Once I was through immigration and grabbed my luggage,Â I was pulled aside by customs and asked to walk with them.
That is when my ordeal started.
They Â (three women and two men at the beginning) had me unpack EVERYTHING.
My entire hand luggage up to the smallest item in my purse, to my entire laptop/camera bag.
They hadÂ me take apart everything, even my headache pills, meds, shampoo.
Then I had to unpack my entire suitcase (mostly clothes ) piece for piece and throw it on top of my sensitive equipment like camera, lenses which I was not happy with but they would not let me pack that up.
I was also not allowed to tell my friend who was waiting outside, that I was being held.
He did figure it out pretty fast though.
They went through everything- underwear, clothes, shoes, camera (I had to put the lenses on and off ) computer, even had to show them whats on my photo cards, meds, even tampons.
One of the guys in the room, who also went through some of my underwear first, Â had me rip some of them open because at that point my patience was running out as they wanted me to show them.
After that which seemed like hours, they threw most of the stuff back into the suitcase.
I was not allowed to pack myself. These people also did not wear gloves either.
My camera was still kept outside. A Nikon DSLR that looks used and took a beating or two as I have been in the bush with it.
I have owned it for 2 years now.
They kept on asking for receipts to prove that the camera is not new (when one could see that).
They kept on asking wether I was a journalist as they found Â Kenyan film permits, dated March 2016.
Then they asked me how much it would have cost new with the lenses.
All used by now.
I did give them the price as they were ready to google it.
So then they wanted me to register the camera and import it.
Having said that I am only transitting through, flying to South Africa today. I gave them my ticket, telling them I am only coming through the country and not even staying here.
They still wanted me to import the camera.
I asked them if all tourists need to import their cameras or if it just me.
They had found film permits from Kenya and harrassed me about that.
All i said wether I am in Zimbabwe or in Kenya.
Another guy walked in, and started telling me that I need to either pay up 40% of the cameraâ€™s worth or I need to leave it overnight.
I said â€žHell noâ€œ.
I am not paying and I am most certainly not leaving the camera. I am not using it here in Harare as I am leaving tomorrow to SA so I dont understand why you want money.
Its a used camera.
So the guy then wanted me to show him whats on the photo card in the camera.
Horses and some wildlife.
Eventually they let up and let me pack up my equipment.
I then told them I will call the german embassy right now because thatâ€™s it.
As soon as I started looking for the emergency number and asked my friend who has been waiting outside, picking me up, to get me a Zim phone card , their demeanor changed.
Suddenly no more money was asked of me and they tried to explain what they were doing.
I had been asking many times why they decided to pull me in and search me.
Up to then they never answered.
I also asked if I can bring the money I brought to my friend outside as I was not allowed to even leave with my purse and I needed to get my phone and card.
One guy said yes but I would have to bring it back in, which was fine with me.
As soon as I walked outside, I was tackled by a lady, grabbing me (that hurt and I almost lost it there) and trying to bring me down.
Thats when I started yelling at them. One does not know what the other one is saying or doing in there it seems.
Another guy came up and tried to calm everyone down- he was one of the nicer ones.
After that incident I finally got to talk to the embassy, explaining the situation.
By that time I have been held for about 90 minutes with no explanation as to why.
Turns out the embassy wanted to talk to one of the supervisors, but all these guys went pale and refused talking on the phone.
The embassy thought that to be very unusual, took all my information down as there was nothing they were able to do at that point.
They also asked me to get information as to what was happening next.
Two of the ladies, who at that point were embarassed of how I was treated, immidiately told me that they had to search me and my body according to protocol and would take me to a room.
The embassy told me to take my phone with me and call as soon as I felt harrassed or uncomfortable.
Six ladies wanted to file into that room to search me. Turns out the room was a disgusting, dirty bathroom, with two men sitting outside and the doors wide open.
I said no and chose the two ladies who were treating me with respect from the beginning.
To the others I said they needed to get out now, close all the doors. I was only talking to the two ladies I trusted. They wanted to argue but I just yelled at them to get out.
I had to undress, but the two ladies did not touch me or even look at me, because that it how bad they felt at this point.
They were very respectful.
Once we were done, we went back out.
At that point I saw two more passengers form my flight, a young black couple, being harassed as well, with bags open and worried faces.
There was also a young black Â man who was pulled out because ofÂ a box he carried, labeled fragile. He was barked at in a very unfriendly way.
At the same time I ran into another fellow passenger I had talked with for a while, a young danish lady, working for a medical outfit.
She was in tears, shaking, in shock.
I walked up to her and asked her how she was doing.
She told me that she is scared and not doing well at all. They would not let her do one phone call.
They had strip searched her, had her undress, even her underwear, groped her (6 ladies in the room), touched her everywhere and intimidated her. They named her crybaby and men were groping all her underwear while searching through her luggage.
She was alone and no one was there to help as she could not call anyone.
I decided to stay with her.
Then we had to bring our luggage into the arrival area as they now brought in dogs.
We were still not told why we were held and treated like criminals.
They left me alone but kept on bullying the danish lady.
About 20 people were standing around, mostly guys, with one man filming the dogs and another guy having the lady open her suitcase again, with all her underwear falling out.
They had the dogs going through 5 times. We were worried that they might have planted something as by that time we would not put anything pass them anymore.
After the dogs were done,Â I was free to go and it seemed they wanted to harass the danish girl a bit more.
So I stayed with her and told them that we will leave right now. Eventually they opened a door for us and we were free to leave.
I still donâ€™t know why I was held.
I like Zimbabwe but I cannot accept that travellers get treated like criminals. I wonder wether criminals get pulled aside at all.Post published in: Business