Forced to flee from Mugabe's Zimbabwe


ZIMBABWE: Former Zimbabwean policeman Holy Moyo has mixed emotions about his current living arrangements in South Africa.

While he acknowledges that living penniless in a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg is a far cry from his life as a respected policeman in Zimbabwe, the political refugee maintains it is better than remaining in his native country, where the government's notorious secret police, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), left him for dead outside his Bulawayo home last October.

"It is like this: if Mugabe were to die tomorrow then I would return to Zimbabwe in a year or two, once the situation has normalised. That is what I would like. But if I go back now, the CIO might find me and then . . . Well, look at what they did to me for not being a government supporter and for trying to uphold the law," he says displaying pictures of the horrific wounds inflicted upon him.

According to Holy, his crime was that he did not support Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF party, which is a prerequisite for members of the army and police. Over the years, he says, he became a marked man for trying to ensure the law was applied equally to all of the country's citizens, including supporters of President Robert Mugabe.

He maintains the intimidation to which he was subjected was continuous but manageable, until the evening of October 8th last year. That night, as Holy walked home, he was set upon by six government agents who had been waiting in a car outside his house.

After initially trying to fight them off, he was overcome following a number of blows to the head that left him unconscious just meters from his front door.

"When I awoke, I found my trousers around my knees and I was drenched in blood from my chest to my ankles. The blood was everywhere. I dragged myself to my door and started to scream for help.

"When my wife answered she was horrified and immediately took me to hospital. I stayed there for a few days but I was not given proper medical attention and the untreated wounds started to rot. The CIO agents who assaulted me even came to the hospital and told me they were going to finish the job, so I knew I must leave," he recalls.

While Holy was unconscious one of the attackers had taken a knife and skinned his genitals, an injury from which he has been unable to recover fully from despite having reconstructive surgery in South Africa.

Holy believes the attackers were out to kill him but were interrupted and fled before they could finish him off, so when the intimidation continued he and his wife decided to escape to South Africa.

After leaving their children with a parent last January, the couple illegally entered South Africa near the Beitbridge border post at the northern town of Musina, after they paid human traffickers - who are known as Guma-Gumas, which translates as ghosts - a fee to take them via the secret bush trails in order to avoid army patrols.

Since Zimbabwe's state-sponsored land invasions of 2000, the number of Zimbabweans fleeing to South Africa because of political persecution and economic hardship has risen dramatically.

According to Zimbabwe's Political Victims Association (Zipova), which is based in Johannesburg, about 2.5 million of the country's 12 million population have fled to South Africa since 2000, with the majority of them entering the country via the bush near the town of Musina.

Official government figures show that about 1,000 Zimbabweans are deported each week to Zimbabwe.

Zipova however estimates the number of people crossing into the country each week through the bush to be five times that because of the Zimbabwean government's recent campaign to destroy the low-income suburbs around the country's cities.

In an attempt to highlight their countrymen's plight, Zipova has catalogued the stories of Zimbabwean border jumpers in a report which states that many of them are robbed and raped by Guma-Gumas and their accomplices.

In the last year alone, more than a dozen dead Zimbabweans believed murdered have been recovered from the Limpopo River, which is the natural border between the two countries.

"The reports we get from border jumpers are shocking because the offences in most cases involved South African law-enforcement agents," the Zipova report states.

Zimbabwean Richard Khabo (21) arrived in South Africa as an illegal immigrant two weeks ago after he paid a Guma-Guma 600 rand (€75) to take him through the bush near Musina.

"I am a sculptor but there is no one in Zimbabwe to buy my work, so I decided to come here. It was arranged in Bulawayo and I was driven to the Beitbridge border where I was met by a Guma-Guma. He took me and eight others through the bush to a hole in the border fence.

"We had to walk for hours and be very quite, but it was slow as there was a group in front of us and behind us doing the same thing. We had to wait until the one in front had crossed before we moved on.

"Then, after walking to the main road on the other side we were picked up and driven to Johannesburg where we were left on our own. Being an illegal immigrant is frightening but maybe I will be able to settle," he says hopefully.