A REPORT on the usually reliable newzimbabwe.com website details how Ratidzo (not her real name) was treated on her arrival recently at Harare airport.
She was one of three deportees forced into a plane from Britain after the home office had refused to extend her student visa.
She reports structural changes to the arrival lounge at the airport to house interview rooms staffed by members of Zimbabwe ruler Robert Mugabe’s infamous Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
Ratidzo said all deportees were told to use a different entrance and behind the wooden doors were tough-looking plain clothes officers who identified themselves as state security agents.
“We were separated and each was led into a different office,” she told newzimbabwe.com. “As soon as they closed the door the two officers started shouting at me.”
The interrogators asked, “Why did you run away from Zimbabwe?”, “How much are you going to be paid to effect regime change?” and “We have information that you are a mercenary, can you prove otherwise?”
Ratidzo said, “The officers fired question after question and threatened me with incarceration at the notorious torture chambers of Goromonzi prison.
“An officer hit me across the mouth when I asked him why they did not believe that I was a student wrongly deported. He said, ‘Sell-outs like you have no grounds to ask us about anything!’”
Ratidzo said her interrogation continued for about three hours and only stopped when she remembered that she had an uncle serving in the Zimbabwe national army. When she was released she was close to a mental breakdown.
She says, “From the time I was picked up by the British officials to the time I faced the CIO inquisitors, events kept changing so fast that I could not cope.
“The most cruel were the British who seem keen to play a numbers game with people’s lives, claiming to have deported such and such simply because there is an election coming up.”
There is evidence of far more terrible treatment of deported refugees. Despite such testimony, the British government appears to be accelerating its programme of deportations.
With elections in Zimbabwe scheduled for 31 March, this is a particularly desperate time for opposition members to be sent back to Mugabe.
Socialist Worker has the names of five Zimbabweans, rounded up in Leicester and Slough, who were due to be deported this week. Several have backgrounds that will mean they will be immediately sent for interrogation.
It is the grossest hypocrisy for the British government to denounce human rights violations in Zimbabwe while sending people back to certain suffering.
Oldham NUT teachers’ union is circulating a petition and appeal for the campaign to stop the deportation of Leonard R. He is the trainee teacher and opposition activist who narrowly escaped deportation to Zimbabwe recently. For petitions e-mail [email protected] or write to Oldham NUT, CPD, Rosary Road, Oldham OL8 2QE.