…Correctional service now a reality: ZPCS
TO most when we think of prison, words like incarceration, confinement or captivity quickly come to mind, but the new thrust in-line with the United Nations minimum rules on the treatment of offenders, better known as the Mandela Rules is now premised on correctional service.
Whilst to some, sayings such as ‘once a thief always thief’ drive the essence of stigma against convicted criminals even after they get out of prison trying to live turned around lives. Eastern TimesZim last Saturday attended the Prison Inmates Football Association (PIFA) belated Sanhanga Independence Trophy final which was also an open visitation day for family and friends to see their loved ones at the farm prison.
This reporter had an interesting chat with prominent Mutare born ‘con-artist’ Farai Rimayi who is currently serving his prison term at the Farm Prison since being convicted for fraud last year. Though, he remains his usual effervescent, charismatic self, Njade, as he was popularly known said his fraudulent days were numbered as he is now reformed. Rimayi was so good at scamming that he would mysteriously worm his way out of any thorny situation which saw him manage to evade prison for several years despite having many warrants of arrest to his name.
But like everything on earth, even luck or charms have an expiring date and eventually in 2010 his luck faded and a manhunt for him was launched which forced him to flee the country. Rimayi however said he had learnt his lesson that a life of crime does not pay eventually. “When I get out I now want to be legitimate and start my own garage. No more swindling. I will not go back to my old ways. Even when I came back to Zimbabwe in 2017 after fleeing to Mozambique in 2010 and later to South Africa, I had already decided that I wanted to change my life around. In South Africa I worked hard earnestly using my mechanics skills and that is what I intend to do when I get out of here. I want to start a new life,” he said during a private conversation.
A day with the inmates at the Farm prison was eye opening. Most would think prisons are full of monsters and hardened criminals, yes that may be true but in principle they are human beings with feelings just like anyone out in the free world. They are brothers, uncles, nephews, fathers and grandfathers of other people who hope and pray for them each day to come back home as changed people, exorcised of the criminal ‘spirit’ in them. You could see by the bliss on some visitors faces when they were with some inmates that not all rogue elements should be shunned, and that correctional service was indeed necessary.
The guest of honour, ZPCS chief staff officer superintendent George Mabvuu who was speaking on behalf of the officer commanding Manicaland region, senior assistant commissioner Didymus Chimvura said since 18 April 1980, Zimbabwe was now not only a free country celebrating independence from colonial bondage, but was now also free as well in all facets, including its outlook of prisons upkeep and how inmates must be treated.
“Through independence we are not dreamers anymore but masters of our own destiny…As Zimbabwe prisons we also joined in the national independence commemorations with our inmates arts groups from various prisons participating by providing entertainment. However this belated event today bankrolled by our corporate sponsor Mr Joseph Sanhanga that donated a football and trophy for the Mutare Farm Prison PIFA final is for our inmates here who could not go out. I salute Mutare Farm Prison authorities for not forgetting that inmates also need to enjoy the fruits of independence by commemorating the national day through such a gathering and open visitation day programme,” he said. Adding that sporting activities helped to improve anti-social behaviors of inmates and improve the wellbeing of prisoners during their stay in prison.
An inmate who is part of the PIFA board, Charles Matondo said they have five teams in their league with four seasons that each run for three months. “We have five teams which I will name according to the league rankings this year. On top is Black Rhinos followed by Eagles which will play in the final today then there is Mutare farm Prison, Gunners and Yellow Power. We play 16 matches in each season and we started the 2019 season on 2 February. So tis is a wrap of the first season. We are however in need of more balls, whistles, a stopwatch for timing our matches and uniforms. Our uniforms are now old and tattered. We thank Mr Sanhanga for donating a trophy for the independence trophy and hope that each season we can have a sponsor like this to incentivize the players,” said Matondo.
The PIFA football final was also enthralling and kept most inmates on the edges of their seats. Black Rhinos which were the log leaders won the trophy after winning 4-2. Although Eagles had drawn first blood in the 15th minute Black Rhinos proved to be the better side. The first half ended 3-2 but Black Rhinos added another goal to put the icing on the cake in the 77th minute of the second half.
ZPCS Manicaland principal correction officer Liberty Mhlanga said the main goal of their prison visitation programme was to provide an opportunity for inmates to restructure their personal priorities and goals. He said in prison apart from the practical life skills training courses being offered to inmates, religious programmes are offered as well as individual counseling.
“Visitation in prison allows inmates to connect to the outside world by developing social bonds with family members and friends. The overall goal of in-prison visitation is to reduce reoffending and assist in helping inmates adjust to transitioning back into their community. We are planning on starting a Prisoner Visitation and Support (PVS) programme in Manicaland where we will have volunteer visitation for inmates, so that they at least have someone to open up to. Our priority is those inmates who do not ordinarily receive visits from family and friends. But we are still working on this programme targeting colleges, universities, churches or any such institutions,” said Mhlanga.
In 2014 the Zimbabwe Prison Services (ZPS) rebranded to Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) and says it has been making frantic efforts to improve its operations. ZPCS has been working with the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), a non governmental organization, funded by the European Union to promote activities for vulnerable groups in contact and conflict with the justice delivery system, which has been helping ZPCS drive its correctional service and rehabilitation programmes thrust. VSO which is working with the ZPCS, local government departments and NGOs in six prisons in Harare, Mutare, Bulawayo and Masvingo said its interests were on nutritional support and advocacy issues to ensure the Mandela Rules were observed in prisons.
Another inmate Steven Kudinha who is an aspiring musician said he was currently writing a lot of songs that he hopes to record and turn into chart busters when he gets out of prison. On the day Kudinha who was convicted for unlawful entry in 2016 serving seven years, was visited by his two sisters. The love between them could easily be detected as they laughed and talked non-stop throughout the occasion which ran for about four hours. Feddy Mutambara another inmate who was convicted in 2013 for seven years is expecting to get released in December 2019, said he was happy he was now a qualified class one mechanic tradesman through the prison training programmes.
The event was also graced by a representative from Gogo Olive which runs a dolls knitting project for female inmates during and after their prison sentence, as well as members of the locally based Kumakomo Community Radio Station initiative that offered their public announcement (PA) system for free towards the event.