|Free Roy Bennett from Zimbabwe’s Mutare Jail|
On Friday the 13th February 2009 Roy Leslie Bennett was arrested and charged with Treason in Harare. We call for the urgent release of Mr Bennett. Mr Bennett should be allowed to take up his ministerial post to help revive Agriculture immediately. The angels of suppression should accept that the winds of change are unstoppable.
The Junta keeps on flip flopping about the charges that Mr Bennett faces. It is inspiring to hear that Mr Bennett is in good spirits and he sends a message to all Zimbabweans through his lawyer "Whatever these challenges, if we remain unwaveringly dedicated, we will achieve peace, freedom and democracy in our life time - believe me,"
To those holding a Vigil outside the Police Station keep on the hard and good work.
God Bless You All
Click Here for facebook Page
An Account of the events leading to Roy Bennett's Arrest by one of his Friends.
I flew up to Zimbabwe from SA with seven friends to enjoy Morgan's inauguration as the Prime Minister in the new Government of National Unity.
A lot of people, especially now, are saying that the MDC should never have entered into the agreement but they didn't really have a choice.
They had to do it for the people on the streets. That the MDC had made the right decision was obvious from the reaction from the huge crowd at Glamis Stadium when Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai walked out.
The outpouring of joy, happiness and hope, rare commodities in Zimbabwe, was overwhelming. And besides, the SADC heads of states had promised that they would make Bob and the bad guys keep to promises made. What could go wrong. During the ceremony I phoned Roy. He was going to be sworn in as the Deputy Minister of Agriculture. Roy had sacrificed more than anyone else I knew to bring about a chance of a new tomorrow for Zimbabwe, and I wanted to enjoy the moment with him. Bummer.
He said he wasn't able to come to Glamis Stadium because he was in hiding. He'd been told that he was on an abduction list. But Roy wasn't down. The bad guys after him were a small minority, intent on chasing Morgan out of the Government of National Unity. President Mothlante knew all about his predicament. He'd phoned Mugabe on the Friday before and had told him hands off Roy Bennett. Everything would turn out all right, he told me.
The most common form of greeting in Zimbabwe the day after Morgan's inauguration was Happy New Year. Everyone but everyone wished each other a Happy New Year. Strangers in the empty supermarkets. The women selling American Dollar tomatoes on the side of the road. Ditto the barman who sold me American Dollar beers. And even the policeman on the obligatory roadblock. Especially the Policeman on the roadblock. Small wonder because Morgan had just told him that he and all the other civil servants, would be paid a minimum of US$200 at the end of February. And the policeman had the broadest smile as he wished me a Happy New Year.
Not surprising when you consider that his take home pay at the end of January was less than ten American cents!!! In the old Zimbabwe a policeman would have to work for ten months to earn one American Dollar. But that was all behind. This was a Happy New Year. This was the new Zimbabwe.
Our party of seven met at Charles Prince Airport on the outskirts of Harare at 12 o'clock on the Friday to go back home. My head was busy trying to figure out what I had to do to wrap up my life in South Africa so that I could be back home in Zimbabwe by the end of the year. Then the guy who'd organised the plane said that we were going to be joined by an extra passenger. Roy Bennett.
Roy had been told that Deputy Minister's were only going to sworn in the following week, so he'd decided to catch a lift back to Johannesburg with us. He was going to help Heather pack up the house. As we waited to clear immigration Roy's enthusiasm was contagious as he spoke about the job of getting Zimbabwe back on it's feet and fixing everything that was broken. It was a massive task but he was undaunted.
We got on the plane and were cleared for takeoff. The pilot taxied out on to the runway and was about to put her foot down when the radio squawked. We'd been told to abort take off and return to the terminal. Straight away Roy knew that they'd come for him. He told us to stay in the plane while he went to find out what the problem was.
I followed him to the Immigration Buildings. Roy walked up to the two plain clothed men who'd ordered the control tower to pull the plug on our flight. Roy asked them who they were and what they wanted. They told him who they were was of no concern and that they were going to take him to Marondera.
As I watched they grabbed Roy and bundled him into white Toyota and drove off. Luckily I was able to get the number plate of the vehicle down and phone it through to friends who were able to pick up the vehicle and follow it all the way to Mutare. If they hadn't followed the vehicle, I have no doubt that Roy would have been disappeared.
We were told to stay on the plane to await the arrival of the police. After two hours two members from the infamous Law and Order Section arrived. They tried to bully the Immigration Official into admitting that Roy's name was not on the passenger list and that he'd been trying to leave the country illegal. Which was absolute crap.
We had a copy of the pilot's manifesto with Roy's name third on the list. Then the German Embassy arrived. Followed by some journalists. And then the police changed their tune and they insisted that we take off.
My biggest regret is that we didn't ignore the instructions from the tower and take off anyway. Roy's abduction culminated in his being charged with terrorism. These actions are clearly against the spirit of the agreement that underpins the formation of the GNU. As is the continued illegal detention and torture of Jestina, Chris Dhlamini and others.
As was the way Mugabe bullied his way into swearing in an extra four ZANU Ministers. When will South Africa and the other members of SADC stand up to Mugabe and the Generals pulling his strings? They are blight on the region and have reduced Zimbabwe to a collection of the most unfortunate set of statistics ever. 95% unemployment in the country.
Five million Zimbabweans in exile out of a total of just twelve million. And of the seven million Zimbabweans left in the country, six million require food aid. A run away epidemic of Cholera that can only continue to hack away at the world's lowest life expectancy of just 34 years. What is going on in Zimbabwe is genocide, plain and simple.
We have set up a fund called The Friends Of Roy Bennet. We need to raise lots of money to look after Roy and his family. To look after Jestina Mukoko. To look after Chris Dhlamini and Gandhi Mudzingwa and all the other abductees.
We need money to pay for their food and their legal fees. We need to make sure the world does not forget them. Only when they are released, only when the people who are responsible for their abductions are out of the picture and no longer in a position to continue to perpetuate the misery that is Zimbabwe, only then can we start to fix what is broken. Account Name : Friends of
Account Name :Friends of Roy Bennett
Acct No : 1589406079
Sort Code : 158952
Bank : Nedbank
Swift code: NEDSZAJJ
In closing I would ask you to circulate this appeal as widely as possible. And please find room in your prayers for Roy and Jestina and all the others, and especially for Morgan. Ask that he have the courage and conviction to do what he has to do to put an end to the madness once and for all.
Life in Zimbabwe's Mutare jail
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
Mutare Central Police station is a pretty colonial era building with a clock
tower which doesn't keep time and a line of tall palm trees at its front.
Mutare is surrounded by ranges of mountains, in the north to Christmas Pass,
named by British Empire builder, Cecil John Rhodes and to the east heavily
wooded ranges of hills which spread to where they sky ends over Mozambique.
The police cells where Mr Bennett is being kept are tiny, about 10' x 6'
with high concrete ceilings. They have a tiny window at the top of the back
wall which lets in a little light and with just the cement floor on which to
sleep on and smeared graffiti on filthy walls to read.
In cells reserved for men, there is usually no room to lie down as most
water facilities are broken so warders concentrate as many as possible into
one or two cells where there is working tap which occasionally dribbles a
drop or two.
Sometimes there is an ancient threadbare red blanke but they are so covered
in lice and excrement, that detainees try never to have to use them, even in
cold winter months.
Most of the lavatories - holes in the ground in the corner of the cell - are
only flushed from the outside when a passing warder feels so inclined.
Prisoners are woken for line up and inspection just after dawn. They are
allowed into the small shabby courtyard for a few minutes and are then
locked up for the rest of the day with a few minutes out at mid day and
before supper. Food is brought in by relatives as the prisons department has
Mr Bennett will be held in one of these cells in the courtyard, overlooked
by detectives in their offices on the floor above.
After detainees are locked up for the night, before sunset, the men begin
the long uncomfortable lock up with noisy conversations, and then as the
hours drag they begin to sing, sometimes familiar Christian hymns, sometimes
folk songs from tribal areas, sometimes with additions about current events,
but it seems, no matter who the occupants, the music spreading throughout
the line of cells is hauntingly tuneful with harmonies developing through
each song until the grande finale when all voices join together. Then
quieter melancholy songs begin and the volume decreases as prisoners begin
to fall asleep.
They are woken through the night by rats and bites from an appalling range
of lice, bed bugs and spiders.
Sometimes one outside light is on in the courtyard, but usually the bulb is
broken, but through the tiny grille in the iron door, in the clear bright
nights over Mutare the stars are there and many prisoners waking from fitful
sleep take turns to look out at the world above.