Tribute to Roy and Heather Bennett

Roy and Heather, two exceptionally brave and dedicated Zimbabweans, will be greatly missed

Tribute from the Mike Campbell Foundation

18 January 2018

 

Roy and Heather Bennett – photo TSVANGIRAYI MUKWAZHI, Associated Press

The Mike Campbell Foundation is devastated by the news that two courageous Zimbabweans, Roy and Heather Bennett, have died in a helicopter accident in North America.

Roy Bennett was a founding member of parliament with Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party led by Morgan Tsvangirai.  Roy, a farmer from the Chimanimani district, was eventually forced to leave Zimbabwe by President Robert Mugabe and his regime, and had been farming in Zambia in recent years. Details are being gathered as to what exactly happened.

 

Beatrice Mtetwa, a prominent human rights lawyer, has praised Mr. Bennett as a patriot. “His passion for Zimbabwe will remain unmatched,” she told the New York Times. “It was always ironic for me that those who claim to have fought for the country followed destructive policies, whilst he looked at making a better country for all who live in it.”

 

MDC’s Roy Bennett received a warm welcome home when he first returned to Zimbabwe in January 2009, almost three years since fleeing the country. Bennett was arrested by the Mugabe regime when he arrived to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Zimbabwe’s unity government. Picture: Supplied

Dr Alex Magaisa, a lecturer in law at the University of Kent and former chief advisor to Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister during the coalition government, has written a moving tribute to Roy:

“Roy Leslie Bennett was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things. When the history of the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe is written, his name will feature prominently in those accounts. He may have started out on the side of privilege, growing up as a young white man in racially segregated Rhodesia and served as a member of its coercive apparatus, but by the end, Bennett had transformed himself into a true hero of people. He had become a pillar of the democratic movement in Zimbabwe, admired and respected by his fellow citizens....” To read Alex’s moving tribute: https://www.bigsr.co.uk/single-post/2018/01/19/Farewell-Pachedu-%E2%80%93-Tribute-to-Roy-Bennett

There was a unique bond of love and respect between Bennett and the multitudes who followed him, from his farm workers in Chimanimani to the MDC faithful. He was affectionately known as “Pachedu” which loosely translated refers to a pact of brotherhood and togetherness. It signified the unique and very intimate relationship that existed between Bennett and his supporters. It was a deep relationship symbolised by an unwritten pact which could not be broken.

In December 2016, when strife and mounting difficulties were reported on Mr Bennett’s former farm, Charleswood in the Chimanimani area, a newspaper was told how much he was missed.

One of the people interviewed said, “Bennett, who was known as Pachedu [between us] was very influential. He was eloquent in our local language. He employed almost 2 000 people around Chimanimani district.

“He would send lorries to every corner of the district such as Biriwiri, Chikukwa, Machongwe, among others to transport workers,’’ he said. “We all benefitted. Yes, we can talk of black empowerment, but we are missing him [Bennett] because we all benefitted from his services.’’

Most villagers praised the former Chimanimani MP.

“I don’t want to say much about Bennett because I will be victimized [by the ruling party],” said one elderly woman. “But the white man was just good to us. He made sure that we had everything we needed, including jobs and food.”

A man who now lives in Chipinge said his family also benefitted from Bennett. “I grew up in Chimanimani but my family used to work for Bennett. They were paid weekly. Every person wanted to work for Bennett,’’ he said.

May God give comfort and strength and His peace to Roy and Heather’s courageous family, especially their children, Charles and Casey.

BEN FREETH

Executive Director

Mike Campbell Foundation

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The Mike Campbell Foundation seeks justice for victims of torture and abuse in Zimbabwe; Works towards the restoration of the rule of law; Assists those forced to live in extreme poverty with survival skills; Brings hope where there is only despair.

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