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After prison ordeal, Zimbabwean MP says: "my faith kept me alive"

 The former Zimbabwean opposition MP and human right activist, Roy Bennett, said his faith in God help him survive his nine months in prison. Released on Tuesday, four months early for good behaviour, he said he was happy to be reunited with his family and friends but very concerned about the people he was leaving behind in prison. Zimbabwe's prisons are among the worst in the world, he said. The toilet systems are not maintained, the food is terrible, prisoners live in hunger and as from this Monday, prisoners will have just one meal a day. Bennett said: "Prisoners are constantly dehumanised, beaten, forced to squat on their haunches all the time. They are physically and verbally abused and it is very degrading. He said the prisons are overcrowded. In most cases cells designed for eight people have 20 and prisoners have one blanket each. He said he was deliberately singled out by prison officers and the orders came from higher authorities. He was denied food and proper clothing. He was also given clothes covered with human excrement and lice. But he received a lot of help and protection from the inmates. Bennett said he was treated like royalty by the other prisoners because they said he was suffering for them. At one point some inmates went on a hunger strike when Bennett was denied food and only stopped after he was fed. Bennett said he was transferred to rural Mutoko prison from Harare after the authorities found out he was secretly helping inmates get money for their bail and to pay fines, in order to get out of prison. Roy Bennett said his faith in God made him pull through. He admitted feeling lonely and sometimes crying, as he felt at times that he had been forgotten. But he got strength by reading the Bible. He said he harbours no resentment or bad feelings towards the people that put him in prison: "I actually feel sorry for them. I pray that they find time to get on their knees and ask for forgiveness for the atrocities and the hardships that they have caused the people of Zimbabwe. I feel nothing but sorrow for them. You cannot, through hate and vengeance, reduce people to nothing by destroying their homes." He added: "When I see Patrick Chinamasa (Justice Minister) and see the hate in his eyes, I feel very sorry for him." Bennett said that although he doesn't have his seat in parliament (because the election was rugged) and has lost his farm, he will never stop fighting for human rights, righteousness and justice. He pledged to stand by the people in his Chimanimani constituency He had made a pact with them, he said, and would stand by them as they had they stood by him. " It is so humbling how these people have stood so strong despite the abuses and the rapes. I have great admiration and love for them and will continue to fight for their rights and a better life for them as long as I have breath left in me and as long as they want me to do it. I am not worried about death and those people matter more to me than anything and all they need is a chance at a better life." Source: ZW News/ZT