Rioting prisoners tortured, court told

HARARE - Prisoners accused of masterminding the unprecedented food riots at Chikurubi Maximum Prison, that left five dead, yesterday told the court harrowing tales of physical and emotional torture and “deaths” at the hands of the country’s prison wardens since rioting on March 13.

The nine prisoners, who include Robert Martin Gumbura, who is serving a 40-year jail term, were hauled before the Harare Magistrates’ Courts in leg irons and looked dishevelled.

Narrating their ordeal at the hands of the “peace officers”, the nine revealed that ever since the food riots on March 13, they have been denied health care, food, and spent the whole day stark naked.

The nine, Gumbura, 59, Blessing Chiduke, 25, Luckmore Matambanadzo, 39, Luck Mhungu, 38, Taurai Dodzo, 47, Thomas Chacha, 37, Thulani Chizema, 32,

Jacob Sibanda, 28, and Elijah Vhumbunu, 38, are being charged with

attempt to escape from lawful custody, incitement in aggravating circumstances in relation to malicious damage to property and incitement to assault or resist a peace officer.

“We are assaulted almost everyday ever since the incident occurred. We are denied shoes, clothes and spend the whole day naked. We no longer receive medical attention and a lot of people are dying as we speak because of the torture,” Matambanadzo told the court.

According to Matambanadzo, on the fateful Friday the 13th when some of his co-prisoners were killed in cold blood, they were complaining about the inhabitable conditions they daily and quietly endured.

“I was residing in C hall and we had the problem of relish, water, blankets and soap. These allegations are not correct because we would talk to our superiors expecting them to assist.

“After approaching the authorities about our food grievances, they fired shots and what would you expect after opening fire in a hall with more than 400 people.”

Reinforcing Matambanadzo’s version and offering a rare insight into the country’s prisons, Dodzo, yet another convicted criminal, claimed that for the past five days they have been eating sadza served with water.

However, State prosecutor Michael Reza, claimed that the notorious Gumbura fanned and instigated the riots that have shaken government and have opened a Pandora’s box of neglect.

“The prisoners did not have the intention to protest until street-wise Gumbura persuaded them. Gumbura is not in solitary confinement but exposed up to 400 other inmates, therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility that he incited violence,” said Reza.

After listening to the heart-wrenching tales by the dispirited prisoners, Harare magistrate Vakayi Chikwekwe, ordered prison officers to stop torturing the inmates or face prosecution.

Chikwekwe will also rule on the applications made by six of the inmates challenging their placement on remand after Gumbura’s lawyer, Tapson Dzvetero, argued that the allegations did not disclose an offence at law.

“The State must allege facts, which if proven, constitute an offence. Allegations relating to the first accused end on February 13 and the paragraphs that follow relate to exactly a month later after my client allegedly made the statements inciting prisoners to protest. His, was merely an expression of opinion which every person in this country is entitled to.”

Allegations are that on February 13 this year, Gumbura told inmates in B hall that their rights were being trampled on by the State, which was serving them substandard food.

The State alleges that Gumbura told other prisoners that they were foolish not to take matters into their hands through protests.

Gumbura allegedly told inmates to protest for better quality food by singing throughout the night and the message was passed to inmates in C and D halls.

During that night, they sang until dawn, banging on cell iron bars.

The State alleges that on March 13 Chiduke, Matambanadzo, Mhungu, Dodzo, Chacha and Chizema advised inmates in C hall to protest by rejecting food.

At the same time, Jacob Sibanda and three other inmates who are now deceased were addressing inmates in D hall to also protest.

Around 9am, porridge was served but inmates refused to eat because it had no sugar and demanded to see the prison chief superintendent.

Towards lunch time Chiduke, Matambanadzo, Mhungu, Dodzo, Chacha and Chizema demanded to see the officer-in-charge.

The officer-in-charge sent his subordinate, one Dumbura, who was told by the prisoners that they could not eat their food before pushing out the containers that had been brought for lunch.

Dumbura, reportedly ordered for food to be brought in for inmates who wanted to eat.

The court heard that just before the food was served, the now-deceased Titus Mandikoza went on top of the roof through a hole that had already been created and started shouting that prisoners were not supposed to eat the food.

At that moment, Vhumbunu and Sibanda poured the food on the prison officer and violence subsequently erupted.

Inmates in C hall started breaking water pipes, sinks, asbestos, window panes, destroying property valued at $450 000.

Efforts by one assistant commissioner Dhenya and other prison officers to calm the violence were in vain as the riotous prisoners charged towards prison officers, the State alleges.

Subsequently, ZRP Support Unit was called in and fired shots at some of the accused persons who were on the rooftop.


Comments (11)

After listening to the heart-wrenching tales by the dispirited prisoners, Harare magistrate Vakayi Chikwekwe, ordered prison officers to stop torturing the inmates or face prosecution....I laughed at these words from a leaned Magistrate. And this magistrate thinks the prison officers will listen to his childish pleas. Justice in Zim and the world watches. VIVA MUGABE and Family!!!!!

Garikayi - 31 March 2015

It really pains to be tortured by your own brothers and sisters as black as you are who really know what it takes to be in prison and why people fought for freedom. The white tortured our parents and we called them racist. so what do we call our own brothers and sisters who are torturing their own brothers and sisters for genuine complain of starvation. Even when Mugabe and crew when they were in jail they had enough food, water and clothes which they are denying prisoners today. shame on you one day you will pay dearly for that.

pulsey - 31 March 2015

It requires honest leadership and accountability. Prisoners are a community on their own and must do activities to sustain themselves in prisons on a bigger scale. We understand their numbers is around +-23000.Thats a strong workforce which if put to good use, we can have the best and richest prisons. Why not have each prison facility produce something edible or not but can bring even income. Prisons in manicaland must grow fruits, apples,bananas, even mbambaira. Mashonaland prisons more maize fields, potatoes,cash crops and tobbaco field and make their"chimonera" . Prisons closer to kariba and zambezi must go and catch fish and supply other prisons dry or fresh. Prisoners have potential to generate some money to cater for themselves even buying sanitary items for female inmates. Its a matter of looking all prisons and their local areas of what they can produce. It must be coordinated that every prisons receives and supply other prisons with something. We cant have Gumbura and others sitting and doing nothing for 40 years and expect meat, fruits , nice foods from who?? 8am prisoners must start working Lunch in between and finish at 4pm. Saturday they work must half day and rest on sunday and public hollidays. All community serving offenders must stop cleaning office windows, and clinics but work in production of food for prisons. Outside prisons people we are struggling to put to put food on the table. Non corrupt leaders can make prisons efficient and productive community. they can buy 2in1 blankets,duvets even have a full paid up DSTV. Its possible if leaders dont steal from them for just 1year.

X-MAN IV - 31 March 2015

X-MAN IV you are very right.If there is anyone who can pass this information to the commissioner general of prisons the better.

General - 1 April 2015

X-Man, I concur with your views, the extension to it would be a lesser burden on the fiscus implying such money as would have been saved can be channeled to other productive sectors, prisons can be productive as to sustain even the salaries of the prison officers and general maintenance of the entire "facility". With great visions like these and unity of purpose we can turn this nation into a corrupt free economic powerhouse.

Titan - 1 April 2015

It's very worrying that the paper quotes damage as $450 000 worth of property. What exactly constitutes that amount , an audit should be conducted of the damage.

Concerned - 1 April 2015

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There is too much corruption in the prison services. Most prisons have farms, why don't they farm there for sustenance? It is because politicians and prison top brass are busy going into deals to lease out these farms to foreigners who then partner army generals and politicians in the country. Look at Chikurubi farm. Do you think if they were serious about self sustenance they wouldn't, with such vast tracts of land?

dofo2015 - 1 April 2015

ahhh, it was a situation and how could you have handled if it was you. no way....those guys were rowed that anyone could have done the same. they just want to lie like how they are trying to say...thus their medicine

dhaimagara - 2 April 2015

Frankly, I fail to understand how the Prisons Commissioner General fails to administer these prisons with all the learned officers around him.Its heart-rending to hear how a team of warveterans has literally failed to run the nation's prisons, how it has resorted to ancient brutality to torment its own people for complaining of hunger.Hunger does not need a ringleader as each stomach crunches in pain for food. You dont need a rocket scientist to realise that this post-uprsing witchhunt was targeting well known hardcore criminals without due regard to reality--hunger knows no limits. The lack of response to prisoners' cries for better food is typical mentality of the current chefs who have taken over the whitemen's shoes and habits.X-Man IV has given proper advise but the petty thieving of prisons' donations will destroy all they will make from their farms----its too much corruption in the prisons leadership and rank and file now.Do we have a Prison Service to talk about?

wondeme gebremeriam - 2 April 2015

X-Man IV, we nned pple like you in positions of authority. Agroup of pple with that frame of mind can turn our crying country around. We need pple with solutions. Big up to you man. Chirimumusakasaka chinozvinzwira ngachinzwe...

Denford - 2 April 2015

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