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Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Fugitive farmer becomes MP
Roy Bennet on his farm
Roy Bennet (left): Refused to bow to veterans' demands
A month ago, Roy Bennet was on the run, sleeping in a different house each night for fear of attack.

Now the farmer from south-eastern Zimbabwe has been elected as the member of parliament for the Chimanimani district.



I am on the side of good, and on the side of the Zimbabwean people

Roy Bennet
In May, Mr Bennet's farm was occupied by supporters of President Robert Mugabe at a time when other farmers had already been assaulted and forced off their land.

Mr Bennet himself was absent when the "war veterans" arrived, but his wife, Heather, and his workers were forced to chant slogans supporting the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Mrs Bennet, who was two months pregnant at the time, was threatened with a machete. She subsequently suffered a miscarriage.

One worker who refused to condemn the opposition enthusiastically enough was beaten.

Mr Bennet told the BBC he believed he would have been killed if he had been at home when the squatters arrived.

Refused to give in

When Mr Bennet returned home and met the squatters, he was told he would have to renounce the MDC if he wanted to return to his farm.


Farmer at Zanu-PF rally
Some farmers were forced to attend Zanu-PF rallies
While other white farmers attended Zanu-PF rallies and joined in the songs honouring the ruling party, Mr Bennet said he would not be intimidated.

"You can choose good or you can choose evil," he told the BBC. "I am on the side of good, and on the side of the Zimbabwean people."

He and his campaign manager James Mukwaya went into hiding but remained defiant.

A fluent Shona speaker, Mr Bennet was a Zanu-PF candidate in earlier local elections before becoming disillusioned with the ruling party.

He says he has attracted support "because I have a proven track record of working well with the local community".

Near despair

Roy Bennet sounded close to despair during one interview, for which he met a BBC correspondent at a secret location.

"I just feel so helpless, there's nothing I can do, no-one I can ask for help," he said.

Mr Mukwaya said the intimidation tactics were actually helping the MDC's cause.

"How can anyone vote for the people who are beating them up? The MDC will win in Chimanimani. All I have to do is to stay alive."

Mr Mukwaya and Mr Bennet are still alive - and the MDC has indeed won in Chimanimani.

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See also:

16 Jun 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe opposition on the run
11 May 00 | Africa
Mugabe opponent forced off farm
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