White Zimbabwean takes a stand
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Bennett later says he believes white farmers are making the situation worse and conferring legitimacy on the farm invaders by engaging in endless rounds of talks. "If the good people sit by and watch evil prevail, we are going nowhere. I am committed.... I realize the implications.... I realize the danger. I believe righteousness will always overrule evil," he says. "The people of Zimbabwe are being suppressed by a very, very evil regime."Skip to next paragraph
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Although the government official Ndzama and the veterans assured him in the presence of journalists that he could return to his farm, the next day they refused to allow Bennett to remove personal possessions and farm implements.
FOR now, Bennett can only wait until the June election. He believes he can win, despite his race, because he has already campaigned extensively and has long maintained close relations with the community.
When Bennett moved to Chimanimani, he presented himself to the local chiefs as a subject and has worked hard to maintain relations. He built and runs a school and medical clinic on his property. He used his buying power to run discount grocery and sundry shops in the neighboring communal land and sells excess milk to workers and neighbors at one-eighth the retail price.
For refusing to condemn him, Bennett's nurse and store manager have both been beaten since Bennett's confrontation. But he argues that many Zimbabwean whites have not made much effort to interact with the black population. "The people who stay here have to get involved and know the people," he says.
"Politics here is a little bit dangerous," says one man randomly stopped on the road. "But we are expecting Mr. Bennett to be our MP here. He is here for development. We were attacked by the cyclone here and he helped rebuild our roads and bridges. We love him."
"We do love him," chimes in Trynos Makado, an unemployed man. "We have seen some threats by ZANU-PF, but we can't do anything because they are armed and we can't fight them with stones. Guys from Harare are coming here to cause trouble with the CIO guys. They are saying 'If you want, we can give you land. If you don't vote for us we will kill you.' "
As Bennett drove to his meeting, he sped past a lumber truck. A worker in the vehicle extended his hand to Bennett in the open-hand MDC salute. Minutes later another group walking from the saw mill raised their hands in the same salute.
Less bold were some others Bennett passed outside a shack where men carve wooden chairs and assemble iron burglar bars. A few workers looked around and whispered a refusal to discuss Bennett. "In politics you can die," one man says. "We are very worried.... Pachedu is all right. He was the person who was sending some lorries to people in the communal areas, giving some work on his farm," says a man grinding iron fittings who refused to offer his name.
Can Bennett win? "Yes of course," he adds. "When the cyclone came, he was the first person to send his trucks to clear the roads.... People are afraid to talk about politics. Myself, I will have to vote, otherwise there is no way out."
If voters share that affection for Bennett, he could become the first white MP elected here since Zimbabwe scrapped the 20 seats guaranteed to whites. "I am not going to be intimidated...." Bennett says. "If I lose my life to it, so be it. For my children to have a life in this country, someone has to make a stand," he vows.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society