First Person: Imprisoned in Zimbabwe

Jailed for reporting, a TIME reporter sees that for most of its citizens, Robert Mugabe's nation is itself a prison

Karim Ben Khelifa / L'Oeil Public

The reception area of a hotel displays a photograph of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

A bad jail wastes a body quickly. When I entered Cell 6 at Gwanda police station, I was fit. After five days in a concrete and iron-bar tank, with no food and only a few sips of water, my skin was flaking and my clothes were slipping off. A prison blanket had given me lice. The water I had palmed from a rusty tap in the shower had given me diarrhea. Under a 24-hour strip light, I hadn't slept more than a few minutes at a time. And I stank. So many men had passed through Cell 6 that they had...