I cannot sit and wait for the knock at the door. I must go to confront my accusers

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In Harare

AT 10.15am today I will put on my best suit and tie, get into my Mazda, drive the 10 miles to Harare's notorious central police station and turn myself in. I have been avoiding the police since finding out that I am top of a government hit list to be "murdered or harmed" before the presidential elections next year.

For two days the police have been looking for me.

On Tuesday a group of detectives showed up at my office while I was out. I know that for as long as I remain in this country, they can track me down. So there is no point hiding any longer. I have no option but to confront my accusers, those people who have called me a "British spy", an enemy of the state.

So this morning I will walk in to the police station, accompanied by my lawyer, Linda Cook, hoping for the best.

I know I have done nothing wrong; I have not transgressed the law in any way. I have spent much of the past 48 hours mentally scrolling through every incident that might have inadvertently brought me into trouble with the police. Nothing so much as a traffic ticket. And even if I had been caught speeding, detectives working under the auspices of Zimbabwe's notorious Law and Order Department would hardly be tracking my movements and seeking to question me.

All day yesterday my phone rang, with calls of support. While those calls flooded in from Britain, the US, Ireland and South Africa, the Harare Law and Order police were also on the phone, to my lawyer, playing a game of good cop, nasty cop. While one of the detectives said they wanted to know more about threats that had been made against me with a view to offering protection, another said I could expect to have charges pressed against me.

I can live with being charged if I am then freed to challenge those charges with a legal defence. What worries me is the prospect that they will chase away the lawyer and hand me over to somebody else, with a more sinister purpose. Two of my journalist friends, Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto, were called in to the same police station recently, only to be blindfolded, and handed over to the army for torture. They went to London for treatment from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

The two different versions offered by detectives working in the same department for why they want to see me are not reassuring. My lawyer suspects that the detective who spoke of wanting to guarantee my safety wanted an easy way of getting me to the police station.

Ironically, Mark Chavunduka, who edits the Standard newspaper, was yesterday back in the same police station. He phoned me from the station to tell me he has been charged with criminally defaming President Robert Mugabe over a story published by the Sunday Times in London, alleging Mr Mugabe fears he is being haunted by a ghost.

Could I have defamed anyone? I am certain I have not.

For now, I cannot concentrate on my job as an investigative journalist highlighting the gross injustices perpetrated against the people of Zimbabwe. Anyway, the police seem less interested in bringing to justice those who have been allowed to get away, literally, with murder than pursuing journalists.

As I prepare to hand myself over to the mercy of President Mugabe's law officers, I know that at least the eyes of the world have been drawn to my plight and that of other Zimbabwean journalists.

Who knows what awaits me in the darkened rooms of the police station? Who knows where this traumatic and violent episode will leave my country? But at least as long as I and my fellow journalists continue to tell the truth, the world cannot ignore us.