Wrongfully jailed Nherera speaks out
By Roselyne Sachiti
Former Zupco board chairman Professor Charles Nhe-rera, whose conviction on corruption charges was recently quashed by the High Court after he had already served his two-year jail term, says he is not a bitter man and being a “guest of the State” was a learning experience.
Speaking at his Greencroft home in Harare yesterday, Prof Nherera, who was the Vice Chancellor of Chinhoyi University of Technology before his incarceration, said he had moved on with his life after years of fighting to clear his name.”I am not bitter about what happened during and after the trial. I am a positive-thinking person who believes bitterness is not the solution to problems.
“Instead, my philosophy is positive thinking all the time. I always knew that the truth would come out one day and this has been proved by Justice Tedias Karwi’s recent ruling,” Prof Nherera said.
The educationist — who did time at Harare Central Prison before being transferred to the more friendly Connemara Open Prison near Gweru — said the sad chapter of his life was over.
He described the country’s judicial system as competent saying that explains why his conviction was quashed.
“I was not judgmental about some things that happened during the trial, but kept hoping that someone would see the truth. Quashing the trial meant that the system is self-correcting,” he said. Prof Nherera was wrongly convicted of soliciting a US$85 000 bribe from Gift Investments director Jayesh Shah in 2006.
“I was waiting for time to tell the story,” he said yesterday.
Now that the High Court has quashed his conviction on corruption charges, a year after he completed serving his two-year sentence, the academic says compensation cannot bring back the time he lost.
He, however, said he was seeking legal advice from his lawyer on the way forward.
“The time I spent in prison cannot be bought, but I believe I used it to the fullest,” he said.
He said society did not ostracise him when he was released from jail and his conscience guided him while family support was his pillar of strength.
“If your conscience is clear, you do not feel embarrassed. I did not have any problems interacting with people who
knew me after I was released from prison as I am a positive thinker.
“I knew that I was innocent from the beginning and the quashing of the sentence did not surprise me. Instead, it was a relief that the whole issue was over and I can now move on with my life,” said Prof Nherera.
He said he was not worried by the long time the courts took to clear his name and he understood there were many technicalities involved.
“Some people believe things should be pushed faster, but I am different. There are many reasons why the case could have dragged so long. I understood that it dragged because maybe there were too many witnesses to be called to testify,” he said.
Prof Nherera admitted that the only time he wanted the case to move quickly was when he missed his family.
“Being in prison meant that I was away from my family and did not have the freedom to be with them. Family is one of the things you do not want to be away from even if you are not in a prison,” he added.
But as time went on, he adapted to prison life and learnt how to live away from his loved ones.
According to Prof Nherera, being educated made his life easier as he was already accustomed to different cultures during his many years of studying.
“Being in prison was just like learning another culture and finding ways to adapt. I quickly adjusted to other cultures and languages while I was studying in different countries.
“People learn everyday. I was put in an environment where I learnt about prison life though I did not learn enough,” he explained.
Said Prof Nherera: “When in prison, you are physically shut from the outside world. However, this does not stop you from doing the things you are emotionally attached to.
“As an educationist and a researcher, my job requires reading a lot. I lost count of the different books I read while in prison,” he said.
He said while alone in his cell, he quickly realised that being in prison was another way of learning though he missed all the good things that come with freedom.
“I quickly realised that there is no point mourning over the imprisonment and I did what I love best — reading.
“A person can read a book from a hotel, another can read the same book from a prison and yet another person can read the book from home.
“The most important thing is that the content of the book does not change no matter where you read it from,” he added.
He said he also volunteered to teach English and Economics prison classes during his stint at Harare Central Prison.
According to Prof Nherera, his students enjoyed his lectures and respected him.
“I did not lose respect from other people while I was in prison. Other inmates and prison officials did not demean me, but respected me.
“Some of the students in my class were prison officers who were studying at the Zimbabwe Open University, while others were ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level students. They all found my help valuable.
“Giving out knowledge is a lifetime investment in people,” he said.
Prof Nherera said his family visited him once a week and would update him on what was going on in his fields of interest while at Harare Central Prison.
“My family never missed a single visit and the time they visited me was worthwhile though it was under restriction,” he said.
He said moving to Connemara Open Prison made his life easier as he would visit his family for a week if sufficient notice was given to prison officials.
“I had access to my laptop and would spend most of my time researching. I did not want to miss out on a single event in all my areas of interest.
“You need to keep up with the latest news and research developments if you are an educationist or else you will rust,” he noted.
He said he was carrying out research in various areas, but could not be drawn into revealing what these were.
“As an academic, you continue to research many things at the same time. I am patient and cannot rush to immediately do things. It has only been two weeks since I was cleared and am now comfortable,” he said.
He said he had never made contact with Shah since he was freed from prison.
“We have never been friends. You only look for your friends,” he said.