MDC-T Organising Secretary for Glen View South Paul Rukanda spent nearly 12 months at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and Harare Remand Prison over a much politicised case involving the murder of a policeman.
Last month Rukanda and his colleagues were finally granted bail after what many considered to be deliberate delays by a compromised judiciary. Journalist Lance Guma spoke to Rukanda this week.
Lance Guma: Describe life at both Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and Harare Remand Prison. How was it like for nearly 12 months?
Paul Rukanda: It was a difficult life considering that we were staying in a crowded place full of contagious diseases. My transfer to Chikurubi Prison was after I had clashed several times with security guards at Harare Remand Prison.
But we managed to stand our ground and also managed to sell the party (MDC-T) to both the prison guards and fellow inmates.
Guma: We received reports that some of the activists were assaulted by prison guards and denied medical attention?
Rukanda: It’s true the Zimbabwe Prison Service (ZPS) is incapacitated to such an extent they cannot pay US$10 for some to be attended at Parirenyatwa Hospital. Sometimes they said they didn’t have fuel to ferry those who had fallen ill at Remand Prison for treatment.
We told them that we did not deserve to be assaulted because we had no case to answer; we were just being incarcerated for nothing, so we needed a professional Zimbabwe Prison Service not a ZANU PF entity.
Guma: You spent nearly 12 months in remand prison for a crime you say you did not commit. How did you feel the day you were released?
Rukanda: It was great to be re-united with my family and all my friends and MDC fraternity.
Guma: What happened on the day you were released?
Rukanda: People were in a jovial mood. I could not hold myself with emotions seeing my wife and my kids after a long time in prison for a case that I never committed.
I never believed that I was out of prison considering that ZANU PF is a tyrannical regime which kills people and incarcerates many innocent people who have not committed any crime.
Guma: Many times bail hearings were postponed and excuses given about the judge being sick or the prosecutor being unavailable etc. What did you make of all this?
Rukanda: We knew it was the Zanu PF way of doing things because they feel that we had no case to answer. They felt that they should keep us locked up for a long time in remand prison but to our credit we were all determined to the bitter end and actually they strengthened our spirits.
We will never look back until the hour of final victory.
Guma: What happened the day Inspector Petros Mutedza was murdered? Where you anywhere near the crime scene?
Rukanda: I was not even near the crime scene. I don’t even know what happened to him on that particular day. I was surprised to hear the police were looking for me. It was in August 2011 when they came to my home looking for me.
I was in the rural area, Buhera. That’s when I heard police were looking for me, two months after Mutedza’s death. I was surprised to hear that the police were looking for me in connection with this case.
Guma: Some reports suggested Inspector Mutedza was a notorious policeman in the area and fell out with some vendors at a local bar?
Rukanda: I have no explanation for that one. In my life I have never known or met Mutedza.
Guma: Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife Elizabeth paid several visits to your group. Can you describe the visits, what happened and what was the reaction of you and your colleagues?
Rukanda: It was good to be visited by the PM’s wife. She is such as generous woman. The ZPS tried to block her from visiting us but she refused and kept on with her long journey to visit us.
She never gave up even when the officer-in-charge at Harare Remand tried to humiliate her and other ministers who had accompanied her, she persevered.
Guma: What do you think is really behind this case?
Rukanda: They just wanted to weaken the MDC as a political party. I think they wanted to destroy our structures so that in the next general elections we will be weakened to such an extent that Zanu PF will be the beneficiary.
To my surprise the police, judiciary together with other silent forces whom we never thought could join them are definitely behind the destroying of MDC activities in Harare. As activists we will soldier on.
Guma: How is the transition from all that time in remand to getting back home? Are you facing any problems?
Rukanda: Before my arrest, I was working for a private company and as of now, I am no longer employed. I lost my job. So I would appreciate if there are people who can help me to reconstruct my life by finding employment or projects.
I am knowledgeable in paint manufacturing and if I get funding, I can start my own project. I appeal to those who might be interested in helping me to contact me through my number +263772487549.
That work was my only source of income and living with my wife and two kids. I also appeal to party sympathisers to assist all of us because times are very hard. I have a project proposal for paint manufacturing that I think can be funded and will go a long way to re-build my life.
Guma: So what happens from here? When are you back in court?
Rukanda: We are waiting for the State to set the trial date. In the meanwhile times are hard because like I said, I lost my job and I really want to get assistance to bring back my life and to have a stable future for my wife and two young kids.
Guma: Will you be filing a lawsuit against what you feel was an unjust incarceration?
Rukanda: Yes of course, I will sue the state for they have caused the suffering of my family and me. We will definitely sue the state after justice has been done.
To my surprise here in Zimbabwe, the police arrest to investigate and not investigate to arrest, of which they are causing a lot of suffering to a lot of innocent people.