Bennett, who has been charged with possessing arms for the purpose of criminal activity, terrorism and inciting acts of insurgency, had been out on bail since March.
Bennett was released on Oct. 16 pending the beginning of his trial, which was initially scheduled to begin on Oct. 19 but has been postponed. Bennett, a white coffee farmer whose business was taken over through the Zimbabwe land reform program, had been recommended by the MDC-T prime minister to be appointed deputy agricultural minister.
As a result of Bennett’s arrest, the MDC-T leader and prime minister in the government, Morgan Tsvangirai, has suspended his party’s participation in cabinet meetings with the party of President Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
The arrest of Bennett has drawn a sharp response from the Obama administration, which immediately issued a statement criticizing President Mugabe. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, “The U.S. has called for Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe to stop ‘harassing’ his rivals, a day after a senior politician was imprisoned.” (Oct. 15)
These developments are taking place in the aftermath of U.S. Senate Sub-Committee on African Affairs hearings held on Sept. 30. U.S. Agency for International Development’s acting assistant administrator for Africa, Earl Gast, submitted a paper on Zimbabwe at the hearings that was highly critical of President Mugabe and the ZANU-PF party.
In addition to funding MDC-T, the U.S. is also calling for new elections in Zimbabwe, despite the fact that general elections were held in 2008, which resulted in the victory of the ZANU-PF party. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson has openly admitted that the administration is funding the MDC-T exclusively, even though Prime Minister Tsvangirai had joined the Zimbabwe government in February. (Sunday Mail, Oct. 18)
Roy Bennett and the class forces he represents
Although the MDC-T has joined with ZANU-PF in an inclusive government, the Western-backed party is continuing to pursue the foreign policy objectives of the United States and Britain. Since the implementation of the land reform process in Zimbabwe, the Western imperialist states have sought the removal of President Mugabe and the ZANU-PF party.
As a result of the legacy of colonialism, the British controlled most of the arable land in Zimbabwe. Colonialism took control of the Southern African nation during the late 19th century resulting in the large-scale displacement of the majority African population. Africans resisted the imposition of colonialism in a series of uprisings during the 1890s that were led by both the Mashona and Ndebele peoples of the region.
After the consolidation of British colonial rule, the African population was relegated to servitude and landlessness. Their traditional cultures were disregarded, and any opposition to the colonial system was met with imprisonment and death. The colony was named after racist settler Cecil Rhodes, who through military suppression and slavelike conditions in the mining industry, turned Rhodesia into one of the most prosperous holdings for British imperialism.
With the rise of the African independence movements in the aftermath of World War II, the entire region of the subcontinent witnessed the formation of mass organizations and popular struggles. When the nonviolent resistance campaigns failed to make significant gains during the 1950s and early 1960s, the Zimbabwe masses began to form guerrilla armies to fight for the end of settler-colonialism.
In 1965, after pressure from the African masses, the Organization of African Unity and the international community escalated against the British settlers in Zimbabwe, the whites proclaimed a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, formally breaking with the colonial rulers in London.
Weak sanctions leveled against Rhodesia after 1965 failed to force the Rhodesians to negotiate a political settlement with representatives of the African people. In 1966 an armed struggle erupted that lasted until late 1979 when the white settlers realized that if they did not negotiate, the liberation movements would win an outright military victory. Both the Zimbabwe African People’s Union and the Zimbabwe African National Union formed an alliance under the banner of the Patriot Front. When the negotiations took place at Lancaster House in Britain during late 1979, Britain and the United States agreed to compensate the white settlers for the purported value of their land holdings in Zimbabwe over a 10-year period.
A settlement was reached that led to nonracial elections and the rise to power of both ZANU and ZAPU in April 1980. Twenty percent of parliamentary seats were reserved for whites for 10 years, and the land question was supposed to be settled during the first decade of national independence.
According to Obi Egbuna, the U.S. correspondent for the Zimbabwe Herald newspaper, who appeared on the “Fighting for Justice” radio program aired in Detroit on Oct. 18: “When Reagan came into office in 1981 he declared that the U.S. would not honor the Lancaster House Agreements related to the land question. Margaret Thatcher of Britain did likewise.” Egbuna went on to say, “John Major of the U.K. attempted to adhere to the agreement. However, when Tony Blair came into office, he said that he would not honor the land agreement. “After waiting for two decades, the Zimbabwe government instituted the land reform process relocating over 300,000 families to the land that was taken from their forbearers over a century before,” continued Egbuna. He also pointed out that most members of the U.S. Congress voted in favor of sanctions against Zimbabwe. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus either voted in favor of sanctions or abstained.
The Movement for Democratic Change was formed in Zimbabwe in order to contest the parliamentary elections in 2000. The party is financed and supported by the white settlers and governments in the industrialized West. The funding of the MDC by the Obama administration represents a continuation of the same policy that has been enacted over the last decade. Roy Bennett, representing the displaced white settlers, has been placed as the principal financial officer of the MDC-T. Therefore he is responsible for handling and managing the funds given to the MDC-T from white settlers and the imperialist interests seeking regime change in Zimbabwe.
He was elected to parliament as a representative of the MDC. In 2004 he was arrested and jailed for pushing a government minister in the Zimbabwe parliament. The most serious charges against him stemmed from a plot to assassinate President Mugabe in 2006.
According to the Zimbabwe Herald, “[Bennett] is facing charges of allegedly giving money between 2002 and March 2006 to buy 26 grenades, two signal smoke hand flares, 12 rifles and other weapons. After that, the State alleges, Bennett is accused of inciting a Mr. Hitschmann to use the weapons to knock down a microwave link situated at a [small hill] along Melfort-Bromley Loop Road. It is alleged Mr. Hitschmann used cellphone disabling devices to block cellphone signals and to detonate anti-riot water cannon trucks used by police.” (Oct. 19)
Bennett fled to South Africa in 2006, saying that his life was endangered by the Zimbabwe government. He sought asylum there in 2007. He returned to Zimbabwe in February 2009 after the formation of the inclusive government.
The people of Zimbabwe have a right to their land and to control the natural resources and national economy of the country. Anti-imperialist forces in the United States must demand that the Obama administration cease its interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe.
Go to panafricannews.blogspot.com.