Zimbabwean politician Roy Bennett dies in US helicopter crash
Opposition leaders mourn the loss of 'a gallant son who wanted to see a new Zimbabwe'
Founding Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) treasurer Roy Bennett and his wife‚ Heather‚ died on Thursday in a helicopter crash in the US.
The crash took place in a remote region of New Mexico.
News of the death started filtering through on social media as his colleagues in opposition circles confirmed the former Chimanimani member of parliament’s death.
MDC-T vice-president Nelson Chamisa said that the opposition had lost a gallant son who wanted to see a new Zimbabwe.
"He was a true democrat and really wanted to see the push for a free Zimbabwe‚" he said.
People’s Democratic Party leader Tendai Biti took to social media to express his dismay.
"What a blow to our struggle. I can’t believe I will never speak to you again‚ Badze‚" he said‚ using one of Bennett’s nicknames.
A friend in political circles‚ David Coltart‚ described the Bennetts as "two of Zimbabwe’s greatest patriots".
Zimbabwean senator and former minister David Coltart confirmed the Bennetts' deaths.
I have just confirmed from three separate reliable sources that Roy and Heather Bennett have been tragically killed in a helicopter accident in North America. I am devastated- they were two of Zimbabwe’s greatest patriots. My condolences are extended to their family & friends.— David Coltart (@DavidColtart) January 18, 2018
Bennett was based in South Africa under political asylum‚ which was granted in 2007.
During his time in exile‚ he played a role in activism for Zimbabwe‚ and particularly the MDC.
In 2006 he became the treasurer general for the mainstream faction of the MDC‚ led by Morgan Tsvangirai. He was also their spokesman in South Africa and did regular interviews on behalf of the MDC.
He returned to Zimbabwe in 2009‚ and Tsvangirai wanted him as deputy agriculture minister, but former president Robert Mugabe refused to swear him in.
He was later rearrested for treason‚ but was subsequently released. Afterwards‚ he left Zimbabwe for South Africa and never returned.