Mafukeni's death: An indictment on prison system

HARARE - Warren Park One’s 5th Avenue suffered unprecedented traffic jam as countless vehicles and thousands of MDC supporters thronged House Number 34 to pay their last respects to the late Harare Youth Assembly secretary-general Rebecca Mafikeni.

Some residents peeped through windows, verandas, while others stood at their gates with cell phones in hand, capturing the celebrations of a woman who has been described as a “heroine.”

Born in June 1984, Rebecca died of meningitis at Parirenyatwa Hospital on August 12, two months after celebrating her 29th birthday. She was among the 29 MDC activists who were incarcerated for allegedly murdering a cop, Petros Mutedza, in May 2011.

She strenuously denied the charge, and took her objections to the grave.

Her second arrest in her short-but-tumultuous life ended in tragedy. Many at her funeral wake were unanimous that she succumbed to dirty politics.

“If this is what it means to be a politician, I will never consider it,” Rebecca’s cousin Christina tearfully said.

Mafukeni’s death was a grim reminder to all and sundry of the harsh conditions in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

“One moment she was arrested for allegedly killing a policeman, the next thing its two years in remand prison, I mean remand as in remand not jail, then she is dead at Parirenyatwa,” said Christina, adding Rebecca was a hero not a murderer.

According to the cousin, she stayed in hospital for about three weeks.

Rebecca’s family — though generally not active in politics — did not regret that she dedicated her life to politics since she was 16.

“Rebecca has always been a committed person in everything she did,” said her aunt Mary Muchuchwa.

“I used to be astounded by the energy she put in netball but soon after her ‘O’ Levels, she chose her career party, well it was her choice and we all supported her.”

Rebecca did not have any children of her own but left behind hundreds of children politically.

For about one kilometre, the supporters including co-accused Cynthia Manjoro, carried her in a chocolate casket to her final resting place at Warren Hills Cemetery singing ndikafunga vote yangu yakabiwa, ndinorara ndigere.

“We all hoped she would be free once MDC won, but it is difficult to fathom. She came back home this way,” said a neighbour Ettie Masara while preparing mourners lunch at the homestead.

All party rank-and-file converged for her burial, giving her a befitting send-off.

Rebecca’s grieving, widowed mother had her first opportunity to host the party’s president Morgan Tsvangirai.

Donned in a black cotton jacket, blue top and a ‘Zambia’ or wrap over, the bereaved mother tried in vain to look composed but was devastated. For her, Rebecca was a bread winner, not a politician.

“Handina kuziva kuti Rebecca aiva neshamwari dzakadai. Gamba rangu ndiro ramanditorera. Rebecca ndiye aive murume wangu aindichingeta, aiziva kuti hanzvadzi inoda kuenda kuchikoro. Zvino Zanu zvayauraya, ndianiko achandichengeta,” she said burying her face in her hand at Rebecca’s graveside, while evoking empathy from the crowd.

MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai, Nelson Chamisa, Elias Mudzuri, Solomon Madzore all expressed a different kind of loss, the loss of a revolutionary who worked for the party as a gender representative,
security and youth secretary until the day she departed.

Tsvangirai described the death as an “indictment” on Zimbabwe’s legal and prison system.

But AFM pastor Joseph Munemo said “At the end of it all, we need to remember that it is time. Rebecca has died because her appointed time had come.”

Comments (1)

We upgrade our gadgets and claim to have a paradigm shift in life yet to the Policy Makers their slogan is once a prisoner remains a prisoner due to achaic policies of yesteryear. I have worked with ex-prisoners for a number of years now and I can safely say most of them have completely reformed. I pray that one day the government will funds to assist ex-prisoners(who in my opinion can play a positive role in creating employment) Chairman - Free Divine International Trust

Brian Taika - 11 December 2017

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