Hope Deferred is the latest book in the Voice of Witness series. It asks the question: How did a country with so much promise—a stellar education system, a growing middle class of professionals, a sophisticated economic infrastructure, a liberal constitution, and an independent judiciary—go so wrong? The narratives come from Zimbabweans of every age, class and political conviction, from farm laborers to academics, from artists and opposition leaders to ordinary Zimbabweans: men and women simply trying to survive as a once thriving nation heads for collapse.
In Harper’s March 2011 issue, Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, declares: “Hope Deferred might be the most important publication to have come out of Zimbabwe in the past thirty years.”
Alice was a grassroots political organizer for the opposition party in Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change. Now in her 40s, she lives undercover in a neighboring country while she waits to find out if she will be granted asylum. Here, she relives moment-by-moment her experience in 2008 of abduction and rape, sexual violence as political retribution.
When I got home, Blessing’s older brother came to my house and said, “I heard they are coming to get you today.” I said, “I’m tired of running. If they want to come and get me they can come.” Blessing’s brother left. Less than an hour later, they came. In winter it gets dark early. It was some time after 6 pm and it was dark. Three cars full up with people drove up to my house. This was the 7th of June, 2008.
When I heard the sound of cars, I looked through the curtain and saw that it was bad. There was nowhere to run. They were wearing army uniforms, not the militia uniforms of the green bombers but camouflage, the Zimbabwean army uniform, and they were armed with guns. They all got out of the cars. Some jumped over my gate and some went round to my neighbors’ house where I used to go to hide. My house is a typical ghetto house — each one is attached to the neighbor’s houses. So they surrounded my house and the neighbor’s house. There was a visitor at my neighbor’s house and they beat him badly, tearing the skin of his backside. Then, they went searching in the bedrooms in my house. In the other bedroom, they found my stepson and his wife sleeping. They started beating him but they didn’t beat his wife because she was pregnant. After they beat him, my stepson told them where my other stepson was hiding with the keys. I’d given that second stepson the spare keys to my bedroom so that if I wasn’t there, he could get anything he needed from my room, because I trust him. They beat him too because he could not get the door open. He was trying to insert the key but he could not do it because I was inside holding the key. When I realized that they were beating him even more, I decided to unlock the door. I came out and said, “Please don’t beat up my son. He has done nothing wrong. I am the problem because I am a member of MDC.”
They said, “Are you showing off with your MDC?” I said, “No, I’m not. You are hurting someone who has done no wrong.” They said, “Ok, open your bedroom. Why were you locked inside?” I said, “I was afraid because you came into my house with guns. I’ve never had visitors bring guns before.”
They went into my bedroom and started searching. They found twenty Morgan Tsvangirai posters and two posters for my MP, and flyers and The Zimbabwean newspaper — I had piles of them for distribution. I also had MDC T-shirts and bandanas, some were for distribution and some were my own.
They took all that and they said, “We want your phone.” I said, “I don’t have a phone.” When I saw them coming, I had switched off my phone and put it in my panties. They searched my house and took some money that I was saving. I was hoping to use it to order stuff to sell after all this had calmed down. I had 300 US dollars and 150 South African rands.
They told me to carry all the stuff out of the house. I said, “I can’t carry all that.” They said, “How did you get it in? Carry your stuff.” They wanted me and my other stepson to go with them, but one of the soldiers said, “Leave him.” So they left my stepson and took me in their open truck, a cream-colored Mitsubishi. I was sitting in the back, in the middle and they were surrounding me, sitting on the sides. They were all beating me, kicking me and hitting me with sticks and fists. Some were saying that they wanted to throw me into a dam. Another car stopped and someone inside said, “Did you find her?” and they said, “Yes we did.”
They wanted me to tell them where the MDC MPs lived, the MDC youths’ houses, the councilor’s house. That’s why they were beating me up — because I was refusing to tell them. They were saying, “So you are being like Jesus who died for others? And now are you going to die for those people?” I said, “No. Whoever showed you my house should have shown you all the other houses.” They said I was rude. They beat me up so badly. After that they said, “Take off your clothes.”
When I removed my clothes, just before we got to the Methodist church, they stopped the car and started taking pictures of me, naked. They pulled my hair and I fell down onto the tarred road, unconscious. I still have headaches almost every day, even up to now. They carried on beating me as they were driving around. They were saying, “You are choosing to die for everyone, so you must die.” After driving around they stopped somewhere in the dark and there they raped me.
There were many soldiers. I don’t know how many raped me because I was unconscious.
I think they threw water on me because I became conscious just before we got to the police station. They said, “Put on your clothes.” I refused. They said, “You don’t listen.” In the end, I put on my clothes. When we got there, they said, “Get off and carry your stuff.” I got off the back of the truck but I couldn’t even walk. I fell down and they said get up and I did.
Inside, when they got behind the counter in the police station, they threw a bullet at me and said, “Kiss it” and I did and they said, “That bullet is yours.”
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