Tendai Rupapa Senior Court Reporter
Senior prison officers at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare allegedly assisted a convict to escape from prison in a bid to hide potentially incriminating information known by the prisoner, the court heard yesterday. Tawanda Chikonyora (35) said he escaped in January this year with the assistance of a senior prison officer he identified as Gandiwa, only to be rearrested this month.
Chikonyora, who only had 39 days left to serve from his four-year prison sentence, yesterday pleaded guilty to escaping from lawful custody when he appeared before Ms Victoria Mashamba. He will be sentenced today. Giving an account of how he escaped during mitigation, Chikonyora said his successful escape was hatched and facilitated by prison officers who wanted him to leave in order to ensure that he would not lift the lid on irregular dealings they had while he was in prison.
Chikonyora, who claimed to have had a mobile phone in his cell which he used to send mobile money to some prison officers, alleged that he had to pay a bribe to a senior prison officer who had stumbled on his phone in order to buy his silence. The senior prison officer, according to Chikonyora, refused to receive the money through EcoCash. He said it was only after he reported the matter to another senior prison officer, Gandiwa, that he was “advised” by the latter to escape.
Gandiwa, Chikonyora alleged, provided him the clothes he used to disguise himself out of prison. It was not clear why he sent money to some prison officers, but Chikonyora pleaded with the court to have the phone brought to court as an exhibit. In aggravation, the prosecutor Ms Patience Chimusaru urged the court to pass a deterrent sentence that would send a clear message to like-minded offenders.
“The accused is saying he was forced to escape and that another senior officer demanded a bribe, why did he not refuse and report to relevant authorities than to flee? He brought the name of the ZPCS into disrepute as the public is likely to lose confidence in them, thinking there is no security at prisons” she said. On January 24, at around 6am, Chikonyora went to the prison farm for his routine duties and was supposed to report back at 6pm, but he instead escaped.