Job Wiwa Sikhala, Opinion
The painful experience of Chikurubi Maximum Prison Concentration Camp prompted me to get in touch with my longtime combat colleagues Last Maengahama and Cllr Tungamirai Madzokere. His story is a sad scenario.
They think we have forgotten them all. The first day they saw me, Last Maengahama was crying uncontrollably. It took a while before I could comfort him. He is currently completing his 4th and final year of studies as an Honors Bachelor of Religious Studies and Theology at the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU).
His first statement was: “My brother Hon Sikhala, I suffer for the crime that I did not commit. I was at church all day and going home after the service. I don’t know why Bhunu found me guilty. The video evidence presented by UFIC of my church was rejected by Bhunu as tampered evidence and I pray that Bhunu be blessed.
I was so touched by these words of Mufundisi Maengahama. Everyone in prison now calls him Mufundisi. He became a prayer warrior. With his reserved and cool character, many inmates adore him. He goes to prayer sessions with a group of inmates every morning after being taken down to the room where prisoners are held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
He eagerly read his ZOU modules and several writing materials sent to him by several supporters. Is always with his pen and paper books to write the school credits. He plays chess nonstop with the commander of 1st Commando, Colonel Mavhima, who was court-martialed and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
He always told me that I felt forgotten as we suffered without food or supplies. He told me that Hon Tekeshe of Makoni Central was the one who was the mainstay of support, bringing them weekly food and paying his college fees and for reasons he does not know had stopped abruptly and the constituencies of the MDC Alliance resumed support, but were suddenly stopped by prison authorities. Since the prison authorities cut off the food for them, the suffering has increased further.
I have promised Maengahama additional help once access is restored. In honor, I left all my blankets which I brought to Chikurubi Maximum Concentration Camp, Last Maengahama and Cllr Tungamirai Madzokere. Every time I went to court for my case, I made sure to bring them something to eat.
I have agreed to pay Maengahama’s fees for the final year of her degree, and the remaining two years for Tunga, who is in her third year of her BSc Hons in Strategic Studies.
On my release from prison, Mufundisi Maengahama and Bishop Victor Chiminya, who lived with me in the same cell, asked me to pray for me. On each side they held my hand and started a 30 minute prayer during which we all cried. His last words to me were greetings to his spiritual father, Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa, UFIC members and all Zimbabweans, friends and ancestors.
Cllr Tungamirai Madzokere holds a 3rd year Honors BA in Strategic Studies from the same university as Mufundisi Maengahama. He still has two years ahead of him. I pledged to pay his tuition for the remaining two years. He is locked up in the solitary confinement reserved for prisoners sentenced to death. He remains in solitary confinement on the top floor of the prison.
I asked why he had been so mistreated that he had been locked up in solitary confinement in the death row cell. These are the same cells in which Gumbura is imprisoned. The explanation given is that he fought prison authorities over the vulnerability of inmates to coronavirus, as many inmates contracted and died from Covid 19.
He called for protective masks for prisoners and the enforcement of social distancing in cells as crushed and in addition to the current situation at Chikurubi Maximum Concentration Camp. Authorities then accused him of inciting other prisoners to demand masks and social distancing. Then they put him in solitary confinement. He asked for his release to meet with me twice a week.
Chained and handcuffed, he was taken to B Hall, where I camped twice a week. I have never seen a character as strong as him. At any point during his long stay in the concentration camp, he spent three hours with me sharing horrific experiences of mistreatment in front of the prison authorities.
He brought me books to read, The Prince, by Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, Aristotle, We the People, written by a great American scholar, Professor Thomas Petterson. He told me he spent most of his time in solitary reading his diploma and studying. He’s so insightful now and too smart about things. I noticed continuous reading traits in the product it is today.
They gave me the whole file of their case so I could see for myself. I told them that I had been reading their notes for a long time since I was the one who wrote the pleadings on their pending bail application when I was still working at Tendai Biti Law.
They said their appeal against the conviction and verdict was heard in March, but still wonder why their verdict has not been announced to date. This problem depresses her greatly. They await the verdict. Fear is traumatic. I saw it with my own eyes.
I promised them that Zimbabweans will never forget them. They are still on the minds of many and people are doing their best to bring their plight to light.
Let us remember Pastor Last Maengahama and Cllr Tungamirai Madzokere.
I thank you.