Monday, 20 September 2010

Roy Bennett

About Roy Bennett:

Roy Leslie Bennett (born 16 February 1957) is a Zimbabwean politician and former colonial policeman who is also a former member of the House of Assembly of Zimbabwe for the seat of Chimanimani, where he is affectionately known as Pachedu (loosely translated as "Between Us"). He is currently the Treasurer of the Movement for Democratic Change party led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

He was one of three white parliamentarians elected in the 2000 Parliamentary election, despite the constituency seeing intimidation against MDC voters by supporters of Zanu-PF. During the campaign his wife and family were physically attacked.


In 2004 Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told Bennett in Parliament that Bennett's Charleswood Estate in Chimanimani would be taken by the government and resettled. Chinamasa then said:

Mr. Bennett has not forgiven the government for acquiring his farm, but he forgets that his forefathers were thieves and murderers.[1]

Bennett stood up and walked towards Chinamasa, shouting, "Unoda kundijairira iwewe! Unoda kuti ndiite sei? (Shona: Don't think you can get away with trying to take advantage of me! What do you want me to do?!) [2] Bennett grabbed the collar of Chinamasa's shirt and wrestled him to the floor. He then tried unsuccessfully to punch Anti-Corruption Minister Didymus Mutasa who responded by kicking him. Other MPs then took out guns and threatened to start shooting if they did not stop fighting. The Sergeant at Arms escorted Bennett out of the chamber. Deputy Speaker Edna Madzongwe ejected Nelson Chamisa and Willias Madzimure for their involvement in the fight.[1]
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition condemned the actions of Bennett and Chinamasa.[1]
A bill of attainder was then passed with even the MDC being part of the parliamentary committee to investigate that incident imprisoning him for 15 months.


On 28 June 2005, Bennett was released from Chikurubi Prison after spending eight months of his twelve-month sentence in custody. It is standard prison procedure to commute a third of any sentence for good behaviour. He told reporters he had been made to stand naked in front of prison guards and was then given a prison uniform covered with human excrement when he arrived in jail. He denounced prison conditions generally in a press conference after his release, saying "The inhumanity with which the prisoners are treated and their total lack of recourse to any representation or justice combined with the filth and stench of daily life is something I will never forget and I will not rest until their conditions are improved."
Bennett declared his desire to continue in politics, saying "I am more determined than ever to continue to strive for a better Zimbabwe for all Zimbabweans, the current oppression cannot continue for much longer and sooner, rather than later, the people will assert their rights." He also said that if the opportunity arose and the people for Chimanimani asked him to, he would stand as their representative again.

Just released from Jail

Subsequent developments:

During the MDC split over the proposed boycott of elections to the Zimbabwe Senate in 2005, Bennett sided with MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai in support of the boycott.
Roy Bennett previously lived in South Africa as a refugee. His application for asylum was initially rejected by the South African Department of Immigration. On 13 May 2007, the South African government accepted his asylum request.[3]
During his time in exile, he had an active role in activism for Zimbabwe and particularly the MDC in South Africa. In 2007 he became the treasurer general for the main stream faction of the MDC lead by Morgan Tsvangirai. He was also a spokesmen in South Africa and made regular interviews on behalf of the MDC.
During Robert Mugabe's 84th Birthday celebrations at the border area of Beitbridge before the 2008 election, Roy Bennett led a demonstration on the South African side of the border against the President. Among his words were:


It takes a lot of courage
It calls for strength of mind
To make a new beginning
And leave the past behind
To build upon the ruins
To dream another dream
To set forth into the darkness
Towards some distant gleam
It takes a fighting spirit
A brave and dauntless heart
To lose, to cut the loses
And make another start
To suffer many hardships
Yet faithful to remain
To rise above disaster
And then begin again

"We are gathered here after many years of suffering, while across the river, after 28 years, a man who is now 84 years old, is having a birthday party. A birthday party while everybody around him is starving and dying. There's no electricity, there are no roads, there are no jobs, there's no education, there's no medical, there's no nothing. He is spending 300,000 US dollars to have a birthday party."[4]


At the end of January 2009, after several years in exile, he returned to Zimbabwe to join a debate within the MDC to decide whether or not to agree to the power-sharing government with Mugabe.[5] After the MDC ultimately agreed to share power with ZANU-PF, Morgan Tsvangirai designated Bennett as Deputy Minister of Agriculture on 10 February 2009.[6] On 13 February, he was arrested again while trying to (legally) leave Zimbabwe on a private plane at Charles Prince Airport. He was brought to police stations in Goromonzi and Mutare on that day, and is said to have suffered an attempt to drown him on the way there.[7] He was charged with treason,[8] and the MDC reported that he had been denied food in jail.[9] Charges were later replaced with 'conspiring to acquire arms with a view to disrupting essential services'.[10] When a magistrate ordered Bennett released, the magistrate himself was arrested because "he has passed a judgment that is not popular with the state", and was charged with criminal abuse of office.[11] Bennett was released from remand prison on 12 March 2009, but was ordered back on 14 October 2009.[12] On 16 October 2009, Judge Hungwe instructed the prison to release Roy Bennett on his old bail conditions.
On Monday May 10, 2010 Roy Bennett was acquitted on charges that he tried to overthrow the government

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