By Judith Sibanda
Victoria Falls, February 04, 2016 – A Democratic Republic of Congo couple, which faces deportation for illegal entry into Zimbabwe together with its eight children, has pleaded with authorities to be taken to local prisons instead of its war-ravaged home country.
The couple was on Wednesday convicted by a local magistrate for entering Zimbabwe illegally through the Victoria Falls border with Zambia.
But soon after being found guilty, the Lubumbashi pair of Kasambule Ebondo (40) and Mumba Kayeye Hortense (32) shocked magistrate Rangarirai Gakanje’s court when it said a Zimbabwean prison was a better hell than home.
Ebondo told the court they were running away from the war in the DRC after one of their relatives was killed in the conflict.
“We came through Zambia. We heard that this country was peaceful and that is why we decided to come here,” he said after Gakanje asked how they arrived in Zimbabwe.
“Where we come from, there are serious political disputes and many people are being killed every day,” Ebondo added.
“We fear for our lives and those of our children because recently one of our relatives was killed.
“The country will soon be having elections and people are shot to death daily and some are killed using axes.”
Ebondo and Hortense were charged with contravening Chapter 4:02 of the Immigration Act, which makes failure to report to an immigration officer upon entering Zimbabwe an offence.
Prosecutor Listen Nare said on February 2 this year, Ebondo and Hortense were arrested at Victoria Falls’ Chinotimba suburb together with their children aged between one and 14.
The family had entered Zimbabwe through the Victoria Falls border aboard a South African truck.
Ncube said police on patrol found the children asleep in front of a shop at 4 AM and the family was arrested after they admitted that they did not have travel documents.
Ebondo said the family had no time to seek travel documents as their lives were in danger.
But Gakanje sentenced the couple to four months in jail, which was suspended on condition that they were immediately deported and do not commit a similar offence in the next five years.
“What you did is not allowed here and you cannot stay without travel documents,” the magistrate said.
“In sentencing you, l considered that you were first offenders and have minor children.”
The couple broke down into tears begging the courts to imprison them instead of sending back to the DRC.
The eight children spent the whole day loitering at the court premises with the family’s luggage.
The drawn-out DRC conflict, which has claimed millions of lives, is driven by the government, rebel groups, and external actors for control over Congo’s vast natural resource wealth, including some of the world’s largest strategic mineral reserves.