Professor Simbi Mubako
\nIn 1959, a detention order was issued because of my role in assisting Phillip Foyer write his ANC campaign posters in Gweru and forming the Zaka People’s Union. The police arrived at my address when I was in Lesotho for my university studies. Three years later, I returned to Rhodesia on a special political mission. I exited the country without seeing my parents, and the police went to my village and picked up my father instead.

\n

He spent a night at Zaka Police Station.
\nBy 1976, I had lived outside Rhodesia for 17 years, six of them in Zambia as a university law teacher.
\nI had visited my parents on three previous occasions, each time remaining in Rhodesia for no longer than nine days. When I did so again in July 1976, I found two Special Branch policemen – one white and the other black – waiting for me at Bulawayo Railway Station.

\n

They knew the exact compartment of the train from Botswana in which I was travelling.
\nI requested to contact my uncle, Obert Gonera, who worked for the railways at that very station. I received a polite refusal and was whisked away to Bulawayo Central Police Station.

\n

Myriad thoughts were racing through my head: How the hell did the Special Branch Police know I was on the train? Was I being trailed from Gaborone, from Francistown, or all the way from Lusaka? What else did they know about me?

\n

When I left Lusaka nobody was supposed to know my whereabouts.
\nMy wife and children were in England and Cde Muzenda was in Dar es Salaam. I flew to Botswana in a small aircraft.
\nI counted the passengers; there were 15 of us. I recognised two faces – John Nkomo of Zapu and Father Michael Traeber, my successor editor at Mambo Press, with whom I exchanged a few words. Fr Traeber worked in Kitwe at that time and was only visiting Botswana. He could not go to Rhodesia since he was a prohibited immigrant.

\n

At Francistown, I boarded the train southwards to Gaborone where I stayed overnight. The next day I re-boarded the train northwards to Bulawayo in second class.

\n

The circuitous routing was meant to enhance my security but to no avail. I had delivered myself into the hands of the regime, which was apparently waiting to capture me.

\n

At the police station the Special Branch wasted no time.
\nAs soon as I sat down, the white officer among them picked up a notebook and asked me four questions: Are you a member of Zanu/Zapu? Do you know Chitepo? Do you know Tongogara? Do you know Jason Moyo? I answered these questions as briefly and as innocently as I knew how.
\nBut before I finished answering the last question, the white police officer went into the next room and re-emerged after five minutes holding a piece of paper.

\n

In what I recognised to be middle class London accent, he said: “I am awfully sorry, we have got to detain you.”
\nHe handed the detention order to two black police constables and walked away. I asked to be shown the order and for a legal representative of my choice. Both requests were rejected.

\n

As I was being driven to my cell, the black police officers told that the order was for 14 days and could be extended indefinitely at the discretion of the police.

\n

It was only when we reached Donnington Police Station and was told to take off my spectacles, jacket, shoes and socks that I began to feel the gravity of the (situation).

\n

Locked up
\nI spent the first six days in complete solitary confinement. I was denied books, newspapers, or a copy of the legislation under which I was detained.

\n

My cell was about 13 feet by 11 feet with walls which must have been 20 feet high.
\nThe walls were white, but were covered with obscene graffiti and lists of names of prisoners who had spent time in this place.
\nOne police officer who visited me after 2 o’clock in the morning told me that some of the terrorists whose names appeared on the wall were detained here, but they disappeared, presumably they were shot by the firing squad.

\n

My new home had only one piece of furniture: a few planks crudely nailed together for a bed and three blankets, teeming with fleas. I needed the blankets though, for it was (winter). I had the choice of shivering the whole night or wrapping myself in the blanket and allow the fleas to feast on me. For the first four days and nights I neither slept nor ate.

\n

I was allowed two meals a day – one at sunrise and the other at sunset both consisting of dried “sadza” and beans, which were so repulsive to look at that I could not develop an appetite.

\n

I never felt hungry anyhow.
\nHowever, I used to look forward to mealtime because it gave me a chance to step out of the darkness of my cell and catch a glimpse of the world from the barbed wire fence.

\n

On the fourth day, an African policeman came into my cell and said: “You should eat the food we give you otherwise you will die here.”
\nI told him I was not hungry and that the food was only fit for pigs not humans. He assured me he was only trying to help. The next morning, the same constable came in again and told me to go with him.
\nThere was a white patrol officer with his rifle cocked and aimed at me.

\n

The black officer grabbed me by the back of my neck and led me through a corridor with several policemen and other people watching me.
\nI was encouraged to hear one of the African policemen protest loudly, “Don’t hold him by the neck. He is not a common criminal.” This was immediately obeyed.

\n

I soon found myself standing before the member-in-charge barefoot and in an open shirt. The member-in-charge spoke in a thick Afrikaner accent. “I hear you are not eating? Why?”
\n“I am not hungry.”
\n“You said our food is fit for pigs; what food do you eat at home?”
\nSensing I might win a concession, I said, “European diet.”

\n

The Afrikaner officer laughed in mockery. “European diet! What does European food consist of?”
\nI answered quickly, “Eggs and bacon for breakfast. Tea and biscuits at 10 o’clock and 4 o’clock and meat dishes with potatoes at 1 o’clock and 7 o’clock.”

\n

The member-in-charge thumped the table and began shouting at the top of his voice: “Look here my boy. You are not in a bloody hotel. I don’t f***ing care if they call you professor in Zambia or anywhere else. Here you are a bloody prisoner like everybody else. If you do not like our food you can bloody well die. Stop shuparing (bothering) my men about European diet, soap and toothpaste and behave like other prisoners. Is that clear?”

\n

I was walked back to my cell feeling that I had lost a battle but rather happy that I had put up a good fight. I also knew then that at least some of the African policemen had some sympathy and respect for me.

\n

The next morning my breakfast consisted of a dishful of fried eggs, bread and butter and a huge mug of coffee.
\nI was given tea and biscuits at 10 and four, and beef and potatoes at 1 o’clock and 7 o’clock.
\nThis went on for two days until the member-in-charge stopped it. I overheard him bellowing at his juniors that I was not to get any special treatment. In fact, I didn’t go back to the African diet. But the tea at 10 and 4 was stopped.

\n

It was the rule that a black policeman would bring my food and place it on the ground just outside my cell while a white patrol officer aimed his (weapon) at me.

\n

I suppose as time went on they realised I was neither violent nor likely to run away. One of the white patrol officers who looked rather wild and eccentric decided to talk. I had always thought he came on duty a bit drunk. He did not stand ready to fire as others did, but would pace up and down whistling and twirling his gun in the air; occasionally stopping and taking aim at me for a few seconds and then continuing the gun-totting.
\nOne day he spoke to the black officer loudly enough for me to hear.

\n

“This man is in for a lot of trouble. He was found with all sorts of currencies – American dollars, South African rand, Zambian kwachas, even Chilean money etc.”

\n

Later he said to me, “Hey, Professor! What were you doing with so much foreign money?”
\nI said that I needed it during my travel in Zambia, Botswana and Rhodesia. He was not satisfied.
\n“Have you been to America, to England?” I said I had and took the liberty to ask him whether he had been there as well. He said his wife had studied English at Cambridge. He himself did not wish to go to England because they had rotten laws there.

\n

He was born in Cape Town, South Africa and the only other country he had been to and cared to see was Rhodesia. He was still pacing and twirling his weapon.

\n

“You must consider yourself lucky to have been arrested in Rhodesia. If it was Zambia or Uganda you would have been shot by now.”
\nI said I lived in Zambia, but never heard of anybody being killed without charge or trial.

\n

He said: “Why do you come to Rhodesia if you don’t like our laws? I never go to countries whose laws I do not like.”
\nI said he had a choice. I had none because this was my country and my parents were here.

\n

“Look where coming to Rhodesia has landed you? You may have been a professor with 10 degrees. Right now you are no better than those chickens there,” he said, pointing his gun to a basket of chickens in the far end corner of the fence.

\n

I said, “You are probably right. In fact, the chickens are better off, they can fly around in this fence. My cage is much smaller and darker.”
\n“Don’t try and be clever with me. Now you must go back”, said the gun-totter.

\n

I liked such rare chats because they gave me a chance to exercise my faculty of speech. They also gave one an idea of the type of person in whose hands my life now rested.

\n

The reading material I requested for never came, but on the 10th day I was allowed a cold shower.
\nInterrogation
\nThe actual interrogations started on the eighth day after I had officially lodged a demand to know why I was being detained.

\n

When I took the move, it was a shot in the dark. I did not know whether detainees had a right to ask to be interrogated, but in my case it seemed to work.

\n

In fact, the arresting officer turned up within an hour and the interrogation started the next day. I had spent days and nights anticipating possible questions and rehearsing the answers. However, there is always some suspense about your first interrogation session.
\nThere was no physical violence in the process though its possibility was never removed until I got out of the country.

\n

The main thesis of my questioners was to show that I was an active supporter of Zanu or Zapu, that I was in contact with the top leaders of the liberation movement and that I was, in fact, on a mission to contact guerillas in Rhodesia when I was arrested.

\n

To support their charges, they had an array of information about me, documents I had written, copies of speeches I had made including lecture notes at the University of Zambia and they reviewed my whole life history since 1957.

\n

They repeatedly made the charge that my life and pronouncements clearly showed that I was “against the Rhodesian Government and anti-white”.

\n

I admitted that I was against the policies of the Rhodesian government such as racialism in any form, but I denied that I was anti-white as I had many white friends.

\n

Later, they surprised me by producing my wedding photos taken in London seven years back.
\nI exclaimed: “What the devil is your interest in wedding photographs?” The interrogator answered: “We take an interest in everything about you.”

\n

They had a patchy and largely inconclusive record about my student politics in Lesotho, Dublin, London and Harvard.
\nThe most incriminating document they had was an article I wrote while I was at Harvard University entitled “The Quest for Unity in the Zimbabwe Liberation Movement”.

\n

I was taken aback that they produced the typed manuscript version which I had given to only two friends, both of whom were Zanu officials at the time. I quickly told them that the article had been published in a journal and was for academic interest only.

\n

Although that point may have taken some of the sting out of their charges, they still insisted on going through it all – line by line – to underline the point that I identified with the liberation movement.

\n

Another charge they hurled at me was a speech I had made in Lusaka in 1971 advocating industrial action by Africans in Rhodesia to supplement the armed struggle.

\n

My obvious defence was that I had been misquoted.
\nCopies of my lecture notes in the department of Political Science convinced me that there were informers at the University of Zambia.
\nI was asked why I was lecturing on liberation movements in Southern Africa. Again I repeated that it was for academic interest only.

\n

The most serious charges, however, were not based on written material. They were based on my supposed association with guerilla leaders. Herbert Chitepo, JZ Moyo, Josiah Tongogara and Robert Mugabe were mentioned by name.

\n

They charged that although I had denied it, they knew I was a personal friend of Chitepo and I used to visit his house and he, mine.
\nI gave them a blanket denial, knowing that they could not substantiate their charges unless they had photographs.

\n

Similarly, I didn’t think my meetings with JZ Moyo during the negotiations for Zipa unity could be known to the police in any provable way.
\nBut they proceeded to name the date and time when I visited Zimbabwe House and sat with Moyo in the yard under a tree.
\nI still denied that any meeting I might have had with Moyo had any political implications, but the accuracy of the detail left me rather shattered.
\nWhen I got back to Lusaka, I told Moyo and some of his aides of this, and they were equally surprised.

\n

They also knew that I was involved in the legal defence of Tongogara and other Zanu guerilla leaders who were detained in Zambian prisons. They told me I had been lying to them that I was “not a supporter of terrorism”. My defence was that my contacts with Tongogara and others were professional. They were allowed visits by lawyers; I pointed out that even in Rhodesia guerillas are allowed legal defence.

\n

Up to now I have no idea how they knew I had visited Tongogara in Zambian prisons. I surmised at the time that the Rhodesians might have infiltrated the Zambian prison services or were in collusion with the Zambian intelligence.

\n

I was pleasantly surprised when they suddenly dropped that line of inquiry.
\nTheir “trump card” turned out to be the weakest. They charged that I had been sent by Mugabe with messages for guerillas in the bush. They went to great lengths to show that I was a long-standing and fanatical supporter of Robert Mugabe.

\n

They reminded me that in 1962 – 15 years before – I had left my studies in Dublin to visit Robert and Sally Mugabe in their restriction place at Zvimba and they added that I was plotting with Mugabe and Sithole to remove Nkomo from the leadership of Zapu.

\n

They charged also that on the last two occasions I had visited Rhodesia I was running errands for Mugabe, telling key people that Zanu was alive and its new leader was Mugabe.

\n

I realised that they had some intelligence reports about me, but that it was a confused mixture of fact and fantasy.
\nThe most glaring falsehood was the allegation that I was in daily contact with Mugabe. In fact, I had not seen Mugabe since 1962 at Zvimba.
\nI spent a night marshalling my arguments on how I could puncture this charge. The next morning I faced my interrogator.
\nI put it to him that there was no case against me on any of the points they had asked me.

\n

He retorted: “We have definite information you are in daily contact with Mugabe.”
\nI repeated my assertion that the story about my alleged contacts with Mugabe was entirely false and, what was more, I could prove it to be false.
\nHe challenged me to prove it with a sardonic look. I requested for my passport and proceeded to show that during the only time Mugabe was in Zambia since his release from detention in 1974, I was in Boston, Massachusetts.

\n

My interrogator looked genuinely puzzled. “Are you saying categorically Mugabe has not been in Zambia in the last 12 months?” “Yes”, I said.
\nHe collected his papers and left without uttering another word. He never came back.

\n

I had two or three more interrogations, this time by African officers only and in a much more relaxed atmosphere.
\nFrom the day I was arrested, the role of the African police officers in my interrogation had always been curious and ambivalent.

\n

Whenever I was denying the charge of being a member or a collaborator of the liberation movement, the African officer would urge me in Shona to admit, and claim that I was compelled to do so by “the terrorists” and the Zambian government. I had always rejected that line of self-exculpation.

\n

The officer later explained to me that he was trying to throw a lifeline to save me, and that it was a standard defence of most suspects from Zambia. I rejected it.

\n

Double jeopardy
\nOn the 13th day, the African arresting officer burst into my cell at about 10am in a jovial mood.
\n“Professor, I have good news for you. Pick up your belongings and follow me.”
\n“Am I being released?” I asked. “It is possible. . .”
\nI was taken to the member-in-charge’s office and put my shoes on.
\nThe next destination was the central police station where I was to meet a young Afrikaner officer.

\n

He did not ask me any questions, but simply said in a solemn voice: “You may have been surprised that you came to Rhodesia twice in the last 12 months without being molested, but this time you were detained. Well, we have quite a lot of information about your relations with terrorists in Zambia.

\n

“However, we now know that some of it was inaccurate and we have decided to give you the benefit of the doubt. We shall take some fingerprints from you and let you go. But you might as well know that you will be watched whatever else you try do when you get out of here.”
\nWhen I got out of the police station, the African arresting officer took me to his own house for my second shower in 13 days. I told him my next desire was to see a doctor.

\n

He recommended an African doctor whom he said was his family doctor as well. He drove me to the surgery and left me standing in the queue.
\nThe doctor was Herbert Ushewekunze whom I did not know at the time, but who was to become a Cabinet colleague in President Mugabe’s Government.

\n

As soon as the policeman left, I took a taxi back to the city centre to find a doctor of my own choice. I received treatment for skin fungus.
\nI then contacted Obert Gonera at his work place.

\n

He arrived promptly and took me to the nearest restaurant. I was relieved to hear that my parents and siblings were well, but he could not get over the fact that I had spent 13 days in a police cell hardly two kilometres from his office while he knew nothing about it.

\n

Obert drove me to the station and put me on the next train out to Francistown.
\nIn Lusaka, the Press splashed the news – “UNZA Professor spends a fortnight in Rhodesian terrorist cell”; “Rhodesia’s spies on campus”. Zambian security took offence at me.

\n

I was summoned to Lusaka Police Central Station to face several hours of hostile interrogation.
\nI remained baffled. If the presence of Rhodesian spies in our classrooms at UNZA was exposed, what was the sense of cutting me through this double jeopardy?
\nTo Cde Muzenda, I simply reported mission impossible. He was disappointed, but not disheartened.