How ED pulled the wool over his jailers
Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
As part of our serialisation of President Mnangagwa’s prison life, last week we highlighted how the President was chillingly forced to a hold a live bomb by the Rhodesian authorities.
This was part of the President’s interrogation after he blew up a Rhodesian steam locomotive in Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) with his colleague, Cde Matthew Malowa.
We also chronicled how the President ended up confessing his role in the bombing incident and that he received military training in Egypt and China when he was just about to be cast rated.
President Mnangagwa then went on trial where he faced the death penalty, but was saved from the gallows because at the time he committed the acts he was under the age of 21.
He was then sentenced to 10 years in prison, and after serving the full sentence, he was restricted to the then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), as part of the punishment.
This week President Mnangagwa continues to give us some unrecorded details about his prison life.
He said when he was arrested by the Rhodesian authorities, his parents were informed about the incident.
“When I was arrested, the family was later informed because I remember my parents coming to see me,” said President Mnangagwa.
In this edition, the President explains his passion for education while in prison and how he used toilet paper to write notes for his studies.
President Mnangagwa said for the effective 10 years he served in jail, he was in solitary confinement because he was regarded as a dangerous terrorist.
“It was solitary confinement and I was just sitting like this,” he said.
“It was so bad. The situation was even worse during the winter season at Khami Maximum (Security Prison).
“There were five separate showers and you would be forced to jump from one shower to the next bathing with cold water under supervision. After two years, Christian Care then came and awarded me a scholarship to study in prison.
“I did my Ordinary Levels and Advanced Levels there. I started my studies in earnest and when I was doing A-Levels, I studied British Constitutional Law. There were certain aspects of the British law on how the Royal Family is maintained and funding of the entire executive.
“I was given one book with all that care, but I didn’t have a book to write notes on. I was given toilet paper depending on the number of years served. If you served for four years, you would be given four rolls of toilet paper. I used the toilet paper to write my notes for the British constitutional law that I was studying. I used to read the notes and master them before using the paper.”
President Mnangagwa said his studies were then suspended when he was caught writing notes about the British prime minister.
He said he resumed the studies after a second intervention by Christian Care.
“When I was writing my notes this other day, a white man who was guarding me came and realised that I was writing about the salaries and other benefits of the British prime minister,” President Mnangagwa said.
“He said how dare you write about the salary of the British prime minister without permission? So they withdrew my studies for four months. Christian Care then came again and pleaded with the Rhodesian authorities to allow me to continue with my studies.
“It was time for examinations and fortunately I was passing. We were writing the examinations in the prison cells. Even my law degree, I started it while I was in prison.
“There were five of us when we studied law. It was myself, Cde (Robert) Mugabe, Eddison Zvobgo, Kesiwe Malindi and one white guy. Three passed the first sitting and the other two failed. I was released from prison when I was doing the second year of my law degree and I was then restricted to Zambia.”
After serving his prison term, President Mnangagwa said Zanu leaders told him to continue with his studies and that was when he enrolled at the University of Zambia where he later completed his studies.
“In Zambia, the likes of Cde Tongo said I should finish my law degree and they sent me to the University of Zambia. I then finished my law degree there,” said President Mnangagwa.
Before enrolling at the University of Zambia, President Mnangagwa said he also attended Mumbwa High School, also in Zambia.
Asked how he earned the nickname Ngwena, President Mnangagwa said: “It came from the operations of the Crocodile Gang. When we then went to the war, it was only me and Ndangana as members of the Crocodile Gang and that is how it started.
“It’s a nickname, I am of the Shumba totem. Ngwena was a nickname of that Gang (Crocodile Gang).”