Over 2 000 prisoners were released through the presidential amnesty last week, but End Time Message founder Robert Martin Gumbura and Madzibaba Ishmael Chokurongerwa, two controversial characters, have remained behind bars.
The two were jailed after being convicted on rape and public violence charges respectively. Their jail terms were the talk of the town during their trials, that drew attention and wide media coverage.
However, the nature of their crimes and the jail time imposed on them, made them miss out on the important presidential amnesty.
According to the President’s Clemency Order, prisoners sentenced to 36 months and below, prisoners at the open prison, and those terminally ill were entitled to freedom.
Those that were not eligible for amnesty are prisoners with specified offences such as rape, treason, murder, armed robbery and other sexual offences.
“The following prisoners are excluded from this amnesty: Any habitual criminals serving a term extended imprisonment, any person under sentence of death, any person serving a sentence imposed by a court martial or any person who escaped from lawful custody and is still at large,” read part of the order.
According to the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, the released prisoners were from 46 prisons. According to records, there were 19 900 prisoners in Zimbabwe’s prisons as at May 23 this year, which is above the holding capacity of 17 000.
However, for Gumbura and Chokurongerwa, who are currently serving 40 and four-year jail terms respectively, luck was not on their side, as their counterparts were set free last week
Gumbura was jailed in 2014 after he was convicted on four rape charges, while he was acquitted on the other five. His dream to sire 100 children was cut short after the jail term, leaving behind 11 wives at the time.
With over 35 years still hanging above his head, the presidential amnesty provided an opportunity for his freedom, but he could not fit the category of those that were being released.
Speaking from behind bars recently in an interview with a local radio station, Gumbura said his wives were free to remarry. The wives have in the past declared that they will wait for their husband. But two years down the line, there is no hope as yet that Gumbura will re-unite with his beloved wives anytime soon.
The clergyman now banks his possible chance for release on his pending High Court appeal. Gumbura is challenging his conviction and sentence, which he argues were passed in error. However, he suffers another major setback as he is still to know his fate on a trial he is jointly charged with eight others in which they are accused of attempting a jailbreak.
On the jailbreak case, Gumbura is jointly charged with Blessing Chiduke, Luckmore Matambanadzo, Luck Mhungu, Taurai Dodzo, Thomas Chacha, Thulani Chizema, Jacob Sibanda and Elijah Vhumbunu.
On the other hand, Chokurongerwa, who was jailed last year over the assault of police officers and journalists, also missed his chance to early freedom. He was arrested after being on the run for seven months. Even though he missed the presidential amnesty, he still hopes his appeal to the High Court challenging both conviction and sentence might yield results.