My ordeal at the hands of Zim border guards

Tears flowed as I sat in a chair, their eyes like the cameras of the Big Brother Africa house all on me.

Partly cloudy and hot as it was, I could feel a chill running through my body as goose pimples roughened my skin like that of a gecko. Saliva dried as I fumbled for words and mumbled a 'no' amid prayers that this could just be one of those dreams where you wake up, pinch yourself and find that everything is not real.
But that was just the beginning of my ordeal at the hands of my Zimbabwean brothers and sisters at the border gate.
Another policeman, one of the four men in plain clothes, came forward, bent over and ridiculed me for "wasting" my tears. He whispered that I was going to be kept in a cell until I appeared in court on Wednesday. No sooner had he finished speaking than another burst out laughing, stating that had the CNN cameraman been present I would have made a wonderful picture.
I wondered where Botho, one of the aspects that once uplifted Zimbabwe to the status of being jewel of Africa had gone to. This is the country in which I proudly acquired my education years back. After 15-years of schooling there it prepared me for a career in journalism. But today I have become an enemy of the country, a suspect and a spy and I learnt - with shock - from the border sentries that every foreign journalist entering Zimbabwe is supposed to apply in advance.
It is Sunday morning and we are exiting through the Plumtree border gate on our way back to Botswana. Instead of demanding to see our boarding passes, a woman security guard instructs us to file out of the combi, passports and bags in hand. A search is performed and the queue snakes forward until it is my turn. I am told to stand aside.
Heart beating and knees turning to jelly I left the queue as inquisitive eyes followed me. Little did I know that the camouflage pants that I wore were prohibited in Zimbabwe. Search over I am asked if there is anything that I have left inside the combi. I'm also informed that I am under arrest.
"Madam, wearing a camouflage, or any material similar in colour to that of the army uniform, is a serious offence. Its penalty is similar to that of manslaughter.  We are going to keep you here until you are taken to the police." Silently I lifted my eyes and looked in the direction of Botswana, which is less than a kilometre from where I stood. I thought of the democracy that prevails here. I thought of the kgotla system where communities, unlike in any other state in Southern Africa, present their problems before their head of state and consult with the president without hindrance.
There is still freedom of speech here, gape mmualebe o bua la gagwe. I visualised my brothers and sisters whose love and marvel for the army has seen them in shops buying camouflages and parading in streets without anyone pointing a finger at them. Had it been Zimbabwe would journalists have been allowed the opportunity to mingle with the army during activities like the Matsubutsubu and the Airborne Africa?
"Woman, I'm speaking to you," a police officer in civilian clothes shouts as I jump from my wonderland and pay attention.
The female police officer, who is busy searching my handbag, has apparently handed him my passport and told others that I am a journalist; so I'm being asked whether I had applied for permission to practise in Zimbabwe. She has also discovered that I have a digital camera and she is scrolling through the pictures that I took. 
Amongst the pictures, there is that of a Dzoroga man who died on the spot after a car accident that happened on Saturday near the Nata Sanctuary. His son was also depicted in the picture with blood gushing out of his mouth and nostrils.
My narration of the story could not be believed because the car that they had been travelling in was not in the picture. "Isn't it one of our journalistic code of ethics that when we come across accidents we should assist the victims first before taking pictures? We had removed the victims from the car and laid them far away from the vehicle as we waited for the police to arrive.
But now the police suspect that I may have  entered Zimbabwe and joined forces with opposition party leader Morgan Tsvangirai's people to kill and maim. I could be an agent of the foreign media and that I took the picture so that I could write a negative story about Zimbabwe and sell it to them.  
Tears still flowing, I beg for forgiveness and tell them that I am not aware of the laws of the country since I am only a visitor. I'm told that "ignorance (of the law) is no defence".
After hours of being confined at the border post I am taken to Plumtree Police Station where further interrogation takes place. I have nothing to say because I entered Zimbabwe not as a commissioned spy but to pay school fees for an adopted son that attends school there.
Another suspicion arises from the money found in my handbag. I have P5,700. According to the charge, I got the money from my "secret bosses" so that I could easily perform my duties.
Faces crossed, they tell me that time for jokes is over. I'm ordered to sit on a chair and put my fingers on electric wires that are plugged into a socket. They switch on the machine and the current chokes, sending me thundering to the floor on my back. The torture is repeated.
"Tell us who your bosses are," I hear them say amid pain and numbness that flows from my hand down to the left side of my body. I feel as if I'm paralysed. At round 20 00hrs, they lock me up in the room as they take a break.
They have told me that they were giving me time to decide whether I should tell them the truth or not.
I rise from the floor and head for the door where I stick my ears to it listening to their movement until I'm convinced they are far. Then I duck my hand into my pants where I remove my mobile phone, which is neatly tucked inside the tights that I'm wearing underneath the short trouser.
I leap with joy as I discover that the area of Plumtree that I'm at has Botswana cellular phone network coverage. On silent as it is I send messages to family, friends and colleagues. I believe that word spread like bush fire because as I am sitting in the cell with others the next day, a Zimbabwean lawyer comes in and tells me that someone in Botswana has instructed him to secure my release.
He demands P500, explaining that P200 is for his service and the "remaining amount goes to the cops". As I march out of the confinement room I am not given a receipt or told that I still have to appear in court on Wednesday as previously warned. 
Has he (lawyer) paid them a bribe? I ask my self. But after a whole night of listening to hair-raising stories from cell mates and watching what happens to people suspected to be a risk to national security in Zimbabwe on television, to me regaining my freedom is more important than anything else.

Editor's Comment
Seamless Business Environment Needed Post-COVID

The country was also classified as the least corrupt in the world with strong anti-graft checks and balances. With these assurances, investors were guaranteed safety on their investments and returns. That is no longer the case. Several countries like Namibia, South Africa and Mauritius have done well over the years and overtaken Botswana as attractive places to do business.Therefore, when countries that Botswana is competing with for a piece of...

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