BY TATENDA CHITAGU
IT was an opportunity for an easy and natural script for a prison break when Cyclone Idai blew off the roofs of four cells at Mutimurefu Prison, located about 25km from Masvingo City, on Saturday morning.
The prisoners had been given all the leeway – literally – and a possible prison escape had come on a silver platter.
But 29 high-risk prisoners and 54 others of less escape risk housed in the cells, whose roofs were blown away, chose to staying put while being soaked in the rains.
Late notorious jaibreaks like Stephen Chidhumo and Edgar Masendeke – high-profile criminals that managed to escape from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in the 1990s – could have marvelled at the opportunity and put it to good use.
Although Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) officer commanding Masvingo, Assistant Commissioner Social Ndanga did not pick calls when called for a comment, he told State broadcaster ZBC that no prisoners had escaped.
He said they moved in to repair the cells and re-housed the inmates in other cells, according to ZBC.
Chidhumo and Masendeke became household names after they unleashed a reign of terror unmatched in the country between October 1994 and September 1997.
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Masendeke and Chidhumo, alongside Langton Moses Zano, Langton Charumbira and Jameson Maverudze Musara, escaped from Mutimurefu Prison in November 1995 after they disarmed prison guards and left them tied in their cells.
A manhunt was launched, but the convicts managed to evade arrest on several occasions and went on a robbing and raping spree in Masvingo and Manicaland.
Chidhumo was later re-arrested in Mozambique and was convicted on 24 counts of theft, robbery and rape and sentenced to an effective 30 years in jail.
He was sent to the country’s most fortified jail, Chukurubi Maximum Security Prison, but escaped in 1997 alongside former-policeman Pedzisai Musariri, ex-soldier Elias Chauke and Mariko Ngulube. His accomplices died from the movie-style escape, but Chidhumo managed to escape and rejoined Masendeke.
The two fugitives were later re-arrested in Mozambique and sent to the guillotine in 2002.