|Prisoners to have their day|
|Thursday, 27 October 2011 22:00|
IT is hardly imaginable to link pomp and fanfare; sights and sounds at a prison as people usually associate the place with gloom, doom and retribution.
Yet the prisoners, too, have their day.
Shouting, ululation and drum beats were the sounds that came out of Chikurubi training depot where hundreds of category B inmates from all the country's four provinces had gathered to showcase their talents in different disciplines in commemoration of the Prison Day recently.
And the brighter, creative side of prisoners was showcased, spelling out the benefits of rehabilitation and great abilities embedded within most inmates.
An opportunity to have a glimpse into the lives and tales of prisoners was thus allowed.
As l socialised with some of the inmates, their stories were very encouraging, as it was evident through their speech and actions that they have a great level of appreciation of the outside world.
They have a desire to hear much of the changes that have taken place in industry and other places of interest as they have a vision beyond the restrictive prison boundaries.
Dressed in his white uniform with a maroon towel in his head to cool down the rays of sunlight and some black football boots, a prisoner, Martin begins to talk about what landed him in prison.
"I have always wanted to be a journalist because you cut across domains and you will always be well-informed regarding developments in your vicinity and the world at large," the 30-year-old man said.
"However, l could not get funds to go to college and study and l decided to do temporary teaching to raise money to support myself in achieving my dream," Martin said.
But something went horribly wrong.
"I was very unfortunate in the process as l ended up being in love with a Form Two student at a secondary school where l was teaching in Mutare," he says.
Although the incident appeared to gnaw at his conscience, at the same time his voice shows determination to move on.
"During my court days l was afraid that l was going to have a very shocking sentence as l knew that statutory rape was a serious case.
"One thing that l have come to accept is l was wrong and this white uniform is a sign of guilt though at times l think it was supposed to be black.
"White however signifies purity which is one of the things that l am working towards in this college, as (late musician) Paul Mativire rightly put it."
He said he was learning a lot, from farming to life skills and this was moulding him to be a better person.
The conversation was interrupted, as he had to queue
for food, as it was already lunchtime.
There was a great rush for food and once you don't get the food on time you risk having none at all for the day, or at best make do with leftovers.
One thing was pleasantly odd that day.
It was difficult to distinguish between inmates and prison officers or guards.
They were dressed in their stage uniforms with beautiful takkies and colourful tops while the majority donned the usual red and white jerseys and yellow dresses for women.
Prison officers from different provinces could be seen shouting in support of their inmates singing songs to encourage them to push on, especially when the going got tough.
It was very different from the sad environments that many people imagine about prisoners and their officers.
Intimacy levels were high and love displayed across the board with great levels of obedience and submission.
Officers shared small things like cigarettes with the inmates and ideas and strategies on how best to tackle the opponent in disciplines like soccer and netball.
Even the prisoners themselves had a great appreciation for each other's work and skills and congratulated winners in different categories in which they excelled.
There were no hard feelings.
"We are people with love and an attitude of gratitude," says an inmate from Chikurubi, Ruth.
"We do appreciate when the other provinces have done better than us for we know that we can never have equal measures in execution since we have different talents and areas of specialisation," she explained.
"We know that Manicaland has some good traditional dancing skills, Mashonaland is good in choral music, soccer and and so on."
It is a time to let loose.
She said: "I celebrate each and every moment as it passes and hope that my time to reunite with family and friends comes earlier as l miss my family but as l have said l just enjoy and take a day at a time."
Most inmates shared the same view as they called each other names, especially women, with the shape and size determining the name.
The names range from Malaika to Mafotofoto.
Gladys from Masvingo has learnt a lot in "college", too.
For her the Prisoners Day is very important.
"This is important as l get to mix and mingle with friends from different provinces and maybe meet my future husband and compete for supremacy at the same time working for one common goal. l have learnt that life is a struggle but no matter what darkness you might have to endure in life your greatest strength must be the will to discover your greatest potential and what makes you unique"
Acceptance is key, says Gladys.
"The great thing that one can really do is accept the current situation, as l have done and work hard in improving oneself.
"During my term l have managed to get a diploma in sewing and l expect to get funds to start my own business as soon as l am released in the next two years.
"At the same time, l am keeping my body healthy through sport."
As the day's events ended, it was evident that those who had served for a long time had the joy and understanding of what it meant to gather at such "free" and open events.
Perhaps they will learn to appreciate their freedoms better when they are eventually freed.