HARARE - When Nkululeko Mawila was convicted and sentenced to serve 28 years in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, he believed his life was over.
The 43-year-old, who was 32 at the time of his conviction in 2002, thought he would never afford the luxury of a smile. He was convicted on four counts of rape.
But 11 years down the line, he has reason to smile.
His joy not only emanates from the fact that he received a remission of 10 years which the Zimbabwe Prison Services (ZPS) usually awards convicts who display remorse and good behaviour, Mawila is a beneficiary of the various rehabilitation programmes conducted by the correctional facility.
“When I first came here, I thought I would not make it. I looked at the imposing walls of Chikurubi, and I just never saw any hope. I would hear voices in my head saying, ‘you can’t do it, and you will die in here.’
“But after the rehabilitation programmes we receive here, I now know that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Mawila said during a graduation ceremony of the Art of Living Prison Stress Management and Rehabilitation Training (Prison Smart) course on Wednesday.
The course, conducted by the ZPS in conjunction with the Art of Living Foundation of Zimbabwe, saw at least 300 inmates graduate.
The aim of the seven-day course is to assist inmates deal and effectively manage stress through various exercises through the practice of yoga.
Yoga mainly involves stretching exercises, breathing techniques and deep relaxation.
The Art of Living Foundation, which has been working with ZPS for the past six years, also conducted training workshops at Chikurubi Female Prison and Khami Prison complexes.
Ebrahim Jassat of Art of Living Foundation says the yoga exercises taught to prisoners opens up the lungs.
“Our lungs do not always function to full capacity. You will find out that some lungs only function up to 30 percent, but these exercises open up the lungs which then function up to 80 percent,” Jassat said.
He added: “Breath is the link to the body and mind and I am just happy to say that these guys gave this course 100 percent.”
Rhodes Moyo, the ZPS deputy commissioner said his organisation had received positive feedback from inmates who took part in the course.
Mawila, who will finish serving his sentence in 2021, says the course complemented previous rehabilitation efforts by the correctional facility.
“I am happy that I was one of the first people to enrol in the course, I just know that these skills I have acquired are for life which I will use after completing my sentence,” he said.
The father-of-three says he is set to also leave prison with a high school certificate, something he failed to do before his incarceration.
“I did my Form 1 up to Form 6 here in prison and now I am an Accounts and Economics teacher. When I leave prison, I will continue to teach but I mainly want to spread the word of God,” Mawila, who also gave his life to Christ while in prison, said.
The father of three is just one among many inmates who got the opportunity to pursue their studies in prison and receive rehabilitation which assists in re-integrating offenders back into society.
Moyo, who is also in charge of rehabilitation, says ZPS offers free primary school education to inmates but the organisation, which is underfunded, has to source funding for inmates who want to study from secondary school level upwards.
He however, says their rehabilitation programmes have not been as effective as is the case in other countries within the region.
“We are in the process of reviewing to see if our programmes are effective enough. Right now I can only say our programmes are about 30 percent effective, which is very low compared to others,” he said.
Other rehabilitation programmes conducted by ZPS include welding, motor mechanics, sports and music. - Thelma Chikwanha, Features Editor