TWO men who staged a dramatic jail break bid from Zimbabwe’s most secure prison have been told they face lengthy jail sentences after they were convicted on Monday.
Harare magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini acquitted three other men charged over the April 4, 2010, attempted escape from Chikurubi Maximum Prison.
The magistrate said that charges against Ruperts Chimanga, Philip Chivhurunge (armed robbery and attempted murder) and Bigknows Wairesi (murder) were not proven.
But Albert Matapo, who was on remand facing treason charges, and accomplice Lucky Mhungu, will return for a mitigation and sentencing hearing on Tuesday after being found guilty of trying to escape from lawful custody.
Former prison officer Donald Tapera Gwekwerere admitted helping the prisoners plan their jail break after being promised a lavish lifestyle in the United Kingdom.
He turned star witness for the prosecution as he revealed details of the plan. Magistrate Jarabini described his testimony as “credible”.
Gwekwerere told the trial how he was approached by the five men in March 2010 with a request to assist them to break out of jail.
The former prison officer said he was promised that he would be flown to the United Kingdom, be given a car and US$6,200 cash if he cooperated.
A relative of one of the prisoners gave him US$100 to buy the tools needed for the escape. He proceeded to buy hacksaw blades, five glass cutters, a pair of pliers, a claw hammer and a 10-metre rope.
Gwekwerere told how he smuggled the items along with some brandy and spirits into Cell 2 Down FA Hall.
The court heard that just before 3AM on April 4, 2010, the prisoners cut one burglar bar securing the observation window of the cell and smashed the shatterproof windowpane.
Alert prison guards foiled the attempted escape.
Defence lawyer Charles Varara will make arguments in mitigation before the magistrate passes sentence on Tuesday. He warned the two men they face certain jail time.