By Sij Ncube
Harare, MAY 12, 2016 – AWARD winning peace and human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko, says it is hard to believe there are citizens that go to work to inflict physical pain on other citizens in desperate attempts to perpetuate President Robert Mugabe’s rule.
In her no-holds barred memoirs titled, “The abduction and trial of Jestina Mukoko” released last week, Mukoko, who is Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) director and a former broadcaster with the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, reveals her shocking abduction, physical and psychological torture bynameless members of Mugabe’s secret police.
She describes in detail her dastard brutalisation by state security after she was abducted from her Norton home before being heldincommunicado for more than three weeks.
Mukoko states that if she is to heal completely, she wants to know from the perpetrators why she was abducted.
In the 113-page book, which is in high demand in the country’s civil society and opposition circles, Mukoko reveals that she was threatened with death on trumped up charges of allegedly plotting against Mugabe’s government by agents, some of who appeared to have not bathed for a number of days while others came to torture her drinking and brandishing bottles of “Eagle” lager, a cheap beer brand which was popular during shortages of beer in 2008.
Mukoko graphically chronicles how at the crack of dawn on 3 December 2008, she was abducted from her Norton home and bundled into a grey Mazda Familia in her pyjamas before being driven away in break-neck speed in which “music was so loud that it could have ruptured an ear-drum”
“My fellow passengers (abductors) hardly spoke for much of the journey. The journey was one of the worst I have ever endured,” shewrites in her book in which she exposes the brutality and callousness of Mugabe’s security agents.
“Indecently dressed as I was, still in my night clothes, I feared being raped.”
She dramatically documents what happened to her between December 2003 and her appearance in court on Christmas Eve but it is her brutal torture she suffered at the hands of overzealous state security agents which sends shivers down the spines, exposing the cruelty of men and women charged to forcibly keep and maintain Mugabe.
All the time while she was being held incommunicado, she says she was blind-folded and constantly threatened with death as state security agents sought to link her to the MDC-T political machinations and alleged trumped-up charges of banditry activities and money laundering.
Beaten under the sole of her feet with a truncheon which was alternated with a rubber hose coiled with wire, Mukoko vividly remembers her first torture and the pain: “Initially I screamed as the pain intensified, but realising that in doing so, I was giving them satisfaction, I decided to endure the pain in silence. Instead of flowing out, the tears and screaming strung the same body that was trying to release them.”
She recalls during one of her torture sessions she cringed, winced and twitched “before the weapons reached the soles of my feet.”
Mukoko says she at times actually heard the breathing of her “tormentors” referring to the CIO agents that brutalised her as she was held in a secret location suspected to be in one of the low density suburbs in Harare until she was surrendered to the police just before Christmas of 2008.
“It is not the idea of being arrested that I fear if the arrest is justified but I fear the most conditions of the detention centres,” she writes.
After being surrendered to the Braeside Police Station, Mukoko, was later held at the infamous Matapi Police Station in Mbare which was condemned as unfit for human habitation.
She describes her torturers mostly men as scary and mean-looking, with menacing eyes which she says intensified her fears, adding that “if looks could kill, I would have died instantly”.
The ZPP director further records the CIO agents threatening her with death after she repeatedly denied working with MDC-T and knowing some of the people whose names the torturers asked her to identify.
She quotes one agent she refers as the Boss, saying to her, “You have to follow what we want to hear or you go extinct. There are several others buried around here. No one will find you even if they try, so you might as well tell us tell what we want. There are two options, either become state witness or go extinct. It is your choice”.
One other operative crudely remarked to her as they tried to elicit information from her: “You will defecate, Jestina, when we are done with you”.
She says she could not believe such words would come from a grown man.
A few days after this particular interrogation, she claims she realised people digging behind the interrogation room “and my mind resolved that it was my grave being dug. I can’t believe the people leave homes to go to work where their business is to inflict pain on others”.
“At that moment, I made an undertaking to myself that I would try to fend off sleep so that if I was killed I would have the opportunity tolook into the eyes of my killer.
Another day during her ordeal, one of the operatives made her kneel on moulds gravel on a hard floor.
The pain was intense, numbing, I drifted out my own body.
“The interrogation went on for two hours and the pain was unbearable, the small stones kept pushing up bruising the hard skin of my knees,” she says.
Elinor Sisulu, a human rights campaigner, says Mukoko’s story is powerful and poignant, “I can imagine what it cost Jestina to revisit the most traumatic period of her life. Not only is her story powerful personal narrative, it is also a very important piece of social and political history”.