FORMER Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) member Paddington Japajapa has expressed concern over innocent people who are languishing in prison after being jailed by “overzealous” judicial officers.
Japajapa, who has since joined Zanu PF, recounted the six months he spent behind bars after being convicted by a Harare magistrate and sentenced to two years.
Speaking in an exclusive interview, Japajapa said although he spent time in jail without having committed a crime, he had no hard feelings against the judicial officials and could not sue them as this would be like fighting the Zanu PF government, a party he now belongs to.
“As to whether I am going to sue the State for unwarranted arrest and illegal detention for almost six months in jail, I do not think I will do that, only our Lord God has the answer to why all this happened to me, it was for a purpose which the Almighty God allowed under his divine will.
“I cannot be seen fighting Zanu PF through civil action at the courts. It is the governing party that has the law enforcement agents which caused my arrest. I am now one of them hence there must be a peaceful co-existence,” Japajapa said.
He added: “Being in jail anywhere on earth is never a good thing at all, even spending a night in police cells is not a good experience at all. For me to spend a total of six months at Harare Central Prison was like being in hades, sheol, hell, lake of fire or gehenna on earth. All your rights are taken away from you, except the right to be alive.”
He said the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) was being affected by a serious lack of resources.
“The ZPCS is failing dismally to cope with the ever-increasing numbers of new convicts. These are criminals who arrive every two or three days in prison after being sentenced by magistrates from various courts dotted around the country,” Japajapa said.
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He said Harare Central Prison had the capacity to carry 800 inmates but was accommodating around 1 850 prisoners under “very filthy, dirty and unhygienic conditions”.
“We were using dog blankets that are dirty and lice-infested. They are not enough to cater for the ever-increasing number of prison convicts.
“Some inmates without social support from relatives who can bring them blankets from outside have to survive for their entire prison term with three dog blankets per individual, imagine what will happen in winter.
“There is no bread or sufficient sugar or cooking oil in prison, except mealie-meal which is readily available to make sure that there is sadza in the morning and sadza in the afternoon.
“For relish, it is always cabbage and spinach vegetables without enough cooking oil, even munjonjo. In some instances inmates suffer from a skin disease called pellagra.”
He said there was no soap, towels or washing powder in prisons across the country.
Japajapa took a swipe at some magistrates and judges who he accused of taking pleasure in sending people to prison without sufficient evidence or analysing matters.
“There are many cases of innocent Zimbabweans being convicted and sentenced to long jail terms yet they would not have actually committed any crime. I am one of the victims of such circumstances,” he said.
Japajapa was convicted for inciting the public to commit public violence after he challenged 2018 harmonised election results.
He was convicted after a video on YouTube was used as evidence to nail him.
He, however, challenged his conviction saying the law enforcement agents were supposed to authenticate the video before they used it as an exhibit but the court rejected it.
Japajapa took the issue to High Court but it dismissed his appeal and upheld the lower court’s decision.
Aggrieved by the decision of the High Court he approached the Supreme Court that upheld his appeal.
Japajapa called on the government to address anomalies in prisons saying prisons should be correctional services and not death traps.
He urged the government to address the unemployment rate which he said was above 80% saying this resulted in youth resorting to unorthodox means to earn a living.
Japajapa dumped the CCC for Zanu PF when his application for appeal at the High Court was pending and many analysts said he wanted to curry favour with the ruling party so that his appeal succeeds.
But Japajapa denied it saying he just lost faith in the opposition party and was not driven by fear of incarceration.
“Now that I am free at last after being acquitted by the Supreme Court I am going back to active politics at my new home in Zanu PF.
“My politics resonates very well with the Zanu PF political style, they are established, consistent and serious when it comes to serious politicking.
“The opposition political formations are always without strategy, vision and experience although they have been around for 20 years now.”