By Mary Taruvinga
JAILED cleric, Robert Martin Gumbura is so influential in prison that both inmates and wardens take his word for it, a Harare magistrate heard Tuesday.
Gumbura’s bid for freedom hit a brick wall after Harare Magistrate, Francis Mapfumo ruled there is reasonable suspicion that he attempted to escape from prison.
The disgraced cleric, who is serving 40-year imprisonment for rape, was charged along with fellow inmates Blessing Chiduke (25), Lucky Mhungu (38), Taurai Dodzo (47), Thomas Chacha (37), Thulani Chizema (32), Jacob Sibanda (28), Elijah Vhumbunu (38) and Lucky Matambanadzo (39).
Chizema and Sibanda were however acquitted of the offense after the court ruled that the State had failed to prove its case against them.
“One of the witnesses said on the day in question, after violence erupted, he heard accused two to six (Chiduke, Mhungu, Dodzo, Chacha, Chizema and Sibanda) passing by shouting that they were going home. There is need to explain what they meant when they said this,” said the Magistrate.
“Also, Chomurenga, another witness said he saw the inmates marching towards the armoury and on roof tops. He said they had weapons and attempted to escape. The witness said they only stopped after one of them was shot. If this was a demonstration over food, why were they seen on the roof tops with weapons.”
Magistrate Mapfumo added: “Another witness Mutakayi also implicated accused two to six. What he said prompted this court to conduct an inspection in loco at Chikurubi Maximum Prison. It was shown that the accused broke the roof asbestos and made a rope using blankets. They need to explain why they did this.
“This court is of the view that the accused also have to explain if meetings they held prior to the event were coincidental because violence erupted afterwards. The accused must prove that it is not during these meetings that that they conspired to commit the alleged offense. The State has managed to prove its case and accused 1, 2, 3,4, 5, 6 and 9 should proceed to defend case.”
Most witnesses exonerated Gumbura except for two who said he was the master mind behind the incident.
The Court was told Gumbura was so powerful to an extent that most prisoners obeyed him.
Court heard he would supply cigarettes to all inmates as well as cordials to convicts as well as prison wardens.
But Gumbura and his co-accused are denying the charges. Their case will continue April 25.
Gumbura and his accomplices are all facing charges of attempting to escape from lawful custody, incitement in aggravating circumstances or alternatively, conspiracy in aggravating circumstances or malicious damage to property.
Only Vhumbunu is now out of custody after being granted bail following his completion of a 10-year imprisonment for robbery.
Their trial dragged for over four years after the state had lined up 24 witnesses to testify against them but only four had testified in three years.
The State alleges that allegations against the inmates arose February 13, 2015 at around 9am, when the inmates refused to eat porridge which had no sugar.
It is also alleged that they complained about relish since they were allegedly being fed with cow-peas and a popular local brand of spices mixed with hot water.
Court also heard that the inmates pushed out the food containers which had been brought for lunch, refusing to be addressed by one of the officials.
Hell then broke lose when the prisoners realised they were about to be served sadza and cowpeas.
The inmates are being represented by their lawyers Lovemore Madhuku and Tapson Dzvetero.