WHEN Givemore Mpofu (38) from Inyathi in Matabeleland North was convicted of rape in 2015 and subsequently sentenced to 12 years in jail, he thought his world had crumbled around him.
Mpofu says although his conviction hinged on fabricated rape charges emanating from a misunderstanding with a neighbour, he said he was not doomed.
Today the Khami Prison inmate is a holder of a class three certificate in auto electronics. He acquired the qualification at the correctional facility as part of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) rehabilitation programme, which has rekindled hopes of many prisoners.
When the Zimbabwe Prisons Service (ZPS) rebranded into the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS), prisons were turned into rehabilitation centres that empower multitudes of inmates with different life-sustaining skills.
The administration of the prisons was decentralised to authorise each province to tailor-make rehabilitation programmes for the benefit of inmates under their prisons.
Inmates are imparted with skills such as carpentry, welding, agriculture, dress making, auto mechanics among others to sustain themselves post-prison life.
Soon after attaining his certificate, Mpofu was chosen to be part of the inmates tasked with assembling motorbikes at Khami Remand Prison.
The project is a joint venture initiative between Pamberi/Qhubekani Investments — a wholly owned ZPCS company and Gellos Motorcycles, a local company.
So far, the inmates have managed to assemble 200 Honda motorcycles, which have since been distributed to clients among them, Agritex stations in Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces.
“I was arrested in 2015 and brought to court on charges of rape. In fact, I had a feud with my neighbour and they decided to fix me by opening false rape charges. I was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in jail,” he said.
Mpofu who has so far served six years, said he just had three O-level passes when he was jailed.
“When I came to prison, I only had three O-level passes and I then enrolled at the ZCPS vocational training centre and attained a class three certificate in auto electronics,” he said.
“I have written theory and now waiting for practicals after which I then proceed to Class Two, which is journeyman.
“Luckily, I was among the few inmates who were chosen to assemble motorbikes and that is an added advantage for me.”
Mpofu and his team underwent a two months training on motorbike assembling and so far, they have assembled 200 motorbikes.
Mpofu hopes to utilise his skills productively upon release in less than two years’ time.
“When I leave prison in about 20 months’ time, I will be a better person in my community. In fact, with these skills that I acquired in prison, I intend to open my own workshop.”
Mpofu, a father of three, said he will be able to look after his family using the skills.
“In most cases, people think that if you are sent to jail that is the end of life, which is not the case. I am a better citizen today than before I came to prison thanks to the ZPCS rehabilitation programme,” he said.
Another inmate, Herbert Tshabangu (50), of Lupane district in Matabeleland North said ZPCS offered him an opportunity to acquire knowledge in the specialised field of motor mechanics.
“The general public misconception about prison life is that prisoners are subjected to torture and humiliation, which is not true. In fact, when I leave prison, I will certainly be a different person,” he said.
“Prison taught me to be a hardworking and resilient person and when I complete my term, I will go back to my community and start a new life. My dream is to create jobs and inspire other people through what I learnt in prison.”
Tshabangu, a holder of Class 3 in motor mechanics is looking forward to his practical examinations so that he gets Class Two. His ultimately goal is to get Class One.
Tshabangu, who was not at liberty to talk about the crime that landed him in jail, said when he was incarcerated, he had little hope of life after prison.
“It is actually easy to hear the word, ‘education’ and not realise the immense power it has to transform lives. I am actually a brilliant example of how education empowers individuals to rediscover hope and self-worth,” he said.
Tshabangu said he will use his jail experience to make a positive difference in his community.
“Today I have acquired great knowledge in assembling motorbikes, something I never dreamt of in my life.
“I would like to thank ZPCS for its rehabilitation programme. When I get released, I will go home and apply these skills,” he said.
Mthuli Sibanda (30) of Binga who holds a Class Two certificate in auto electronics, said the new skill of assembling motorcycles has enhanced and expanded his knowledge base.
Liberty Tanyanyiwa (27) of Gokwe said: “I came here after I was convicted of theft which was my way of surviving.
However, my coming to Khami Prison turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I managed to acquire skills in motor mechanics, which I hope to use to survive out there after completing my prison term.”
The ZPCS projects are headed by qualified personnel who are responsible for imparting knowledge and skills to the inmates.
The hands-on approach being applied assists inmates to appreciate the hard work involved and rewards that come with it.
The programmes also assist in terms of manpower development at the national scale as the inmates upon completion of their various courses are issued with certificates making it possible for them to productively venture into and contribute to the country’s development in the different sectors of the economy.
ZPCS Commissioner-General Moses Chihobvu said ZPCS has a number of vocational training centres across the country where inmates are trained as part of the programme to prepare them for life after prison