By Professor Matodzi and Prince Tongogara
Harare, January 30, 2014 – MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Thursday heaped praise on three of his lieutenants who were arrested and detained over the murder of a police officer for remaining resolute during their lengthy detention in prison and accused Zimbabwean authorities of attempting to weaken their spirits through prosecution.
Tsvangirai welcomed the political detainees Last Maengahama, Tungamirai Madzokere and Yvonne Musarurwa at his Highlands residence where he praised them for persevering the tough detention conditions in the country’s prisons where they spent a total of 33 months following their arrest in May 2011.
“I want to thank you for your courage and determination. By creating those prison conditions they want to break your spirit and your determination to see change,” said Tsvangirai.
The three MDC-T members were arrested in May 2011 together with 27 other party supporters and charged with murdering Inspector Petros Mutedza.
Maengahama, a member of the MDC-T’s national executive, Madzokere, the Glenview ward 32 councillor and Harare provincial member, Yvonne Musarurwa were freed Tuesday evening from Chikurubi Maximum Prison and Harare Remand Prison where they were being held since March 2012 when they were indicted for trial.
Several attempts by their lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa, Gift Mtisi, Charles Kwaramba and Jeremiah Bamu, who are all members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to have them admitted to bail had failed. But the persevering lawyers’ last attempt early this month to have the three MDC-T members freed yielded some results on Wednesday when High Court Judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu admitted the trio on bail on the same conditions as had been granted before their indictment for trial.
The three will now return to court next month for the continuation of their trial after they were placed on their defence by Justice Bhunu in September 2013 who determined that the State had established a prima facie case against them.
21 other MDC-T and human rights activists were acquitted en masse in September 2013 after their lawyers filed an application for discharge at the close of the State’s case in June 2013, which was granted on the reasoning that the State did not have credible evidence linking them to the commission of the offence and that nothing would be gained by the State by placing them on their defence.
Maengahama, Musarurwa and Madzokere said prison life was appalling as there was scant clothing, food, overcrowding and frequent water shortages at Chikurubi where there were treated as convicts and were housed with hardcore criminals.
Maengahama said he will document his prison experiences and publish a book detailing the sorry state of the conditions.
“I will write a memoir about my prison experiences soon after the case is completed,” said Maengahama.
Musarurwa said the time in prison afforded her an opportunity to reflect and know who truly cared about her.
“I realised who my true friends were during my time in prison as very few came and supported me. I also used the time to reconnect with God and grow spiritually,” she said.
Madzokore, who was elected as a councillor in the July 31 elections while incarcerated in prison said he took the opportunity in prison to pursue and complete a diploma.
“I managed to start and complete a Diploma in Public Relations during my stay in custody,” he said.
The three MDC-T members said their lowest point during their incarceration was when their colleague Rebecca Mafikeni died at a Harare hospital after falling ill while in prison and they had no opportunity to attend her funeral after being prisoners together for a lengthy period.