Condolences pour in for veteran Zimbabwean politician

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Messages of condolences and sympathy continue to pour in for former Treasurer-General of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Roy Bennett, his wife, Heather, and three other people died in a helicopter crash in the American state of New Mexico on Wednesday.

At the time of Bennett’s death, he had been living and farming in exile in Zambia, as his farm in Zimbabwe had been seized during the controversial land redistribution programme.

The former ZANU-PF cadre, who joined the opposition MDC after clashes with former President Robert Mugabe, was a darling in Chimanimani, where he owned Charleswood Farm. So popular was Bennett, that he was voted MDC legislator for Chimanimani in 2000, which gave him an opportunity to document, expose and debate Mugabe’s misrule.

As such, he became an enemy for ZANU PF and his farm was violently taken away by soldiers.  During his fight to repossess his farm, Bennett nearly assaulted the then Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa in parliament and was jailed for 12 months in 2004.

MDC legislator and lawyer David Coltart described Bennett as a man who had passion for his country despite him being white.

After his release from jail, Bennett fled to South Africa and his first asylum was granted in 2007. At the time of his death he was in exile in Zambia where he was farming with success, Coltart said.

The death of Roy Bennett and his wife came as a shock on Thursday such that even those in the ruling ZANU PF said the man was going to be missed.

Bennett was so vibrant that during the Government of National Unity between 2009 and 2013, he was appointed MDC’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture but former President Mugabe refused to swear him in.

The Bennett family is survived by two children.