Following his mother’s death, Fungai Saidi became a herd boy at the tender age of eight. He, however, did not benefit from the fruits of his sweat as his uncles would grab every cent he earned to feed their own families.

For 10 years, Saidi toiled for nothing. Unfortunately, he found himself entangled in the world of criminality after joining a stock-theft gang. Initially, the gang would steal poultry and sell to unsuspecting villagers.

From chickens, they moved to goats and pigs. “We did it for 12 years, until I met another friend who introduced me to the crime that landed me in prison – stealing cattle. We would steal the cattle and drive them overnight to Mutoko where we would sell them for a song.

“We would travel to Nyanga at night and steal the beasts before driving them to Mutoko where there was a ready market. We managed to cover our tracks for a while, but luck ran out when neighbors tipped the police of our activities. Saidi was arrested upon his return from Mutoko where he had just sold 8 stolen cattle.

Upon his arrest in 2017, he had US$2 100 as proceeds of theft. He was only 23 when he was convicted and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment. Ten years were suspended on condition of good behaviour.

He is expected to taste freedom in 2025. “I executed my mission with an accomplice but I did not sell him out as he was a minor. I felt that he was too young to be caged, so I gave him a chance to reform,” he said. Saidi said he has been rehabilitated through the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services’ rehabilitation programmes and is ready to go back into society equipped with new life skills.

He, however, fears stigmatisation, especially considering the treatment he has received from his relatives following his incarceration. Noone has paid him a visit at Mutare Farm Prison and he feels neglected. He said if the issue of stigmatisation is not addressed, it will stall all the efforts being made by ZPCS to rehabilitate and reintegrate inmates.

“I honestly do not think that society will welcome me back with open arms. This is because my relatives have deserted me. I have been in prison for years now, but I have not had a single visit from them,” said a teary Saidi. Due to his loneliness behind bars, he was over the moon when he was informed that The Manica Post crew wanted to have a chat with him.

“You are my first visitors since my imprisonment. My uncles never visited me or attended my court sessions, even when I was still in remand. It is really good to see new faces once in a while he said with a bemeaning smile. During his rehabilitation time, Saidi has acquired carpentry and metal work skills. He hailed the rehabilitation programme for changing his mind-set.

“The rehabilitation programme has equipped me with new life skills that will come in handy once I am released from prison. This has made me a better person. I found myself in the world of criminality because I had no life skills. I resorted to quick money making schemes and stole people’s cattle. This is now a thing of the past as I now want to lead a crime-free life,” he said.

Speaking at a recent donation hand-over event at Mutare Farm Prison, ZPCS’ Officer Commanding Manicaland Province, Commissioner Spetosomusa Moyo-Chinobva said Government is doing a lot of programmes to rehabilitate inmates to make sure that they desist from crimes once they are released. “Ex-convicts are often seen as the black sheep and are shunned by their communities.

That is what we are trying to change by capacitating them with skills. We remain dedicated to ensuring that inmates return to society with positive attributes. “A number of programmes tailor-made to improve the acceptance of individuals leaving prison have been instituted and these are televised while others are on radio.

This helps to allow prisoners to connect with their relatives,” she said. Comm Moyo-Chinobva said most people in society are reluctant to accept, employ or associate with ex-convicts, thus making their lives difficult. “I encourage and challenge society to give ex-convicts another chance. To err is human and to forgive is divine.


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