Mnangagwa says Gumbura masterminded the Chikurubi riots


The riots at Chikurubi Maximum Prison were organised by about 100 inmates-led by convicted rapist Ro0bert Martin Gumbura- who planned to escape, Justice Minister  Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the country’s Vice-President  said yesterday.

He said though the riots were initially believed to have been sparked by poor food rations, Mnangagwa said the prison service had enough food to last the next seven months.

The prison service had also been given cooking oil that was confiscated from smugglers.

Mnangagwa said the prisoners used the excuse of there being no meat to spark the riots so that others could escape.


Full debate:


MR. S. CHIDHAKWA: My question is directed to the Vice President and Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Leader of the House, Hon. Mnangagwa. Hon. Minister, what is Government doing to improve the conditions of inmates in the prisons around the country in light of the riots that rocked Chikurubi Maximum Prison which led to more than five people losing their lives?

THE VICE PRESIDENT AND MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (MR. MNANGAGWA): I am grateful that the Honourable Member, Chidhakwa has asked that question to give me an opportunity to inform the House about the unfortunate event of a riotous situation that happened at Chikurubi last week. Chikurubi does house the most dangerous criminals we have in the country. Robbers, rapists and  murders serving sentences of up to 70, 45 or 60 years. A group of about a 100 of them had conspired to break away from prison. Surprisingly also, Gumbura was chairing that conspiracy – [Laughter] –

However, they used the opportunity when the halls were opened and they were in a common area for meals. They used the question of there being no meat as relish for the food they were having to begin the chaos in prison and began attacking the prison wardens. The process, of course, the prison wardens sought assistance and guidance from their seniors who directed that they should lock the main doors for the prisoners not break into the yard leading outside.

In that process, the prisoners went into the kitchen and caused a lot of damage in the kitchen by breaking pipes and furniture there; arming themselves with broken pieces of wood and bricks and began attacking prison warders and officers. Eighty of them were injured in that process, but whilst that was happening, the core group was busy climbing the walls with an attempt to escape prison. Because of that violence, we had  to call in for more reinforcement from the police to assist to bring order in prisons.

They then injured and fractured some prison officers, some of whom are still in hospital. When the reinforcement came, in this group they said, no – do not worry; go and attack the police, they do not have bullets, it is all false, there is nothing. So over 900 or so dangerous prisoners began attacking officers. First they fired in the air. They said, aah! there is nothing, there are no bullets. When the officers felt that they were in serious danger, that is when they fired and one inmate died in prison. It was only then that they began to retreat but those who got wounded, one died the same day and the other three died later on.

Altogether, five have passed on but order has now been restored. With regard to what have we done – we have enhanced the security of Chikurubi Maximum Prison. Those hon. members who have been to prison will understand me when I say, we have put them in the penal section – those who have been to prison know what penal section is. So, that is how we have enhanced the situation and repairs are going on now  with regard to the damage they had caused by destroying the ceilings as they were attempting to go up. Among those who were killed, two had climbed the roof to escape and that is why they were shot.

With regard to the question of food, relish or usavi, we were fortunate that ZIMRA has been able to, through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, allow us to have the cooking oil which was confiscated at the border by ZIMRA. Instead of auctioning that cooking oil, we have been allowed to use some of that stuff. So we are happy that we have provisions for that type of need in prisons. With regard to the actual food, we have enough food for the next seven months, even if nothing happens, but we have reserves in terms of food; mealie meal, beans for a period of seven months. Also, we are asking the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to continue to improve in the area of clothing because resources are very strained in that area. We need more money from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to improve the clothing of the inmates. I hope that gives a picture of what happened at Chikurubi.

DR. J. GUMBO: I move that Questions Without Notice’s time be extended by twenty minutes.


MS MAJOME: Thank you Hon. Speaker. I want to thank the Hon. Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, who happens to be our esteemed Vice President; I would want to thank him for his very informative report on what has happened at Chikurubi. My question is twofold, firstly, from press reports, why is it that the Public Relations Officer of the Zimbabwe Prison Service, who publicised this in the media, indicated that the prisoner who died during the commotion was stampeded upon. She did not indicate that he failed. It appears to be an attempt by the Prison Services to conceal the actual occurrences.

So, can hon. members and the public have confidence that next time that the Zimbabwe Prison Service talks about what is happening in the prisons, it will be the truth?

I would also want, in the same manner regarding conditions, to find out if there is a sustainable programme to ensure that there is  funding for prisons because there are donations from ZIMRA, for this item and that item but clearly the fiscus is in a very bad shape, Government has very little money. In particular, I would want to ask why the Government does not adopt a policy of saving money for buying prisoner’s uniforms by allowing those members of the public who have their relatives in prison, to be allowed to buy clothing at reputable and at approved suppliers, so that the Government can spend the little money it has instead, to buy food and other necessities for prisoners. I thank you.

MR. MNANGAGWA: Thank you Hon. Speaker Sir and Hon. Majome. It is true, I read in the press what she also read but I am giving this House the report I have received as Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. I have no doubt that the report given to me as Minister by my officials is the authentic and official report, not the one that is in the newspapers. So, I believe that what I have said, represents what happened at Chikurubi.

With regards to the issue of whether relatives can give clothing to inmates in prison that is not permitted. Prisoners must have a uniform which identifies them. These uniforms have certain marks to show how dangerous these citizens are. So, if there are any good and well wishers to assist us, I have no problem in receiving donations which would be used to buy the correct material for the uniforms of the inmates. I think cases like that, I encourage them and through the hon. member, to encourage them to donate funding or resources, in order for us to give the correct type of material of uniforms for those in prison. It would not be proper to have persons putting on different type of clothing in prison.

It is regulated that they must be in uniforms and again distinguishing them in terms of categories A, B, C, D, DD, like ourselves when we were once there.

MR GONESE: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir. In your response Hon. Minister, you did mention that there was an issue concerning food. My supplementary question is that in view of the fact that you have got prison funds and the issue of shortage of meat, was  alluded to; is it not possible for prisons to keep enough cattle and also to utilise the farms, after all there is cheap labour, in fact free labour in the form of prisoners, so that they could grow vegetables. From the press reports that we read, the prisoners were allegedly complaining about a diet of sadza and royco usavi mix, which they are being given on a daily basis. So, I am asking the Minister why the Government is not able to utilise the prison farms so that they can grow vegetables and other agricultural produce for the purpose of feeding prisoners.

MR. MNANGANGWA: Hon Speaker Sir, Hon. Gonese is correct but most prisons in this country have a prison farm attached to the prison. The constraints we have are the ability of prisons to access inputs to grow crops. For instance, this season, we have only been able to grow crops over 900 hectares, perhaps over a 1000 but we have only been able to do less than 600 hectares because of lack of inputs. We are supported by the Minister of Finance but because he is constrained in terms of financing these programmes, we are unable to utilise all our  fields. It is true that most of the prisons which grow crops do assist in providing food.

However, every prison does have a garden where we grow green vegetables and so on. We have a few cattle which are not enough to kill every day. We have something like 18 000 prisoners and you can imagine how many beasts they would eat daily if we were to give them meat. As a matter of fact, the prescribed diet, does not prescribe meat every day, there are days for meat, there are days for beans and there are days for vegetables. So, that is what we follow, rather than the pleasure of having meat which some hon. members here do not have. These inmates are there not to be entertained in a hotel. We make sure that they realise that they are in prison but provide them with food in terms of the regulated amount of food by our laws relating to food nutrition to each individual.



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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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