The villagers who spoke to The Zimbabwean on Sunday claimed that the war veterans and Central Intelligence Organisation agents were moving around the area threatening to mete out unspecified but serious punishment against the villagers should they elect Bennett back to Parliament.
“We don’t have any substitute for Bennett at the moment because we believe this man was not given enough time by Zanu (PF) thugs to perform his duties to the fullest. Despite threats from Zanu (PF) and war veterans to discard Bennett and vote for their imposed candidate, we will not be moved,” said a local villager Tashinga Mutambudzi.
Another villager who only identified himself as Mukaro said: “Bennett is a principled man and a champion of democracy this man has been doing a lot to transform our lives through income generating projects but Zanu (PF) supporters are retrogressive they hate such people.”
“We are a very democratic community. Those who want to try their luck can come provided they do it in a peaceful manner because Bennett taught us to use peaceful means to win the minds of people,” said another villager who campaigned for the legislator in 2008 harmonised elections.
Bennett, a white former commercial farmer who is known here as Pachedu, is hugely popularly in the area and in 2000 beat the Zanu (PF) candidate for the Chimanimani House of Assembly seat.
But he has ever since faced persecution from state law enforcement and security agents who have accused him of several crimes including treason. He last week announced he was returning exile in South Africa fearing alleged relentless judicial persecution.
Bennett first sought political asylum in South Africa in 2006 after the state implicated him in an alleged plot to assassinate President Robert Mugabe during a visit to Mutare, in eastern Manicaland province, where Bennett once worked a commercial farm before losing it to land reform, subsequently representing the constituency of Chimanimani.
He spent eight months in the infamous Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in 2004-2005 under a parliamentary bill of attainder for shoving Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa on the House floor in a 22003 debate on land reform.
Bennett was arrested again in February 2009 upon returning to Zimbabwe after 2008 elections gave the combined MDC formations a House majority. He was named deputy minister of agriculture, but Mugabe has refused to swear him in, even after the High Court threw out treason charges, a decision the state quickly appealed.Post published in: News