An ex-policeman's lot - harassment, fear, torture
One man's journey from official lawman to hunted fugitive
I wondered what had happened to Joe. I'd known him for years, first when he was a member of the Zimbabwean police, then early this year when, after 15 years as a police officer, he became a civilian again. Joe had left the force for the usual reasons - low pay, wanting to better himself, etc. Then suddenly he disappeared from view, and no-one knew where he was.
This week, during a quick visit to Johannesburg, and quite by chance, I met Joe again. I naturally asked him where he had been, and why he was now apparently in exile in South Africa. This is his story.
"When I left the police I thought everything was okay...then, at the beginning of April, when Mugabe had just lost the March 29 election, I realised that I was being watched. Strange men began appearing at my house at all hours of the day and night, demanding to know where I had been, who I had visited. They interrogated my friends, my neighbours, even my little six-year-old girl.
"Several times I was taken to different police stations in Bulawayo, and accused of a variety of crimes - selling police information to the MDC, being an opposition spy, having contact with the foreign press, that sort of thing. Sometimes I was there for hours. It was frightening. And then it got much worse.
"One night I was at my home in Pumula, Bulawayo. It was two in the morning. Some men arrived, saying I was to go with them to Pumula police station. But as we left I was blindfolded, and instead of going to the police station, I was driven out of town to some rough land.
"There my hands and feet were tied, I was soaked with water, and my captors demanded to know the names of the MDC people who had recruited me, how much I was paid, who were my fellow traitors, and similar questions. I could tell them nothing for I have never ever had any contact with the MDC.
"They didn't listen to my denials. Instead they beat me with batons, and used a pair of pliers to torture me, until I passed out.
"I was rescued by two people who were looking for firewood. They untied me and took me to a private clinic in town. As soon as I was well enough to travel, I collected my wife and daughter, and we all managed to reach South Africa. It will be a long time before I go back."
Joe's story tell us this much - the Zimbabwe police service is like that famous hotel in California. You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.