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'I had reports that armed police were searching for
"I had reports that armed police were searching for me"
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The BBC's Bob Berry
"Mr Mugabe is fighting for his political life"
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Editor of the Mail and Guardian Howard Barrell
"You live in a constant state of paranoia"
 real 28k

Monday, 19 February, 2001, 15:10 GMT
Why I left Zimbabwe
Joseph Winter reported from Zimbabwe for four years
Joseph Winter: Relieved to have left Zimbabwe
By Harare correspondent Joseph Winter in South Africa

I felt an enormous sense of relief flowing through my body as the doors closed on the plane taking my family and I to South Africa.

We were now safely out of the reach of the state security agents who had been trying to get hold of us since the early hours of Sunday morning.

The last I heard was that six or seven men, both police officers and others from the secret service, some armed with machine guns, were waiting for us inside our house.

It was obvious that there was very little to gain by trying to stay in Zimbabwe and a great deal to lose.

Lawless

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo told our lawyers that he would not be bound by a court order which gave us until next Friday to wind up our affairs in a country where we had spent the last four years.

The so-called "security" officers had a similarly low esteem for what the judges and the government's own lawyers had decided.

It remains to be seen whether all foreign journalists based in Zimbabwe will go through a similar ordeal, or whether this was only aimed at myself and Mercedes Sayagues, of the South African Mail and Guardian.

But it does come after the bombing of a local newspaper, the intimidation of judges and the indictment of senior figures in the opposition.

What is certain is that the period leading up to presidential elections next year, will not be an easy one for the many Zimbabweans not seen as "politically correct" in the eyes of the government.

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See also:

19 Feb 01 | Africa
BBC journalist flees Zimbabwe
16 Feb 01 | Africa
Mugabe opponent rejects charges
10 Feb 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Zimbabwe's descent into violence
18 Oct 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe: Economic melt-down
28 Jan 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe newspaper bombed
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