In Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, terror is so endemic not even the daughter of a former prime minister known as a supporter of black rights is immune from rape.
Judith Todd’s father Sir Garfield Todd was Rhodesia’s last liberal leader and she was imprisoned, force-fed and exiled under Ian Smith’s rule for her efforts to promote black majority rule.
After independence she returned to head a development agency working particularly with the war veterans who had fought for Zimbabwe.
But when she criticised Mr Mugabe’s regime she was detained and raped by a senior army officer, she revealed yesterday.
It was, she said — both for her and her attacker — an example of the culture of fear used to preserve Mr Mugabe’s rule.
The assault came a day after she told the then army commander and another senior officer that the North Korean-trained 5 Brigade was massacring civilians in a campaign of atrocities in Matabeleland.
The next morning a senior officer picked her up in a car and drove to a house she believes was in the Chikurubi prison complex.
“A servant let us in, not looking at us,” she wrote in a newly- published memoir, Through the Darkness: A life in Zimbabwe, in which she names the man.
“The (senior officer) led me into a bedroom, opened a bottle of beer for each of us, unstrapped his firearm in its holster, laid it on the bedside table next to my head and proceeded.
“I did not resist.”
In her first interview on the subject, she told The Daily Telegraph: “It was rape. I was in a state of complete terror.
“Now and again you have to face destiny. I had just been reading these documents which were full of rape, terror, mass murder.
“I knew something was going to happen when that car came. What happened was actually a relief because I thought I was going to be killed. At least I was alive.”
A quietly spoken woman now in her sixties and living in Bulawayo, she bears no animosity towards her attacker, no desire for vengeance.
Instead, having stayed in Zimbabwe for many years afterwards, even after being stripped of her citizenship in 2003, she sees him as a victim in the same way she was.
“I have no reason to believe he wanted to do what he did, quite the opposite.
“It’s so complex because he was obviously so troubled and so unhappy. I just regard him as a fellow victim…..maybe someone was watching him. That’s what has happened to so many people in Zimbabwe.”
Mr Mugabe — who was once a teacher in the Dadaya network of rural schools set up by her parents – has entrenched himself in power through both money and fear, she said.
Although 24 years ago, the rape was typical, she added, citing an incident earlier this year when police beat up protesting lawyers outside the high court in Harare.
The officers had been ordered to assault the group, she was told.
“They knew there were people watching them and that if they didn’t beat them properly they themselves would be beaten,” she said.
“That’s Zimbabwe now.
“Zanu-PF is the instrument of evil in Zimbabwe. For the future well-being of Zimbabwe Zanu-PF must be eliminated. We need to be cleansed.”
Sir Garfield Todd’s last comment on Mr Mugabe was: “What I cannot forgive is how many people he has corrupted”, and while some of Mr Mugabe’s closest lieutenants have become multi-millionaires, others “know what Mugabe is capable of”, she said.
The home affairs minister Kembo Mohadi was tortured and blackmailed before joining the government, she explained, while Augustine Chihuri, the chief of police, was savagely terrorised in Mozambique before independence.
“Mugabe has been able to manipulate the people who have power one way or another.”
She described a “very chilling” incident a few years ago, when after a funeral in Bulawayo she saw Mr Mugabe wander through the cemetery and stop to address a grave.
“He said: ‘So this is what it feels like being dead.’ I have observed how much he likes burying people at Heroes Acre and how humiliated they have been there.
“That’s Mugabe’s final triumph, ‘here I am, I’m burying you’. He’s saying to Zimbabwe right now, ‘I’m going to bury you’.
“For me he is the antithesis of that part of the Lord’s Prayer where it says ‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’. He leads people into temptation and then when they fall he delivers them unto evil. He loves watching people suffer.”
Now in the throes of hyperinflation, there is no doubt that the people of Zimbabwe are suffering. “There’s no food, there’s no fuel, there’s no electricity,” said Ms Todd.
“I feel terribly that Mugabe is unwittingly removing himself and putting chaos in his place.
“I think he is very angry at being mortal and if he has to die he has to pull the whole temple down with him.”
Ms Todd’s alleged attacker went on to have a distinguished diplomatic career. He could not be reached for comment yesterday, and calls to Zimbabwe government spokesmen went unanswered.
• Judith Todd has signed a declaration waiving her right to anonymity as a rape victim for this interview. Through the Darkness: A life in Zimbabwe is available on www.amazon.com