scared because the police were being 'too aggressive towards him'.

'All his paperwork was in order and at this stage we are very worried about his well being. We can only presume this is a delaying tactic by Zanu-PF to try and prevent Morgan Tsvangirai from campaigning in different parts of the country,' Van der Bergh added.

Smythe holds both British and South African citizenship and diplomats from both countries were making frantic efforts in Harare to have him released.

26th Mar 2008, 21:35
How long will the world still just sit back and watch this mess? If there was oil or other minerals, Bush and his people would have found reasons to make war quite quickly. But no, Zim has nothing the world needs, so no-one cares, and Zim can continue to suffer under this idiotic despot Mugabe. Is there ANY government out there willing to intervene in what is obviously a mad dictatorship?
Now we have a poor colleague stuck in there in that s:mad:thole. Hope you're out soon buddy.