Jailbreak - Robert Martin Gumbura and 8 others in the dock

Tendai Rupapa Senior Court Reporter
Jailed RMG Independent End Time Message leader Robert Martin Gumbura allegedly told other inmates that they were foolish for not breaking windowpanes to escape in protest against poor food at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

This emerged in court yesterday where Gumbura, together with eight other prisoners, appeared facing several charges, including attempting to escape from prison.

The State contended that Gumbura’s utterances incited other inmates to go on a rampage two weeks ago, especially when he told them that in South Africa prisoners wouldn’t stand such a situation and would have escaped.
Jailbreak - Robert Martin Gumbura and 8 others in the dock
The State papers indicated that in the ensuing melee on March 13 as the prisoners attempted to escape, some of them were shot by the police Support Unit after they scaled the roof.

At least five of the prisoners succumbed to injuries sustained during the violence.

Gumbura was being charged together with armed robber Lucky Matambanadzo (39), Blessing Chauke (25), Lucky Mhungu (38), Taurai Dodzo (47), Thomas Chacha (37), Thulani Chizema (32), Jacob Sibanda (28) and Elijah Vhumbunu (38).

According to the indictment, the nine who are serving various sentences ranging from 12 to 40 years, are being charged with attempting to escape from lawful custody, incitement in aggravating circumstances or alternatively conspiracy in aggravating circumstances for allegedly maliciously damaging property.

They are facing an additional charge of incitement to assault or alternatively conspiracy to assault.

All the suspects were not asked to plead to the charges when they appeared before magistrate Mr Vakayi Chikwekwe.

According to the State, on February 13 in the morning in B Hall, Gumbura allegedly incited other inmates to protest over alleged infringement of their rights by the type of food they were being given in a bid to create chaos so that he and his accomplices could escape during the commotion.

“Gumbura told the inmates that Zimbabweans were foolish,” read the indictment papers. “(He told them that) if it was in South Africa, inmates would have protested and broken all prison windowpanes.

“He told the inmates to protest for better quality food by singing throughout the night. On the same day during the night, all inmates in B, C and D halls spent the whole night singing and hitting cell bars denouncing the type of food they were being served at the prison.”

Gumbura, who is the only suspect being represented by Mr Tapson Dzvetero, is accused of having created the ensuring chaos.

This month, with the intention to escape, Chiduke, Matambanadzo, Mhungu, Dodzo, Chacha and Chizema allegedly gathered and addressed inmates in C hall and influenced them to refuse food on that day and protest over poor food quality.

It is alleged that at the same time Sibanda, Vhumbunu and the other three inmates who are now deceased were addressing inmates in D hall to do the same.

According to the allegations, their intention was to escape during the commotion.

At around 9am, the inmates refused to eat the porridge which had no sugar and demanded to see the officer-in-charge Chief Superintend Marange who then sent his deputy, Superintend Dumbura who addressed them.

At that time, the inmates pushed out the food containers which had been brought for lunch as they did not want to be addressed by Supt Dumbura.

Supt Dumbura left C hall and went to D hall where he ordered for food to be brought in so as to be served to those who wanted to eat.

Before the food was served, Titus Mandikodza, who is now late, went on top of the roof through a hole in the asbestos sheets which they had already drilled, the court heard.

At that moment, it is alleged, Vhumbunu and Sibanda took sadza and dried vegetables and threw it at Supt Dumbura and that is when violence erupted, with prisoners vandalising property whose value is estimated at $450 000.

It is the State’s case that the inmates attacked prison officers, seriously injuring three of them.

During the melee, they tried to escape, but their bid was foiled by the Support Unit that was called for reinforcements and fired shots at them.

The prisoners yesterday gave a chilling account of how they are being ill-treated by the prison guards after the incident.

Some of the suspects even went on to remove their shirts to show the court the degrees of their injuries, while some of them appeared in court with their hands in plasters.

They said prison guards on duty take turns to brutally assault them throughout the day.

Matambanadzo said: “Your Worship, sometimes we are not allowed to wear any clothes during the day and we sleep on the floor naked without blankets. Despite all these injuries we are denied medical attention.”

The inmates also complained that they were not allowed access to their lawyers and relatives.
Mr Chikwekwe took note of the complaints and ordered the prison authorities not to take the law into their own hands and allow due process to take its course.

He warned them that they may faced prosecution for allegedly violating the prisoner’s rights.

Six inmates challenged their placement on remand and the court is expected to rule on the application today.

The State was being represented by Mr Michael Reza assisted by Mr George Manokore, Mrs Leonella Chitanda-Matowa and Mrs Molly Mutamangira-Mavhondo and the proceedings were held under heavy security. Herald

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