The Blog

Peace Won't Come to Zimbabwe

9:54 AM, Feb 20, 2009 • By JOHN NOONAN
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Starry-eyed optimism in light of Zimbabwe's new unity government aside, peace in the former Rhodesia remains as elusive as ever. The primary opposition to Robert Mugabe's murderous ZANU-PF, the Movement for Democratic Change, insisted on several key conditions prior to signing on to the much touted power-sharing agreement -- the release of political prisoners topping the list. One of those prisoners, former farmer and MP Roy Bennett, is facing life in prison on over-hyped terrorism and illegal firearms charges. Bennett is the MDC's treasurer and the party's selection for Deputy Minister of Agriculture, a most important post in the former breadbasket nation's political hierarchy.

He also knows the cruelty of the Mugabe regime first hand. Peter Godwin, a Rhodesian soldier turned journalist, chronicled Bennett's entry into politics and subsequent farm seizure by Mugabe's 'war vets' in his superb When a Crocodile Eats the Sun. An excerpt (circa 2002):

Bennett tells me that he has only just moved back onto his farm after war vets invaded it. He was away at the time, he says, and they seized his wife, Heather, who was three months pregnant. They put a panga to her throat and made her dance around the house and chant ZANU-PF slogans until she collapsed from fear and exhaustion before they let her go. As a result she miscarried. They beat up the farm workers and occupied the farmhouse, ransacking it and daubing the walls with their own shit. They emptied the urn of Bennett's father's ashes and cut the paws off the lion-skin rug to use for muti -- traditional medicine.

Ultimately Bennett was forced to flee his homeland, seeking refuge in South Africa. He returned after the power-sharing agreement was signed, but was arrested when he attempted to fly back to the RSA.

Until Roy Bennett and other political prisoners are freed, until Mugabe releases his white-knuckled clutch on power, and until the MDC gains viable power through control of the police forces or army -- Zimbabwe is doomed to continue its plummet into anarchy.