Tendai Rupapa Senior Court Reporter
A Harare magistrate on Wednesday ruled that jailed RMG Independent End Time Message leader Robert Martin Gumbura and his accomplices accused of masterminding a foiled jail break at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison should be placed on remand pending trial.
Gumbura is jointly charged 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).
The suspects had challenged their placement on remand arguing that the allegations by the State did not constitute an offence.
The court threw out their application saying the State’s case appeared overwhelming in view of the events that took place in the prison leading to riotous conduct.
After the court’s ruling, eight of the suspects excluding Gumbura notified the court of their intentions to apply for their case to be referred to the apex court to deal with constitutional issues they are raising.
The eight are now represented by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights while Gumbura is represented by Mr Tapson Dzvetero.
Dismissing the application challenging their placement on remand, magistrate Mr Vakayi Chikwekwe noted that there were numerous triable issues in the case which could only be dealt with in trial.
“The events of February 13 are not denied, including the singing all night. The fact of the damaged property is not an issue in dispute. Also the issue of the injured prison officers is not in dispute. What seems to be in dispute is the proximity of the first accused (Gumbura) and the other accused persons. This one is a triable issue,” he said.
He added: “There is a nexus between the events of February 13 and March 13. The events of February 13 marked the beginning of the events of March 13 and there is a possibility of conspiracy. The all-night singing on February 13 shows the inmates were rehearsing for the March events. Surely, people who committed these offences were not from Mars, Jupiter or Pluto but from inside the maximum prison.
“We cannot get the full truth of what really transpired on the day if we do not place them on remand. The suspects should be given a chance to stand trial. I also see no reason of holding an inspection in-loco at this time. If need arises, it will be conducted during trial. Therefore all accused persons are right candidates to be placed on remand to stand trial.”
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.
Mr Chikwekwe remanded them to April 27.
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. It is alleged this was meant to create chaos so that he and his accomplices could escape during the commotion.
Gumbura allegedly told the inmates that Zimbabweans were foolish.
He told them that if it were in South Africa, inmates would have protested and broken all prison windowpanes, the court heard.
He told the inmates to protest for better quality food by singing throughout the night. Subsequently, all inmates in B, C and D halls spent the whole of that night singing and banging cell bars denouncing the type of food they were being served.
Harbouring 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 to protest its poor 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.
At around 9am, the inmates refused to eat porridge, without sugar, and demanded to see the officer-in-charge, Chief Superintendent Marange who sent his deputy, Superintendent Dumbura, to address them.
At that time, the inmates pushed out the food containers which had been brought for lunch. They refused to be addressed by Supt Dumbura.
Supt Dumbura left C Hall and went to D Hall where he ordered food to be brought in for 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. That was 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.
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 State is represented by Mr Michael Reza assisted by Mr George Manokore, Mrs Leonella Chitanda-Matowa and Mrs Molly Mutamangira-Mavhondo.