NEWS
19/01/2018 07:00 SAST | Updated 19/01/2018 07:15 SAST

Zimbabwean Opposition Politician Roy Bennett Dies In Helicopter Crash

It is believed that Bennett was visiting his doctor in the US at the time.

Roy Bennett.
Philimon Bulawayo / Reuters
Roy Bennett.

Zimbabwean opposition politician Roy Bennett was killed in a helicopter crash on Wednesday evening in New Mexico, in the U.S., News24 reported.

New Mexico police reportedly confirmed the crash, which killed Bennett's wife and five others, on Thursday. Obert Gutu, a spokesperson for the opposition party MDC-T reportedly described Bennett's death as tragic.

Opposition politician, former Zimbabwean minister and human rights lawyer David Coldart was one of the first to confirm Bennett's death.

Bennett was the founding treasurer of the MDC-T, according to Business Day. He was reportedly granted political asylum in South Africa in 2007 and returned to Zimbabwe in 2009, when MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai offered him the post of deputy agriculture minister under the coalition government, but Robert Mugabe reportedly refused to swear him in.

He was arrested for treason and was later released, but left Zimbabwe for South Africa and did not return.

BBC News reported that Bennett was a former white farmer who entered politics in 2000. Gutu reportedly described him as a charismatic leader who was extremely popular at grassroots level.

Bennett was in the U.S. visiting a friend, Charles Burnett, who helped Bennett after he found out he had cancer after fleeing Zimbabwe, according to IOL. Bennett was in the U.S. for his annual check-up.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reportedly said the helicopter crash occurred in a remote, mountainous area at about 6pm on Wednesday evening. It was not clear where the helicopter was headed at the time.

Bennett was reportedly convicted of attacking a Zanu-PF minister, Patrick Chinamasa in Parliament and famously spent time in a remote prison where he was often deprived of food. He lived in Zimbabwe at the time of his death.