Movement for Democratic Change treasurer Roy Bennett joined the party after being spurned by the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
The Insider could not independently verify this but Bennett himself said so when he addressed a business conference in Cape Town two weeks ago.
What The Insider was able to establish was that there was turmoil in Chimanimani at the time. ZANU-PF had just suspended popular Chimanimani legislator Michael Mataure for two years after he had said the present leadership of the party should go.
During his address, Bennett said when he bought Charleswood Farm in Chimanimani, he consulted two local chiefs who welcomed him, held traditional ceremonies at the farm and endorsed their acceptance of him.
“I fervently wished to kick-start a vertically integrated coffee industry, and in so doing act as the catalyst for a commercially sustainable agro industry—one that would be good for me and for a desperately poor community,” Bennett said.
“My life, Heather’s life, and those of our two children, have been completely turned on their heads by the whole-hearted acceptance and steadfast affection of the Chimanimani people. What an incredibly brave, principled community. I was privileged to represent them in Parliament on behalf of the MDC, before being jailed and expelled from the House of Assembly.
“You see, ladies and gentleman, once our farming enterprise gathered momentum—with the community participating on the basis of an agreement we negotiated during our initial discussions— the people of Chimanimani subsequently took deep offence to ZANU-PF rejecting me as their local candidate in the 2000 parliamentary elections.
“(Not that I asked to embark on a career as a politician. I can think of nothing worse, let me tell you!) However, the Chimanimani tribal elders, after being rebuffed by ZANU-PF, dragged me to Harare to meet Morgan Tsvangirai, the recently elected leader of the newly-formed MDC. While offended by ZANU’s arrogance, the elders were not surprised—they had expected me to be rejected and had made contingency plans.
“Morgan welcomed me and the people of Chimanimani into the arms of the party. To say that my family’s life has been a roller coaster ride since then is obviously one hell of an understatement! But the people of Chimanimani, Manicaland and Zimbabwe are my daily inspiration.
“The racist refusal by ZANU-PF to permit my nomination, followed by that party’s rejection by the voters of Chimanimani and by the people of Manicaland, was ground breaking in Zimbabwean politics. It’s like the ANC facing defeat in the Eastern Cape, or Labour losing Scotland to the Tories!”
Bennett, who is known as Pachedu in the area, went on to beat the ZANU-PF, Munacho Mutezo, to win the Chimanimani seat.
He is the MDC nominee for deputy Minister of Agriculture but President Robert Mugabe has refused to swear him in.