MDC-T activist recounts remand prison experience

A swoop by the police at a lodge in the Avenues area nearly three years ago marked the beginning of the harrowing experience that was to become “daily bread” for MDC-T activist, Tungamirai Madzokere.

Ndamu Sandu

When police combed the high-density suburb of Glen View indiscriminately arresting MDC-T activists following the death of police officer, Petros Mutedza in May 2011, Madzokere fled his home and sought sanctuary at a lodge.

But on May 31, his luck ran out when police ransacked the lodge, found him and threw him into police cells, from which he proceeded to remand prison which was to become home to the MDC-T activist for almost three years.

Police had arrested his wife, Diana Murindi-Madzokere and his sister as bait. They were released following his arrest.

Madzokere, Last Maengahama and Yvonne Musarurwa were released on bail by the High Court last week after spending 33 months in remand prison. They were part of the 29 MDC-T activists arrested in 2011 for allegedly murdering Mutedza.

Narrating his ordeal yesterday, Madzokere said problems started at the Law and Order section at Harare Central Police Station.

“Riot police would headbutt us. I was assaulted and my hand was fractured. It was plastered while I was in remand prison,” he said yesterday. “They wanted us to tell them who had killed the police officer.”

In remand prison, Madzokere said, they went through hell as some prison officers would assault them on learning that the activists belonged to the MDC-T. However, he said there were some officers who exhibited professionalism in the way they dealt with detainees.

Madzokere said food would run out and sometimes they would be made to eat vegetables without salt. The scant prison clothes were lice-infested, but there was no choice but to wear them, he said.

“It was a tough experience, but we drew comfort and strength from the knowledge that even the president [Morgan Tsvangirai] and secretary-general [Tendai] Biti had gone through the same experience. I read the late Nelson Mandela’s book Long Walk to Freedom and that emboldened me,” he said. “In prison there is no medication and relatives have to buy medicine for you if you get sick. The challenge is that if you don’t get relatives to visit you, you will die.”

What was his reaction to the death of activist, Rebecca Mufukeni who died in remand prison?

Madzokere paused and with emotions written on every line of his face said, “The party lost a cadre. Rebecca sacrificed a lot for the country.”

Another low point for Madzokere was when the results of the harmonised elections were announced.

“It was clear that the elections had been rigged. My victory in the council elections didn’t matter much as it became clear that councillors would be swimming in harsh waters without support from central government,” he said.

Madzokere was re-elected as ward 32 councillor while in remand prison.
He paid tribute to MDC-T senior officials who visited them while in remand prison. Madzokere said he is especially grateful to his wife for the support she gave him during his incarceration.

“When I was arrested, we had been married for six months and she was two months pregnant. She gave birth while I was incarcerated. She managed to save some money and paid for my studies,” Madzokere said.

While in remand, Madzokere studied for a diploma in a public relations, and passed.

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