Students, staff and Des Moines residents gathered in Sheslow Auditorium last Wednesday to hear a speech called “The Struggle for Democracy in Zimbabwe.”
Roy Bennett is Zimbabwe’s current deputy minister of agriculture and has been a part of the country’s democratic movement almost since the beginning. Bennett was elected into a parliamentary seat as a part of the Movement for Democratic Change party and held that seat for four years. Previously, he was a coffee farmer fighting for change in his country.
“The words democracy and Zimbabwe have always been inexplicably linked by struggle,” he said. “We have never enjoyed or experienced democracy in any small amount.”
His speech focused not only on the struggles of Zimbabwe as a whole, but on his personal struggles as well. He was in jail and was physically assaulted for his peaceful protests several times. In jail, he and others were treated like animals.The main form of torture Lack of nutrition.
“Six of my fellow inmates died of starvation during my 40-day stay in that prison,” he said.
Because of his tenacity against the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front party, Bennett spent several years in exile for terrorism against the government. The peaceful model for freedom had yet to gain success until a surprise victory came in 2008. Bennett was still in exile at the time, but the MDC party had won.
“We do not look for a permanent end to the struggle,” Bennett said. “When we look forward, we look back. I see the need for justice. What we have must be protected. What we don’t have must be built.”
Bennett then showed the crowd a video called “A Lament for the People of Zimbabwe,” containing photos of those people in Zimbabwe who have been beaten and maimed by the ZANU-PF party.
Following the video, the floor was opened up for a question and answer session. Bennett was asked how he keeps his hope for the future alive.
“When you are beaten and tortured, when people insult you and curse you, something deep down inside you says ‘you can’t give up,’” Bennett said. “One day history will definitely expose and tell the truth of what happened.”
Bennett’s speech was the sixth in a string of 14 speeches for the Fall 2011 Speaker and Film Series presented by the Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship. David Skidmore, professor of politics and international relations and director of the Center for Global Citizenship, has organized the series.
The next speech in the series is today at 7:30 p.m. in Bulldog Theater. The speech is entitled “Combating Terrorism: Lessons Learned” and will be presented by Brian Fishman.