An interview with one of the recently released detainees arrested for attending a meeting organised by the International Socialist Organisation.
What were you thinking when you were arrested?
I came to the conclusion that the government is in a state of panic. [With] the events that are taking place in North Africa, they wouldn’t want such a situation here in Zimbabwe.Were you prepared to be arrested?
It’s not the first time I’ve been arrested, but honestly speaking I was not prepared to be detained at this particular juncture. I knew the implications of such activities here in Zimbabwe. I knew that ZANU PF is in a state of panic, recollecting previous activities, the demonstrations in February which were stage managed just to send a message that ‘if you dare try to do this, the state will deal with your decisively’. I knew where such activities would take me. But I was not ready. I was not prepared for now. But we had to face reality because we needed to discuss such issues from an intellectual point of view and then map a way forward.
What were the conditions like in remand?
They were quite bad. Imagine a situation where about 400 inmates are forced to stay together in a closed space, there is a higher probability of diseases spreading from one person to another and also the place is infested with lice. The one thing I liked was that some of the treatment we got from the security people was sympathetic.
Earlier you mentioned that among those of you who were arrested you formed a bond. Can you tell me more about and how that helped you through you detention?
I met some of the detainees for the first time at the meeting, and then going through such a situation together, naturally a bond is formed, a bond of solidarity. Let’s say one is badly affected by the situation, and someone else is not so badly affected, they will help and encourage each other. By the second week we were much more united, we could now discuss our social lives, our families and so forth. We spent a lot of time together getting to know one another.
What was your reaction to the surprise charge of treason?
I was very surprised to hear the prosecutor announcing that we were facing treason charges. At the police station (when we were arrested), we were made to understand that we were facing a charge of subverting a constitutional government and the state was struggling, through the police, to justify that charge on us. We had thought they would drop that charge and probably use POSA: unlawful gathering because there was no substantial evidence. On the first day when we going to court we first had to go to the Attorney General, who told the police that they lacked evidence to support the charge of subversion. We were convinced that they would drop that charge and use a lesser one. In court when we heard the prosecutor give the charge of treason we were shocked. Some of the detainees actually [lost control of themselves] on our way back to remand. The sentence associated with treason, a whole life in prison or death, it broke a lot of peoples’ spirits, to think that they could no longer envision a future for themselves.
How did you feel when the judge dismissed the charges against you?
I was happy I was being released. But as a comrade who had fought for many years with some people who are still in custody I had some solidarity with them. I had thought that we would be together until the end of this thing. Politically, my conscience tells me that I need to be with them.
What was the effect of your detention on your family?
I am not formally married, but I have a young daughter. I want to thank those who donated things that went to them. The issue is more psychological than economic; they were being given some money to sustain them while I was detained. That psychological trauma of missing a person in your family, I think that played a critical role, they were affected by my absence. My daughter didn’t know I was detained. The day I left we told her I was going to Mutare, so up until Monday, she thought I was still in Mutare.
In the long term has this detention strengthened your resolve?
This does not change anything in terms of my determination for the struggle. Rather I consider it a college. This is the first time I’ve been detained for such a long period of time, I consider it a lesson, that sometimes the state can be very brutal to you if you are a threat to them. Next time we need to change tactics. We don’t need to always be in jail, there are good and bad tactics with repercussions. But we can’t just leave it like it is now.