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Mnangagwa's Prison cell at Khami Prison should be a national heritage site

by Staff reporter
17 Sep 2021 at 06:11hrs | Views
WHILE there is a clarion call to refurbish and transform liberation icon and founder of the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) Cde Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo's house in Bulawayo's Makokoba suburb into a historical monument, there is no doubt that the same should also be done to prison Cell 44 of "B" Hall at Khami Remand Prison, formerly Khami Maximum Security Prison, which had a connection to President Emmerson Mnangagwa's life.

The tiny prison cell was home to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, where he was staring death in the face for close to a decade after he was imprisoned, for contravening Section 37 (1) (b) of the notorious Law and Order Maintenance Act.

President Mnangagwa was aged 18 when he was imprisoned and his prison number was 841/ 66. Just like JZ Moyo House at Number 141 along 10th Street in the city's oldest suburb, Cell 44 of "B" Hall at Khami Remand Prison should be turned into a historical attraction.

Apparently, the prison cell is pregnant with a history integral to Zimbabwe's liberation struggle. The need to recognise the cell as a national heritage site came after Zanu-PF Vice-President and Second Secretary Cde Kembo Mohadi said the restoration of the JZ Moyo House was in sync with President Mnangagwa's recent visit to the city to launch the Bulawayo Heritage Trail.

"The JZ Moyo House is an important part of the Bulawayo Heritage Trail and adds to the voice of preserving the narrative of the legacy of nationalism. Makokoba represents the beginning and the founding of the national movements behind the liberation struggle such as National Democratic Party, Zapu and others," he said.

There is no doubt that both JZ Moyo House and Cell 44 of "B" Hall at Khami Remand Prison are an important part of the Bulawayo Heritage Trail and add to the voice of preserving the narrative of the legacy of nationalism hence the need for it to be recognised as a national heritage site.

President Mnangagwa was bundled into the tiny cell in question after he was arrested in Salisbury's Highfield township in 1965 for being part of the Crocodile Gang that carried out sabotage activities against the Rhodesian regime after receiving military training in China.

Operations of the Crocodile Gang had included killing a resident farmer and police reservist, Petrus Oberholtzer at Nyanyadzi and blowing up a train at Fort Victoria, now Masvingo.

The latter incident led to the capture and subsequent hanging of James Dhlamini and Victor Mlambo. In January 1965, President Mnangagwa was arrested by police inspectors at Michael Mawema's house in Highfield in connection with the incident.

It is believed that Mawema, a nationalist, had betrayed Mnangagwa to police. After being arrested, President Mnangagwa was tortured and confessed to the crime under the Law and Order Maintenance Act and would have been hanged, but was spared on account of his age.

Transforming the prison cell into a historical monument would be a celebration of the struggle and a symbol of the finest qualities of the human spirit.

The move would also help the younger generation to appreciate and value the country's liberation war history.

A visit to the cell where President Mnangagwa and other political prisoners like Cde Mohadi and the late national hero and journalist Willie Musarurwa spent part of their lives resonates a powerful symbol of hope and resilience thus the need to transform it to a national heritage site.

The cell is on the immediate right-hand side of the entrance, known as a "single cell" because of its design to hold one person, is unoccupied, but it remains as austere with the double walls, as ever.

Here, political prisoners like President Mnangagwa, classified by the regime as "most dangerous", were isolated from other prisoners in a special section of single cells and automatically placed in "D" category.

During our last visit to Khami Remand Prison, the man in charge Chief Superintendent Jelouse Dambura, took us on a tour of the facility.

Chief Superintendent Dambura explained the barbaric conditions that blacks were living under in rooms like Cell 44. Chief Superintendent Dambura explained: "The conditions here were oppressive.

Spending time in that cell was almost impossible. President Mnangagwa was regarded as a high security risk and since he was on death row, he was only allowed to go out for 15 minutes for exercises and bathing.

During those 15 minutes, they were also expected to empty and clean their toilet buckets and have a cold shower. "Just imagine, in one corner stood a bucket for ablutions, which had to be emptied and cleaned first thing every morning.

The only other item that was allowed in the cell was a Bible."

A wide passage separates cells on the right and left sides. There are a dozen cells on each side and apart from the conventional cells, there were also "dark rooms" where prisoners were thrown in as punishment.

The dark rooms are completely out of the reach of the sun such that an inmate will not know what time of the day it is. Additionally, the dark rooms have a solid iron leash to which prisoners would be chained in leg irons.

The prison officials say that these dark rooms have been outlawed by the High Court, which declared them inhuman. There are open communal showers and toilets that are at the other end of the complex.

Source - bmetro