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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Jestina Mukoko

Interviewed May 4, 2011

I was released on bail on the 2nd of March 2009. But even on the outside, I felt that the torture continued. I had to live with sleepless nights. I had to live with fear of moving around in the streets. I had no confidence to drive myself. Somehow I had to give up my privacy by having somebody drive me wherever I wanted to go. I lived on sleeping tablets, which I recognized later on that they wouldn’t take me throughout the night.

At times by 1 a.m., 2 a.m., they lost their effect, and I would be wide-awake until the crack of dawn. And just getting to the crack of dawn meant that my troubles started, because I imagined those people at my gate. When my case was eventually finalized, I just could not live in the house. It was just torture living in the house, and yet it had been my paradise for me to be able to live in that house. Whenever I saw the model of the vehicle that took me, I think I would just spoil my day. And I think what really pained me when I then joined my family was discovering that they took the search to morgues.

My brother went from one morgue to another at least just trying to get my lifeless body in those places until he was told that he had taken the search too far by one government official. And he said on that day he celebrated, because he knew that I was alive somewhere, although he didn’t know where I was. It took a long time for me to come out of the trauma. I had to go through treatment. My son also had to go through therapy. In all the time that he was going through this, I kept on worrying as a mother, because people were telling me that they had not seen his tears. And I was worried that probably I was breeding somebody who was going to be wife basher in his old life.

And when I got the opportunity to get therapy, I also asked if I could take my son with me. And the doctor actually spoke about how he broke down, and I knew that he had vented his anger. And it took years for me to be able to get to where I am. There were moments where I would just sleep on the couch. I wouldn’t do anything; I couldn’t even cook for my family. And my son kept on asking: Mommy, I enjoy your cooking. But I just could not get myself to cook. And I was telling somebody that I was alive and yet dead, because I think when they took me on the 3rd of December, it was like dying. I didn’t even have an opportunity to say anything to my son. And just continuing afterwards trying to visualize what was happening and living with excruciating pain in my feet, I think those were some of the things that I just could not handle.