Couple tells of assassination claim
A COAST couple is relieved to be back home after a harrowing encounter with Zimbabwean police who accused the pair of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.
Colin and Judy Smith are safely home in Twin Waters but say they will never forget their encounter with the country's corrupt police force.
They were in Zimbabwe on family business and were heading to the airport when they became caught up in President Mugabe's motorcade.
"At first I didn't know what was going on, so I pulled over to the side of the road to have motorcycles and sirens and cars flying past us," Mr Smith said.
"I got out of the car and that's when police came out of the bushes.
"A police car pulled up behind us flashing their lights. That's when I knew something was wrong."
A policeman approached the couple's vehicle and told them they were under arrest on charges of attempting to assassinate President Mugabe.
"I told him that was ridiculous. Was I going to assassinate the president with my pen?" Mr Smith said. "He then got in our small car with us and took our passports."
The officer ordered them to drive to the nearest police station in Harare, to be formally charged.
The situation took another turn about 30 minutes into the trip when the officer asked Mr Smith what he was going to do to help his situation.
"After driving for about 15km the police officer asked me what I thought the police should do with us to sort it all out, which is police-speak for a bribe," Mr Smith said.
"I told the policeman that I didn't know what we were to do and that he was the police officer and should do what he thought was right.
"That's when he knew that I wasn't going to pay a bribe and began threatening us with jail time."
Thinking on his feet, Mr Smith asked that he and his wife be taken to the Australian Embassy.
The policeman's immediate reaction was to claim there was no Australian Embassy in Zimbabwe.
"I told him that was incorrect and that I had seen the embassy a few days earlier which stumped him a little bit," Mr Smith said.
Frustrated by the couple's reluctance to pay a bribe, the officer ordered Mr Smith to stop the car.
"The officer looked at me and my wife and we could tell he was frustrated that we weren't going to pay him a bribe," Mr Smith said.
"He told us that we would be given a formal warning for our assassination attempt, but he didn't have paper or a pen to write the warning on.
"I had to tear some paper from our flight itinerary that we all signed.
"Then he got out of the car and gave us back our passports and we continued on to the airport."
Shaken but relieved, the Smiths boarded their flight home to Australia.
"It was a terrifying experience," Mr Smith said.
"On leaving our car the policeman said that he hoped we enjoyed our stay in Zimbabwe and that he hoped we would return soon.
"I told him that we would not be returning to Zimbabwe again."