Where prisoners pray for the free

HARARE - In the requiem of a soft September breeze on Tuesday afternoon, we made our way through a narrow winding road to the main gate of Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison on the outskirts of Harare.

The road, as narrow and winding as the people’s struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe, took us to our waiting lawyer at the main gate.

The lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, is a friend of democracy who, for the past 10 or so years, has defended party cadres arrested for an assortment of trumped-up charges.

In 2007, I was among a group of MDC members who Muchadehama represented when we were accused of attempting to unseat the Zanu PF government through acts of sabotage, banditry and terrorism, charges for which we were later acquitted after spending some six months in prison.

But on Tuesday, the three of us, MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai, Muchadehama and I had our details taken at the main gate before we proceeded to see colleagues from our party currently under incarceration for simply clamouring for real change in the country of their birth.

This is a road most of us in the MDC have travelled.

Since last week, Tsvangirai, being the good leader he is, had been insisting that he wanted to see his incarcerated chief election agent and deputy chairperson of the party, Morgen Komichi and other party cadres arrested two years ago on trumped-up charges.

After 40 minutes of the bureaucratic drudgery associated with entering a maximum security prison, we were finally led into a room where Komichi, Last Maengahama and Simon Mapanzure, were later brought in.

The fourth one, Yvonne Musarurwa, was not brought into the room because of logistical challenges.

Surprisingly, they were in high spirits, appeared more concerned about us than they were about themselves and their sad predicament.

Maengahama and Mapanzure, were part of the Glen View 29, now 28 and have been in prison for almost two years without trial.

One of them, Rebecca Mafukeni, died while in custody last month in a tragedy which showcases the monstrous consequences of the slow wheel of justice in Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai started by hugging the three and referring to them by their totems, “Makadii Samaita” to Maengahama, “Sinyoro” to Mapanzure and “Wamambo” to Komichi.

Our conversation with the prisoners took place under the watchful eye of four prison wardens.

Tsvangirai told us how he had spent two weeks at the same prison in 1999.

He then explained to the prisoners about the stolen election, asked about their health and welfare and finally sought from them how he could personally assist, to which the prisoners thanked the party for assisting their families.

The MDC president assured them that he would personally ensure rates and rents were paid, their children sent to school and food was available for their families.

It was an inspiring conversation and one was moved by the simplicity and the high spirits exhibited by people facing trumped-up and politicised charges that the State wanted to make very serious.

But the most inspiring moment was yet to come.

After about 40 minutes with the three, we finally bade goodbye to these brave sons of the MDC family; dedicated cadres who can spend years without going for trial on charges they know nothing about.

As Tsvangirai gave each one of them a hug on our way out, the three insisted they wanted to pray.

It was the most inspiring moment of the entire visit.

Ordinarily, one expects visitors to pray for prisoners but these were prisoners with a difference. They asked that they do it instead.

It was Mapanzure who prayed. He prayed for us, prayed for the party, the leadership and our president.

He asked God to take charge, prayed for the people of Zimbabwe and for God to bless them and travel with them on their journey of real change and transformation.

Earlier, Komichi had told us of the wonderful ways in which God operates.

He repeated to us, in more graphic detail, the story of the children of Israel especially when all seemed lost before God intervened and enabled them to cross the Red Sea.

God will always be with us and the people’s movement, Komichi told us while sorting out his leg irons which reflected the gravity of his alleged crime of simply discovering a ballot paper.

Discovering stray property and taking it to the authorities is a serious crime in Zimbabwe! It seems.

We were in a far much better mood when we left this prison, some of us proud of an inspiring leadership and emboldened by the odd story of inspired prisoners who pray for their visitors.

But just as the narrow, winding road will eventually take you to the gates of Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, so too will the winding road of our unarmed struggle against oppression takes us to the real change and transformation that the people of Zimbabwe desire and deserve.

*Tamborinyoka is the spokesperson to MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai.

He writes in his personal capacity.

Comments (3)

Two years in prison and without trial!!!! hmmmmm zvakaoma shuwa. Ndakambozvitaura kuti ka GNU ka Tsvangirai ari in-charge of all cabinet issues aka hakasi bhoo. We just hope Gushongo's government will quickly deal with these issues.

madhaka - 5 September 2013

Its very common to become religious in prison. What else can one do in remand prison

Chokx - 5 September 2013

mugabe spent 7 years in prison under the Smiths regime on his way to freedom ndonzira yacho

john - 6 September 2013

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