Roy Bennett says MDC-T is broke
Question Time brings you part 2 of the interview between SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma and MDC-T Treasurer General, Roy Bennett.
The exiled Bennett responds to listener’s questions on a variety of issues, including reports that the MDC is broke and state media claims that lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa advised him to escape arrest and leave the country.
Bennett also reflects on his ‘harrowing’ time in custody at Mutare Remand Prison.
Interview broadcast 13 April 2011
Lance Guma: Hallo Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me for part two of the Question Time interview with MDC Treasurer General Roy Bennett. Last week we covered several of your questions mainly centred on the call by Roy Bennett for Old Mutual to withdraw controversial investments in Mbada Diamonds and Zimpapers.
We continue this week with more of your questions and obviously I have to start by thanking Roy for joining us once again.
Roy Bennett: Pleasure Lance, thank you.
Guma: Now Roy, a ZANU PF sponsored publication last week claimed you were advised by your lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa to escape arrest in Zimbabwe when it became clear you would be charged with contempt of court and perjury. Let’s start off with that – would you like to respond to their claims?
Bennett: Well again Lance, we understand the people we’re dealing with; we understand the tremendous good Beatrice has done and we understand her threat to the regime through her representation to people through Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who are facing human rights abuses and unjust and unfair attacks by the ZANU PF government, so again these people will put a spin on anything.
There’s no ways Beatrice advised me that I shouldn’t come back to Zimbabwe or that I must escape Zimbabwe because I am facing arrest. She confirmed with me that there were warrants out for my arrest for contempt of court and for perjury and even for her to get that, she had a run around from the CID Law and Order who for a long time refused to tell her.
It is then up to me to make the decision whether I come back or not and whether I want to go to prison and face these charges, looking at the number of charges that have been put against me in the past and also looking at the fact that we’re going into elections and where would I be most useful.
So it’s totally, totally false and very misleading to blame Beatrice or try and connect her, but knowing these people, they want to have a go at her so they’ll use anything.
Guma: What’s the status of those issues? Do they have an arrest warrant out for you? How far have they gone in this campaign?
Bennett: I understand there are arrest warrants out for me. I understand that people were waiting to arrest me on my re-entry into Zimbabwe. I’m sure nothing’s changed, I’m sure these people are still as relentless as ever and that the only thing they understand is repression and fix their munhu (fix their person).
Guma: Interesting Beatrice received an award recently and she was talking about attempts by several people within ZANU PF to bribe her to stop her human rights work. She was saying they were offering her farms and seats on several boards of parastatals. Were you surprised when you read that?
Bennett: Not at all, these people will go to any lengths Lance, they will go to any lengths. The current 51% indigenisation – it’s the lengths they are going to, to try and patronise members of the security, members of any of the securocrats to try and keep them loyal to ZANU PF by taking something away from someone and giving it to somebody else and hold them beholden to the ZANU PF party through patronage.
So it’s not only that they’ve offered her farms – I’m very sure that Beatrice would have received very severe phone calls and threats as well as offers of monetary value.
Guma: Simon in Harare says the state media is going to town about claims that the MDC is broke and has for over a month now failed to publish its weekly newsletter owing to financial constraints. As Treasurer General, what’s the position of the finances?
Bennett: Lance it’s a difficult one. Simon himself lives in Zimbabwe, most political parties survive on the funding from their members but how do you expect anybody in Zimbabwe under the current economic conditions to fund anything? It is very, very difficult for us to raise funds.
We don’t have the corruption, we don’t have the patronage that ZANU PF has into the diamond mines, into the platinum mines, into the gold, into forcibly getting money out of businesses on the threat of 51% indigenisation.
This is how these people keep going, that is how they raise their funds and have the funds to carry out their human rights abuses they have on the people of Zimbabwe. We don’t have that. We don’t extort money out of anybody. We don’t steal money from anybody.
We don’t use Zimbabwe’s natural resources to enrich ourselves to then pay people to carry out acts of violence. We battle, we battle for resources, it’s a continual battle and its part of the reason that I am sitting here in London trying to raise those resources to keep the party machinery moving and to keep things going.
Guma: Now as you are saying, you are leading this major fund raising effort from here in the UK, leading what has been called a Global Advocacy Programme. Now it has been mentioned you are even planning a Free Zimbabwe concert – talk us through this and how your supporters and well-wishers can help.
Bennett: Well again Lance, it’s a party programme. I’m merely a representative to try and help on the organisational part. Obviously the first thing comes is the funds because when you’re planning an event of this magnitude, it requires event management companies, it has to be done properly and in order to have that you have to have the funds but on the Global Advocacy, any of our friends and listeners who have connections to anybody in the celebrity or respected environment who could connect us to those people, for them to support our cause towards a violence-free and fair election.
Anybody that could help us with connections to groups that would be prepared to get on a platform and play for the recognition that we need a violence-free and fair election in Zimbabwe. Anybody that can help in that aspect through either contact, through material, through resources – please, please contact us through the freezimbabwe.com web site.
Guma: Now I know Roy the Political Parties Finance Act bars foreign funding of political parties, but if your supporters in the Diaspora wish to help the party, is that considered foreign funding?
Bennett: Of course it is. ZANU PF will use any excuse, that’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m not going back to Zimbabwe until we have a free Zimbabwe where all the repression’s gone and I will take the stick and I will take the blame and there’s nothing they can do to me with those regards Lance.
Guma: From Mutare comes an email from a listener who says he was among a group of people who in 2009 supported calls for your release outside the police station in the city. When you eventually left Mutare Remand Prison you described your incarceration as a harrowing experience. Talk us through what you went through Roy.
Bennett: Lance it was most horrific. I don’t even like to think about it. When I left prison I did everything in my power to have an expose, for that to be highlighted and to be seen – and it was and as a result of that you had the International Red Cross Doctors Without Borders get involved in the prisons and help but it’s still, you cannot help a system that through its ministry and the Minister of Injustice, Patrick Chinamasa, who one day has to face what he has put the prisoners in this country through – how can you arrest and incarcerate people under such conditions?
If you haven’t got the means to protect people that are under government custody it’s terrible. You know the conditions are overcrowded, the food is non-existent, a lot of the food because the conditions for the prison wardens and the prison officers are so bad that a lot of that food is sold outside of the prison and doesn’t reach the prisoners.
You know it is absolutely horrific those conditions and I’m sure that they remain the same, I’m sure the overcrowding is still there and what is needed is good governance and it’s needed a fiscus that can support the ministries and put prisons there that are prisons where people go in there, they have dignity and they have a chance to reflect and reform. The way prisons are there now you turn people into animals in those conditions.
Guma: You also talked about five people having died while you were there and their bodies being collected after four, five days.
Bennett: Absolutely, well you see at that stage it was the time of the hyper-inflation, the government was totally defunct. ZANU PF forget that they had completely destroyed the country so prisoners were getting a basis of one meal a day based on a hand sized plate of a bit of sadza and water really and things like HIV develop into full blown Aids and many of the people were suffering with full blown Aids and it was actually six that died in the 40 days that I was there.
The government didn’t even have the fuel to send vehicles to come and fetch the bodies from the prison to take it to the mortuary. They didn’t have fuel – I sat there, in that time, and in two weeks nobody went to court. They didn’t even have a vehicle to take the people who were on remand, some of them on charges they should have been released, they couldn’t even take the people to court because they didn’t have a vehicle and that went on for the whole of 2008 and it must have been mirrored all round the country.
So the pain and suffering that that ministry caused to people that should have been released because you can’t look after somebody in prison – why kill them there? Why put them under conditions where they starve to death and there’s not the medical support or the support for those people.
So it’s very close to my heart Lance and it’s very, very painful to remember it and to go through it and it’s certainly something that when we achieve a free Zimbabwe under an MDC government that I will certainly put the biggest of my efforts to help assist and make conditions in those prisons become humanitarian and at least somebody is treated like a person and not like an animal.
Guma: Do you think part of the problem is a general, is it a lack of political will or just a general assumption that oh well these are prisoners, they are bad people, who gives a damn about their welfare?
Bennett: Exactly, that’s exactly what it is. It’s not just about that, it’s the ZANU PF culture and mentality – they do not give a damn about the people of Zimbabwe. The whole legacy that ZANU PF was supposed to stand for, and it was very interesting to see Edgar Tekere’s comments recently about all that they had fought for in the liberation struggle has been sacrificed for nothing because there’s no ways that they would fight for what is there in Zimbabwe today and it is that whole culture of don’t care about people, the chefs is all that matters, the chefs’ welfare, money, ten cars, big houses, kids overseas at the most lavish schools and to pay for it at the will and expense of the people.
Guma: Now when you left remand prison in 2009 you went straight to Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s rural home to pay your respects following the death of his wife Susan. Elizabeth texting from Masvingo is interested to get your views on that car crash that killed Mai Tsvangirai and whether you think it was a genuine accident.
Bennett: I personally am not in government and I fully understand President Tsvangirai’s hurt and sorrow but I honestly believe those people planned that and executed that, myself personally that’s what I believe.
I don’t believe it was an accident, it was just too opportune for me to have been an accident. The people involved, the fact that the CIO were involved in escorting our president – I think those people – that’s what they do, that’s what they understand, that’s what they’re good at, that’s what they live by, is intimidation, violence, killing, fear – all the bad things.
Guma: Was there a lot of pressure on your party to handle this matter delicately given we were just going towards a transitional period where people were trying to get the two parties together in a coalition government?
Bennett: Absolutely Lance. If you look at what President Tsvangirai has sacrificed on personal capital, political capital, his own feelings, it’s absolutely, it’s none other than total commitment to the country and the people of Zimbabwe and yes, there is a lot of that, it’s to try and make something work and so therefore you have to make sacrifices and President Tsvangirai is that kind of man.
He’s made those sacrifices, he’s made those sacrifices personally and for politically for the people of Zimbabwe, but they understand Lance. Everybody knows, people are not stupid, the average man in the street – don’t ever take him for granted – he knows exactly what the situation is. And all ZANU PF are and continually do is score their own goals.
Guma: And our final question for you Roy, just out of interest – you were someone the Chimanimani community took to heart, very loved in the constituency, you have since of course been displaced by the regime from that particular part of the country – are you still in touch with people back there?
Bennett: Most definitely Lance on a daily basis just about. I speak to people there, you know the current, the new elections, the new chairman, I speak to the youth chairman, I speak to the organising secretary on a regular basis.
Not two or three days go by that I don’t chat to them and understand what’s going on in the area and they’re the ones that call me, they give me comfort, they reassure me that I’ll be home soon and you know Lance (speaks in shona).
Ndombo taura ne Shona, ndokuti zvinyaso kunzwika. Kwataka ronga zvinhu izvi, tirivanhu veku Chimanimani, patakanyatso kubatana. Nguva yandakamirira Zanu PF, Zanu PF ikati rasa. Pa pasina MDC. Saka patakaenda kunotsvaga veMDC tichitaura navo, tichizovapa rudo kuti tinoda kushanda nemi, isusu pachedu takapanachisungo.
Vanhu veku Chimanimani, ndakavaudza kuti munotozviziva kwatiriukuenda uko kwakaoma. Zanu inotozikanwa. Hapana asinga zive Zanu nemamirire e Zanu. Saka imi kana mune chokwadi kuti mucha mira, ininiwo ndinomira. Ngatipane chisungo kuti hatisiyane. Saka nhasi na nhasi chisungo chiripo.
Hatisati tambo regedzana, ende ndineshuwa hatimboregedzana. Ticharamba tichishanda tese, tozosumudza nzvimbo yedu, tozonyatso pinza chokwadi, runyararo, upfumi mubudiriro yedu.
Translation: I used to represent Zanu PF and then they deserted the people. Back then there was no MDC. We formed MDC structures by looking for people, giving them love and building up a commitment with them that I will always be there for them.
I told the people of Chimanimani that the road we would travel would be hard. Zanu PF is known for its repression. I will continue to work with the people of Chimanimani and bring truth, peace and prosperity in its development.
Guma: And is this where the name Pachedu comes from?
Bennett: I don’t know, I’m not sure Lance, possibly.
Guma: Well Zimbabwe that’s MDC Treasurer General Roy Bennett joining us for the part two final segment of the Question Time programme where he was joining us and taking your questions. Roy thank you so much for being our guest.
Bennett: Pleasure Lance, thank you very much and thanks to the people of Zimbabwe, be strong, we’ll get there soon.
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