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Roy Bennett released from Zimbabwe jail, Susan Tsvangirai is mourned

Good news from Zimbabwe. Yes, good news.

Opposition leader Roy Bennett was freed from jail today, after spending a month in the cell  under reportedly terrible conditions.

Bennett is the most prominent white member of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Bennett, 52, is a burly, plain talking farmer who is wildly popular with Zimbabwe’s blacks for his fluent Shona and his earthy outlook.

Bennett was charged two years ago with illegally purchasing arms to be used to disrupt the government. He left the country then, but was jailed last month when he returned to be a member of the new government.

Bennett’s black supporters maintained a vigil by his jail cell to show their support. A thinner and somber Bennett emerged from the jail in the eastern city of Mutare. He charged that the conditions there are inhumane.

Bennett said he and the other prisoners got one meal a day of corn meal and salty water. He said that five people died in the cells while he was there and, in some cases, it took days for their corpses to be removed.

Bennett has been appointed to the new government as deputy minister of agriculture. He is a stalwart supporter and trusted deputy to Morgan Tsvangirai and should be able to bolster the new prime minister, who is grieving the death one week ago of his wife in a car accident.

Some 30,000 people attended the memorial service for Susan Tsvangirai in Harare yesterday. Her burial, in rural Buhera, was also attended by thousands. Barefoot peasants rubbed shoulders with diplomats, in a moving testimony to the broad alliance of people who wish Morgan Tsvangirai the best in navigating a way to take Zimbabwe out of its current crisis.

Many people are suspicious of the traffic accident that killed Susan Tsvangirai. A number of Mugabe’s challengers have died in suspicious car accidents and Zimbabweans can rattle off the names  — Josiah Tongogara, Sydney Malunga, Christopher Ushewokunze, Peter Pamire, Border Gezi, Elliot Manyika. The suspicions are so great that Tsvangirai said the MDC would hold its own investigation into the accident, but he said he believed it was an accident.

There is no question that Zimbabwe’s roads are dangerous.

An MDC official, Francis Muswere, was killed in a car accident as he was returning from Susan Tsvangirai’s burial, according to an e-mail sent out by Nelson Chamisa, the MDC spokesman and the new minister of information and technology. Chamisa writes that in a separate accident, several MDC supporters returning from the burial were injured in a bus accident at the same spot where Tsvangirai’s accident occurred.