Pastor Charles Mlilo held up his right hand, palm to my face. It was a stop sign. And, I've come to realize, a benediction. “You must take this positively,” he said calmly, cutting off my chatter.
The administrative secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe, Mlilo had driven with Bishop Litsietsi Dube from church headquarters in Bulawayo, a two-hour trip, that morning, Jan. 28, to be with us when we appeared before the magistrate in court.
We were six journalists on a Lutheran World Federation reporting trip: Pauline Mumia, a Kenyan and the LWF English communication services editor; Rolf Hallstrom of Finland; Ute Heers and Falk Orth of Germany; Fanuel Jongwe of Zimbabwe; and me.
We had been arrested four days earlier on a Friday night at our hotel in the small town of Zvishavane. Plainclothes officers from the Criminal Investigation Division had surrounded our table as we sat down to a late supper. They then searched our rooms and took us to the police station, where they interrogated us and impounded our passports before sending us back to the hotel at midnight. We left with instructions to return to the station at 8 a.m. They were acting on orders from Harare, the capital, 250 desolate miles north. We'd just come from there.
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